Motivating Participation

Recently I was asked how to increase attendance at a gathering. I came up with a few simple questions to consider. Look at three perspectives.

1. The participants–who are they? There may be several audiences, and for each one, figure out what they want to get or are getting from the gathering.

2. Your perspective–why are you inviting them? What do you want to get from their attendance and participation? List separately for each audience group.

3. Observer perspective–what will the outcome of the gathering be? What will the world be able to see, touch, taste, smell, or feel because of the participation?

Now, what do you do with that? Use #1 to develop your strategy of attraction of participants. Use #2 to identify the proportional blend you want to have of different audience groups. Do you need idea generators? Processors to move ideas along? Finishers to put ideas into action? And #3 is useful for attracting funding and sponsorship.

Incentives, and this is just a starter list, might be:
# association (other people to connect with–especially face to face if they know each other virtually)
# reputation (most active in the field or other recognition of effort is honored)
# growth (learn something)
# inspiration (this is usually why a well-regarded speaker works)
# challenge (opportunity to collaborate on something vital)
# recognition (building their own visibility–like getting acknowledged for doing a cool video etc)
# play (to laugh and be creative)
# delight (good food, good sensate experience)
# narrative (fits into their story of who they are and why they do what they do)
# contribution (opportunity to give to the group)
# influence (able to change others or environment)
# stuff (things people can take with them and help develop branding and identity)

I strongly encourage visual mapping to show the relationships between people and between motivations/incentives and people.

Once you are clear about who to invite and why (for them, for you, and for others), then develop your message to each audience considering the benefit they receive for attending and participating. Then, also, consider what that benefit gets for them. Does it save them time or money? Does it develop their reputation or acknowledge them? Consider Maslow’s hierarchy. What core need is met?

There is much more depth to this than I can address in a single blog post, but this gets us off to a good start. What would you add to the incentives? Are there other valuable perspectives to consider? Is there a good way to create a matrix for organizing the information? What visual techniques would reveal the most useful information?