The Atmosphere is The Idea

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Fine dining restaurants don’t just serve food. They create an experience so you’ll feel a certain way as you dine. Sporting events design an atmosphere of excitement and frenzy to heighten the experience of the game. The Las Vegas strip is the epicenter of decadence and opulence, an atmosphere designed to draw people from all over the world to the middle of the desert.

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In the Campfire Method, atmosphere is about so much more than weather (although it does play a factor sometimes). It's about setting a mood. Creating an experience for an audience. 

One of the many definitions of atmosphere is this gem: “the medium at a given place.” This is key. The atmosphere is the medium for your message. It’s the very channel by which your idea leaves your brain and enters your audience’s ears. Marshall McLuhan fans will embrace how atmosphere and ideas aren’t intertwined, but rather the same.

Consider these two stories, and how each illustrates a side of the atmospheric coin.

Budget Blooper

The CEO of a 500-employee business wanted to host a meeting where she would speak to and inspire every employee. With budget cutbacks on the horizon, her goal was to persuade all individuals to think about their daily work resourcefully, as if they were the owners of the company themselves.

When choosing a venue, the only available option for the size of the group was the top floor of a local high-rise hotel. Appointed with designer details and featuring a sprawling view of downtown, it seemed more like a lavish company party than a presentation. In this case, the medium did not fit the message. Confused employees were left wondering why they were being asked to tighten the belt when clearly there was appetite for extravagance.

Standing Room Only

The head of a 12-person team needed to host a weekly standing meeting where he would update his team on cross-functional initiatives to which they weren’t otherwise exposed. Unfortunately, at their offices, all the conference rooms were booked during the time he wanted to meet.

He had his time, but he needed a new location, so he quickly created a new “meeting area” in their calendar software called “The Hallway” and invited his team to stand with him out in the open to discuss the work they were doing.

The results? First of all, he taught his team an important lesson: “The content is the most important part of this meeting… Where we have it – and whether or not we sit down for it – are secondary.” But the benefits didn’t stop there. Cross-functional partners could hear their chatter and were inspired to have similar meetings of their own throughout the day. Also, because they knew their peers were listening in, the team felt more accountable to participate in the discussion, increasing its value.

In this case, the atmosphere was so powerful that the medium and the message were inseparable. The quality and conditions were persuasive beyond his expectations.

Think of Everything

At GatherRound, in our mission to improve the way ideas are sold, we frequently encounter environmental concerns. Time, location and atmosphere are some of the most overlooked details when planning persuasive communications. But make no mistake: A presentation is a marketing assignment. Would you develop creative materials without thinking through their context? Would you shoot a commercial without a TV buy?

So how do you create the perfect atmospheric conditions? Simple. Think of everything. Step into your space (physically or virtually) and examine every surface, every detail, the position and texture of every facet. Record it all and ask, “Is this right? Is this how it should be?” Sometimes, we'll find we have factors already working in our favor. Sometimes, like the Vegas strip, atmosphere can be manufactured out of practically nothing. 

For more on atmosphere's role in designing a persuasive environment, please download our free eBook.

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Designing the Persuasive Environment