Where's the Human Factor?

Have we taken the "human" factor out of the equation when planning meetings and events? And have we forgotten human needs when creating and designing meeting environments?

Recently the focus on human needs and event environments became more apparent to me as I attended conferences and seminars where the meeting rooms are too dark, too cold (or too hot), the chairs are unbearably uncomfortable, the setup is detrimental to adult learning with minimal flexibility or options, the event room is bland, uninspiring; restrooms are hard to find, directional signage is non-existent, and there is no food being offered during the meeting breaks.

In the 1940s, a psychologist by the name of A.H. Maslow determined, all humans regardless of culture, experience, education or background, are motivated by a set of five basic human needs.

These needs are dependent on each other and one must satisfy lower level basic needs before succeeding on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably fulfilled, one may be able to reach the highest level.

In the '60s and '70s, these five stages were expanded to an eight-stage model as shown below (with the original needs noted in italics below).

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, etc.

3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, affection and love, - from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.

4. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Cognitive needs - knowledge, meaning, etc.

6. Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

7. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

8. Transcendence needs - helping others to achieve self actualization.

Meeting environments which aren't comfortable to attendees make the attendee feel "unsafe." Hotel venues where attendees don't sleep well at night, offering rooms where they are too cold, too dark, too hot or too bright are not meeting the physiological needs of humans.

Based on Maslow's work, knowing humans have to have one need fulfilled before moving on to the next need, can we truly expect attendees to have an understanding of the knowledge they are learning at the event (cognitive needs) if they aren't in a comfortable, safe environment?

If they are worried about their hunger, can we expect them to be fully engaged in the networking event?

If they aren't able to easily locate the meeting space and get lost in the venue, can we really expect them to appreciate the beautiful table decor and centerpieces we planned for?

In my opinion, much of the planning focus should be on ensuring the initial basic human needs will be met. Much of the design elements and furnishing selections for meeting environments being created and built should be done based on the initial basic human needs being achieved.

If these are fulfilled and ensured, attendees will be set up for greater success, greater satisfaction, greater return on investment for the event; and the attendees will be allowed to more readily achieve self-actualization, seeking growth and peak experiences, and being fully engaged in the event.

Posted by Larissa J. Schultz, CMP, MHA

Larissa is a writer, author, and professional speaker in the hospitality industry. She is also an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College teaching in the Hospitality and Tourism program.

Follow Larissa on Twitter: @LarissaJSchultz
Visit Larissa's Website: www.ljsmeetingstrategies.com/

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