Designing events that connect and inspire

112 years ago, sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote: ‘The very fact of congregating is an exceptionally powerful stimulant. Once the individuals are gathered together, a sort of electricity is generated from their closeness and that quickly launches them to an extraordinary height of exaltation.” This is how the concept of shared joy or in scientific terms “collective effervescence” was born.

Professor Durkheim was the first to describe the feelings of unity and connection that people have when they gather together, whether it’s for family celebrations or community events. But a century later, it is something that event professionals should delve into, to make their business audiences feel connected and like they belong.

The Science of Us

To put it simply, collective effervescence is about a feeling of unity and joy that arises when people come together. You’ve likely experienced it many times: think of a moment during a sports event, like the united gasp at a goal, or how people sing together at a concert. It barely registers in your conscious mind, but you can certainly recall that fantastic, warm feeling of being part of a moment when you share the exact same emotions as those around you.

What’s even more fascinating is that modern science backs up this idea.

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In one study, researchers compared the biometric measurements of people watching the same musical in a lab and live on stage. They found that during the performance, people’s heart rates went up and down a lot, showing that being part of a live audience can really make you feel more emotions. As compared to those who watched the musical at home, the live audience experienced more intense heart rate changes.

Next, the researchers compared biometric measurements of people watching in a group with those watching alone. Heart rates and other measures indicated that people experienced emotions more strongly when watching a performance with others.

They discovered that during emotionally intense moments—the dramatic highs and lows—people’s hearts tended to synchronize, metaphorically beating as one.

In other words, when we meet, we share a single heart.

The Power of Shared Experiences

In the context of MICE events, understanding and harnessing the concept of collective effervescence can help organizers transform ordinary meetings into powerful experiences that engage attendees at the deepest level.

“When we meet, we share a single heart.”

Creating Moments of Us elevates learning and collaboration. When people feel emotionally connected, they are more likely to engage deeply, participate actively and leave with a strong sense of affiliation with the group or the company mission.

Read More: How to Design Memorable Experiences

Setting scientific terms aside, here are some practical ways to integrate the concept of shared joy and connectivity.

  • Introduce more collaborative activities. Create a digital art piece or mural, plant trees or cook a shared meal to shift from passive participation to active co-creation.
  • Establish rituals. Integrate a ceremony that would symbolize shared values among your audience. For instance, last year, the Nudgestock team kicked off the event with the collective Nudgestock Oath. With humor seamlessly integrated (bonus points for that!), it immediately became a powerful, memorable symbol of commitment to collective goals.
  • Use language to emphasize the idea of togetherness and shared purpose. For example, attendees of Burning Man are referred to as ‘Burners’; and the Swapcard’s own event series Evolve called attendees Evolvers. This is a clever and effective strategy: by assigning a common name to your audience, you reinforce a message of unity and subtly affirm that they belong.


At its core, collective effervescence is about creating “Us” moments where attendees do more than just share a space; they share an emotional journey. Being part of a large audience amplifies feelings because everyone’s reactions build on one another, enhancing the overall experience.

woman wearing red topVictoria Matey is an event psychology advisor, co-founder of Matey Events and Smart Women in Meetings Award winner.

This article appears in the May 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.