Photo of Cameron Hughes

When professional crowd igniter Cameron Hughes danced his way into a room full of event professionals on a Wednesday night at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, he had one job—to teach people the power of cheering for themselves and others. His message at NYC & Company and SF Travel “East Meets West” Education Day was based on the importance of connecting.

This high-energy Canadian is the human embodiment of how being your own best cheerleader and never giving up can lead to something as unlikely as inventing a career where you are paid to energize audiences at sporting events by spinning T-shirts above your head. Here are the secrets he shared for firing up a crowd.

1. When you are your own biggest fan, amazing things happen. Cheering is a superpower,  and you owe it to yourself to dish out fist-bump selfies just as you would pat others on the back and tell them to go for it.

That message is even more important when the thing you are excited about is a long shot. Hughes says that when he wasn’t chosen for the high school basketball team, his mother—who passed away of cancer soon afterward—told him that if he was passionate, he should find other ways to contribute. That led to him wearing a watermelon helmet and overalls at an away game, and getting everyone fired up. When you take a risk, it is important that you be in your own corner.

2. Energy is contagious. Excitement is not a finite resource. A lot of people hold back at meetings or in life because they are afraid, but when they realize that their involvement is essential for a shared goal, they come alive. The event professional’s job is to remove barriers so people feel free to open up. A crowd feeds off itself, and the more people are engaged, the more others will join. That will get the first group even more pumped up. We have to empower each other.

3. People crave spontaneous human interaction. In a world dominated by people staring at their phone, we long for the things only live events can provide—community, fun, emotional connections. Creating unscripted spaces in our agendas and an opportunity for people to shake it to C+C Music Factory without being judged is how you make the world a better—and more connected—place.