You may already be familiar with the well-known psychological theory, Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (also known as ‘Maslow’s Pyramid’), which was first published in 1943 by Abraham Maslow in his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation“. But, have you ever considered how useful this theory could be when applied to planning an event or function to ensure that you meet the full range of your guests’ physiological and emotional needs?
Experienced industry professionals will agree that the events you remember most fondly are the ones where you enjoyed yourself enough to relax, have fun, meet people and express yourself – in other words, you were able to experience a sense of ‘self-realisation’. Self-realisation is the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid and occurs at events when guests are comfortable enough to express emotions of joy, amazement, surprise, sincere appreciation, and leave with a sense of fulfilment. When these emotions run high, we consider the event a success. Of course, hosting this type of event is not easy, but it is achievable by strategic planning, effective budgeting and communication, and collaboration with experienced individuals. And for almost everything but the smallest, most personal events, working with the right entertainment is pivotal to attaining this highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
When we consider the important role of event entertainment in satisfying your guests’ need for self-realisation, incorporating captivating and interactive entertainment – and using the services of a magician or mentalist in particular – can have a profoundly positive impact on how your guests’ experience and remember your event.
Now, as Maslow himself said, it’s not necessary for a person to experience 100% satisfaction at every single level to have a good time. However, if basic foundational needs are not met, a person will experience discomfort, anxiety and stress, with the result that this person (in our case, a guest) is likely to go elsewhere to have their needs met. (In other words, they’ll be out the door as soon as they can think up a plausible excuse!). So, before we jump to the top of the pyramid, let’s first consider how to build a great foundation for your guest’s experience.
Putting theory into practice: applying Maslow’s principles to your event blueprint
When viewed from the perspective of guests’ needs at an event, you can add specific, quantifiable requirements to each of Maslow’s levels to ensure that you’re planning a memorable experience:
The foundation of the pyramid – physiological needs – refers to each of our basic requirements for existence. Relevant to event planning is the need to provide guests with a comfortable environment, and sufficient water, drinks, and food that meet your guests’ dietary requirements (this also contributes to enabling a sense of belonging, which we’ll discuss later). When considering the environment, think about temperature and humidity control, easy access to a sufficient number of toilets, as well as seating and your guests’ line of sight. If a guest is expected to sit on a hard chair and crane their neck to the left to see the stage, they will not be comfortable. Although these needs are basic, they are also extremely important and as any event planner will tell you, hungry people are not happy people.
Guests need to feel safe and feel like you’ve taken their security into consideration. Starting from the moment they arrive at the venue, people want to know that they can park their cars safely, and leave belongings at their table without the need for constant vigilance. Planning for guest safety also requires you to consider practical aspects of the event and venue: all power/equipment cables need to be safely covered, audio-visual or decor elements need to be stable and there must be access to first aid or emergency services.
It’s a good idea to communicate with your guests that you’ve addressed any safety concerns, as this gives them permission to relax and lets them know it’s safe for them to have fun. When possible, we recommended that you enlist the services of event security specialists such as Event Solutions; a company that offers professional support with guest-centric security guards and safety officials that have been specifically trained to assist you and your guests.
A Sense of Belonging
From this level upwards, we start to move ‘beyond the basics’ and begin to consider how guests experience the event on an emotional level and how they will interact with each other as a result. No-one wants to feel isolated, anxious, or like they don’t ‘belong’ at an event – in fact, all humans crave a sense of belonging and, as an event planner, you have an important role to play in facilitating this.
Before the event, make sure that you clearly communicate things like the dress code and whether or not partners or children are welcome to attend. If the event begins with a guest feeling like they’ve committed a ‘social faux pas’ by dressing inappropriately or binging someone that hasn’t been catered for, they will feel out of place or embarrassed for the rest of the event.
At the event, it is advisable to have a ‘welcome desk’ where friendly staff are waiting to receive your guests, mark them on the attendance register, and guide them to where they need to be. Guests who are differently-abled or who have special dietary requirements will need additional care and attention to ensure that they feel like part of the proceedings. This level of personal attention should be maintained throughout the event because by demonstrating that you’ve anticipated your guests’ individual needs you’ll help to create a sense of belonging.
It’s also at this level that your entertainment decisions become important. Entertainment that is inappropriate or offensive is one of the fastest ways to alienate your guests and make them feel uncomfortable. It also gives the impression that you didn’t consider their tastes or needs. Choosing more ‘neutral’ entertainment, such as live or background music will help to create a good atmosphere, but as it lacks direct interactivity it won’t necessarily help your guests to feel like they belong. On the other hand, personal, interactive and engaging entertainment, such as ‘strolling’ or ‘close-up’ magic, will help to relax your guests by giving them both a reason and an opportunity to laugh and chat with each other, thereby creating ‘camaraderie’ so that everyone feels like they’re part of a special group at a very special event.
Everyone wants status, recognition, importance, and respect from others; when you think about it, isn’t this one of the reasons why many parties and events are planned and hosted in the first place? Gala dinners, award ceremonies, year-end events, product launches and office openings, to name but a few, are about status and importance. In other words, events are a great way to show respect and appreciation for important people, companies, organisations and brands. Again, your choice of entertainment can positively contribute to this level of the pyramid. The key here is for the entertainer to demonstrate a recognition of the theme, group or brand being celebrated. For example, a magician or mentalist can choose to focus on the Guests of Honour and make them the ‘stars of the show’ by enlisting their help in performing a trick, or a singer could write and perform a song written for the occasion. Entertainers can also wear costumes that have been customised for the event and use event-branded props. The best entertainers are skilled at using their talents to make sure that there are multiple opportunities to display respect for the audience, for volunteers, for VIPs and for the event itself. This can only be achieved by practice and experience, in combination with the skill of knowing ‘what to do, when’, so that the entertainer selects the correct and appropriate performance style for the given context. (See our article ‘Booking a magician for your event? Here’s how to get Maximum Entertainment Value’)
But despite the fact that some guests will receive more recognition than others, every guest should still feel a strong sense of self-esteem at the event, particularly about the personal things they feel near and dear to them. Factors that influence esteem include confidence, self-respect, and respect for others. As an event planner, you can infuse your event with these qualities through the choices you make. If you have already paid careful attention to your guests’ physiological and safety needs, as well as their sense of belonging, you will have laid the right foundation and your guests will feel respected. When we feel respected, our confidence improves and, as our needs for esteem are fulfilled, we are better positioned to show respect for others. In other words, by showing your guests respect, you can create a powerful and positive chain reaction.
Once our foundational needs have been met, self-realisation becomes possible; allowing us to be creative, spontaneous and engage in problem-solving. Of course, events that have not taken this highest of human needs into account, will often not provide guests with an opportunity to express themselves in these ways. But, yet again, by selecting the right kind of entertainment, you can go a long way to facilitating this level of fulfilment.
For example, if you’ve hired a skilled DJ who is intuned and responsive, they will soon have your guests breaking out crazy moves on the dance floor. In other words, you will have created the opportunity for spontaneity, creativity, and self-realisation. While entertainment that requires more thought and analytics, such as mind-reading, mentalism, or magic will transfix an audience and provide guests with the fun of ‘trying to figure it out’ afterwards – in other words, the opportunity for creative problem-solving. Creating these opportunities and inspiring these kinds of emotions and experiences at an event, is almost impossible without a careful choice of professional live entertainment.
Practice makes perfect
Event planning and conference organising is, at its core, the work of understanding and catering to people’s needs. This makes a framework like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a valuable tool when planning an event or function. As every event is unique, it can be challenging to find new, interesting or ‘different’ entertainment options for each occasion. But, by working in partnership with a reputable and experienced entertainment agent or producer to book the best and most appropriate entertainment, the chances of your guests achieving this ‘pinnacle’ of Maslow’s Pyramid increase dramatically and can almost be guaranteed.In addition to a strategic planning framework, it’s also a good idea to choose only to work with similar-minded, accredited event professionals – such as the members of SAACI – for all your entertainment, venue, AV, catering, security and other requirements. Ultimately, this is the easiest, most reliable way to guarantee your guests have an enjoyable time that they talk about for years after it’s over.