Making behaviour change at events easy, attractive, social and timely

Are you determined to make your events sustainable and for your staff and attendees do the same?

The key to this is understanding how to engage audiences, so here are four principles to consider for your sustainability initiatives, which can also be applied to your COVID safe plans too. 


One of the most valuable insights from behavioural psychology is that that much of human behaviour is NOT governed by the rational part of our brain, and in fact our brains are driven with the more primitive drivers that sit in the reptilian and mammal parts of the brain which are hardwired by:  


  • Pleasure and pain avoidance
  • Identity
  • Social acceptance
  • Repetition, habits

If you are looking to deliver behaviour change, it is not enough to:

  • Tell people that they are doing something wrong (people experience cognitive dissonance when their behaviours and views of themselves are at odds so they can switch off from your message)
  • Send an email or put up a poster (information deficit and inattentional blindness can mean that messages are not read or even noticed). 

​When tackling behaviour change at events, we would highly recommend taking time putting yourself in the shoes of your audience to see what factors are leading to their actions, and where you would have the best impact in driving change. 
When you come to develop an initiative or communications for your desired behaviour change, make sure it fits with these four principles from the behavioural insights team: EASY, ATTRACTIVE, SOCIAL, TIMELY.





Our brains are wired for the easy option e.g. jumping in a car, grabbing a single-use plastic bottle or coffee cup so how can you either: 


  • Remove the easy option or make it much harder e.g. increase car parking costs or hide the disposable cups 
  • Remove the barriers to the desirable behaviour e.g. by putting on public transport or providing reusable coffee cups


Thank you sign on the Recycling Exchange at Shambala Festival 2017


Hovering over some dirty looking event bins is not an attractive behaviour at an event. So how is the action, you asking people to do going to be an attractive proposition? 


  • Ensure your bins are clean, easy to use and part of your event branding 
  • What rewards can you provide, even if it is an acknowledgement or a thank you e.g. Thank you for recycling with us




Humans are social creatures and are constantly looking for cues for what the appropriate actions are in a social situation (social norms). So ensure that the desired behaviour is:  


  • Positively reinforce the action as something the brand or event expects
  • Have ambassadors and respected figures to reinforce it. I have been at festivals where performers and DJ’s have lead a 5 minute dance-floor litter pick 




Our brains will only comprehend and process information when it is relevant, it filters out a lot of information to avoid overload. So if you want a message to be processed they need to appear at the point that behaviour is being considered.
This means:


  • Put bins where rubbish is being created and keep recycling and general waste together 
  • Remind people to bring a water bottle by text message the day before or on the day of an event, not in their sign-up email
  • Ask people to pay to offset their carbon at the point of purchase when they have their credit card to hand

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