In between is the right place to be.
I’ve been thinking about interstitials lately and what it means to be in an “in between” space. Our strategy team has observed a trend in which corporate marketers are experimenting with activations staged in venue entrances, hallways, patios, and other places that are on the way to someplace else. Given the mandate for in-person networking, this is a perfectly organic way to orchestrate casual interaction.
I suspect it works precisely because people are more open to spontaneity (and authenticity) when they are outside of the defined business setting. It’s the watercooler effect. For those who forgot what it’s like to work in an office (or who never have), the watercooler effect refers to the friendly banter that happens in the shared spaces that connect offices and conference rooms. It doesn’t have to involve a water cooler — maybe it’s just in a kitchenette, an elevator, or at a foosball table. I am more likely to ask about your kids, comment on the last episode of “The Crown,” or bounce off a random thought when we’re not in a meeting together. That’s where the real connections happen.
I think it’s significant that marketers have recognized the importance of these interstitial spaces. Moreover, I am convinced that, big picture, the branded events that people attend have an interstitial role in their business lives. Conferences, trade shows, expositions — for most people — can act as the watercooler spaces that help them tap into their own enthusiasms and find an affinity with others.
Our most recent Freeman research confirms that the desire for connection is driving an uptick in event attendance. Across all demographics, in-person events are soliciting an overwhelmingly positive response (80%). This sentiment has remained relatively consistent over the last year. Further our survey indicates that people want to be connected to each other and their industry using in-person events to carve out time with colleagues and gain more facetime with industry tools and experts.
We’ve seen time and again how casual networking can help incubate innovation. It’s a fertile, safe place for ideas to take root. Here again, our research provides a supporting data point. Not only are in-person events the preferred format for professional training, but they are also considered the most trustworthy sources of information.
This presents an interesting challenge and opportunity for any marketer who wants to foster connection. It suggests that whenever we design a space to bring people together, we should start by removing the things that keep them apart. We need to scrutinize our event plans accordingly.
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