How can you get people to talk to each other? Give them a sticker.
At a recent conference, I ran a little experiment. I wanted to see if I could persuade people to hang around and talk to each other after a breakout session. Too often, people attend conferences as if they were watching at home on Skype. I wanted to persuade people to get more of what they paid for, by meeting and getting to know some interesting people.
I gave each person two stickers as they entered a meeting room. I asked them to save the stickers for the end. If anyone says something or asks a question you think is great, grab them before they get out of the room, give them a sticker, and let them know you appreicated their input.
I had observed the audience at the morning vesion of the same session, so I use that as a control group. In the control, about two-thirds of the audience simply left the room after the Q&A. Of those who remained, half waited to talk to the presenters, and the other half talked to a friend in the room.
When I added the little mechanic of a sticker as a token of appreciation, things changed dramatically. In the afternoon session, about three-quarters of the audience hung around, exchanged stickers,and chatted with each other. That was a wopping 480 percent increase over the control group.
But I observed another change: the afternoon conversations were longer. The five people who stayed to talk to another audience member in the morning cleared the room in about 4 minutes. But the afternoon crowd with the stickers stayed for 11 minutes--a 275 percent increase. In fact, the conversations delayed the start of the next session while we tried to clear the room.
Since the average person speaks about 100 words per minute, and the tokens inspire an 11 minute talk, each sticker is worth more than 1,000 words.
Download the lab report: A Sticker’s Worth a Thousand Words _ Simple Strategies