Saturday, November 19, 2016

Your Trade Show Makes Me Sick

A trade show can amaze you or afflict you.

Most do the latter.

Consider how stressful shows are.

Exhibitors zip in minutes before opening, travel-worn, ill-prepared, and often resentful of the fact they're being denied time with their customers back home.

Attendees arrive in warmer spirits, happy to be away from the boss and harboring notions they'll be entertained. But they quickly discover the exhibit halls are about as navigable and hospitable as downtown Tokyo on a workday.

The trade show maze is the full catastrophe—and acutely stressful.

Research scientist Esther Sternberg has made a lifetime study of the connection between the built environment and the human brain's stress response.

In her latest book, Healing Spaces, Dr. Sternberg distinguishes between mazes and labyrinths.

Complexes such as hospitals are mazes, built to accommodate equipment, not alleviate illness. They trigger stress responses in patients' brains that make them sick, instead of well.

Complexes such as Disneyland, on the other hand, are labyrinths. They're built to help you walk about calmly and mindfully. They trigger floods of dopamine—the stuff that drives engagement.

"Labyrinths are calming," Dr. Sternberg says. "Mazes are stressful."

What's your trade show like?

A maze that afflicts? Or a labyrinth that amazes? 

HAT TIP: Bob Hughes inspired this post.

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