Recently, one of my co-workers shared a big idea that she picked up from Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., and E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D., who work at Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center and are the authors of Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence. Their research has led them to the conclusion that what motivates a person depends on whether he or she is more focused on getting pleasure or avoiding pain. Halvorson and Higgins have identified these two dominant mindsets as Promotion and Prevention.
People with a Promotion orientation derive pleasure from making progress, advancing, accomplishing, or gaining things. They experience pain when they fail to achieve these things or they stay stagnant. At the other end of the spectrum, people with a Prevention mentality get pleasure from maintaining the status quo, being safe and secure. Their sense of pain comes when they make mistakes or fail to keep things running smoothly.
Obviously, Promotion and Prevention professionals are wired very differently, and this really got our brains cooking about the meetings industry. How do these two mindsets influence the way conferences are designed and the way marketing messages are crafted to encourage individuals to attend?
The best meeting professionals need great analytical and planning skills and are therefore more likely to fit into the Prevention category. But these same planners may be creating experiences for an audience that is more Promotion-dominant. For that reason, applying the Promotion/Prevention concept as a framework can help in your conference design and attendee-acquisition strategy. Thinking broadly:
1. If 30 percent or more of your convention’s revenue comes from sponsorship or an expo, more often than not, these investors — sponsors and exhibitors — are interested in seeing Promotion types in your audience.
2. Prevention-dominant attendee targets may have less of a professional-development budget than their Promotion counterparts. So when you are designing an education experience and creating marketing for them, your best bet is to focus on content that helps them avoid pain (e.g., sessions on PhRMA codes for health-care administration professionals).
3. On the other hand, Promotion-dominated groups are motivated by content that is focused on innovation, risk-taking, and making progress.
4. Incentives resonate better with a Promotion-dominated individual.