The PB&J of Meetings

Jonah Berger on How to Create Word of Mouth

Speaker Jonah Berger said if you leverage his six STEPPS, you can empower your attendees to act as advocates on your organization's behalf.

Speaker Jonah Berger said if you leverage his six STEPPS, you can empower your attendees to act as advocates on your organization’s behalf.

If someone says, “Peanut butter and…,” chances are you’ll automatically think “jelly.” The two go hand in hand, and the spoken word quickly triggers warm thoughts about everyone’s favorite comfort food. What if meeting planners could achieve those same emotions and triggers for their events?

Yesterday morning, General Session presenter Jonah Berger shared tips for maximizing attention for meetings and conferences through tried-and-true, word-of-mouth advertising. Specifically, Berger — a marketing professor at Philadelphia’s Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Contagious: Why Things Catch On — shared the secrets behind why some things become popular and take off, and why others falter.

“We invest so much money in social media,” Berger said. “Social media isn’t a bad thing, but more word-of-mouth sharing happens offline than online. In fact, only 7 percent of word-of-mouth sharing comes from social media.”

Indeed, word of mouth is 10 times as effective as traditional advertising, he said. But why do people share certain things more than others, why do some ideas go viral, and why are some things just a flash in the pan?

During his session, Berger revealed the science behind social transmission with his six key STEPPS: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. According to Berger, these six concepts can take an idea from great to contagious.

For example, you can leverage social currency — sharing things that make us look good — by making people feel like insiders, or by finding the inner remarkability of a meeting or other live experience. Practical value teaches you how to use and reframe numbers to change their impact and motivate people to take action, while triggers are “top of mind, tip of tongue” experiences, much like peanut butter and jelly. Stories are “great carriers of information,” functioning like a Trojan horse, Berger said. “No one puts their children to bed with bedtime facts.”

When you leverage Berger’s six STEPPS, they can empower your attendees to act as advocates on your organization’s behalf and carry the message to others. “People have a lot of competition for their time. So if I like an event and I tell someone who will find that information relevant, they will go to the event,” Berger said. “People go to events to see the other people there. We trust our friends and peers, and we turn to others as a source of information.”