“Oh no, I don’t watch reality television; I prefer a good book or educational documentary.” Is what you might tell people… but we’ve got to wonder…really? Everyone out there has some guilty pleasure reality television show, whether you’re a Honey Boo-Boo fan or a reality housewife wannabe or maybe a Kardashian addict – we all feel the tug of ‘mind candy’ every now and again.
Instead of us feeling guilty about our not-so-intellectual habits, let’s learn from them. Yes, reality television can teach us event professionals a few things.
1. If it works—stick to it, until it doesn’t
How many reality singing shows are there now? I’ve lost count… and how many housewives franchises? Reality television producers have found specific niches that work for them. This can probably apply, at least at some level, to event planning and production. If you have a niche that you love because it just seems to work better, stick to it.
But remember to keep your mind open and be aware that just because you’re good at your niche, you still have to try to expand while you aim to succeed. Just look at the ladies of the Housewives of DC. (cancelled after first season and the famous presidential dinner-crasher — http://voices.washingtonpost.com/reliable-source/2009/11/salahi_photos_etc.html)… some things just aren’t meant to work out.
2. Competition is fun
We love to watch people compete. I have no idea why Survivor is ACTUALLY still on television – but it is. I could not sit here and name all of the modeling, singing, cooking, fashion designing, hair cutting and even crafts competitions that there are on television but they’re out there. Who hasn’t watched ‘Antiques Roadshow’ with a glass of wine and a cadre of friends guessing on the final value (or is that just me?).
People like to compete because they like to win. If it makes sense for the event, have a competition for tickets, or speakers, or give something away. This enhances excitement and builds the interaction for the event, possibly even before the event occurs.
3. It’s real-life, sort of
I always thought that people were drawn to reality TV because we like things we can identify with. Now I’m not so sure.
I think people like a mix. People like to feel comfort in the things that are familiar as well as wonder in things that are completely new to them– my excuse for watching hours of Toddlers and Tiaras (but NEVER Honey booh-booh).
Remember when planning an event that people want both things that have familiarity as well as novel items. Why do you think CES is such a popular show? (150,000 people came into Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronic Show). People want to see the new technology before everyone else. Give them something new. When it makes sense, give them something of shock-value or something memorable. Use a new technology that people will be amazed with during the event and can connect with each other on after the event (ahem,…BusyEventMobile).
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