Q&A with Jeff Haynes on the Science of Engagement

“Engaging the right emotions in a shared experience drives meaningful connections that ultimately drive business decisions.”

Name: Jeff Haynes

Founder, investor and CEO of Haute Companies (a family of five brands “changing the way humans connect with one another”)

What does the new Haute brand mean for meeting professionals?

With Haute’s rebranding [from Haute Dakimazo], everyone from meeting professionals to large-scale event planners and our B2B and B2C clients, too, have access to all our capabilities under one roof.

In January, we acquired LA-based EventWorks [and merged its] conversation-based events and experiential learning programs with Haute Rock Creative, creating mind-blowing enterprise sales enablement, customized merchandise, and product launch programs.

Haute offers expertise in every aspect that delivers truly outside-the-box experiences. We are all about engagement with others, and it’s because of the strong community that we can craft such unique solutions. We have rules Haute developed that yield formula-crushing solutions and experiences to drive action and connections.

Has the nature of how people want to connect changed after the last two years?

Absolutely, and I believe for the better. Lockdown stopped us in our tracks. The good that has come from the bad is we’ve had the opportunity to reflect and reconstruct what really and truly matters to attendees.

The ways meetings were being done had become unoriginal and tired. I think people realize, more than ever, that events are badly needed, and people are eager to be out among industry peers. I predict you’ll see different energy come back over the next few years.

Engaging the right emotions in a shared experience drives meaningful connections that ultimately drive business decisions. People value their budgets and their time. We’ve created Rules to Engagement as our guiding principle to help customers smash the ordinary and deliver experiences that deliver just that.

Look, you can put the right people in a room and talk at them for hours on end. We’ve all been at that conference where we’re sitting face forward, heads tilted down and staring at our phone screens. Or you can create a connection that leads to that spark of inspiration.

Haute’s Rules to Engagement are our unique code. We apply them for ourselves and deliver them in every piece of work we create for clients. They are 1. forget formulas; 2. use entertainment as a keystone to education; 3. make each mile of the journey meaningful; 4. meet your audience where they are; and 5. embrace experimentation.

Can meaningful connections happen virtually?

Yes, absolutely, but it must be done with intention. It’s a massive waste of time to turn on a webcam and call it hybrid. Last January, Liz Lathan and Nicole Osibodu, founders of Haute Dokimazo—now one of the three stems of Haute—designed CONVO 2021 to turn the industry on its head. By using their peer-led Spontaneous Think Tank (STT) format, they designed a journey for maverick marketers and sales rebels, helping companies create conversations that convert—all done virtually.

Beginning with virtual strategy sessions, the program included a series of quarterly summits combining Haute’s peer-led STT format with a mind-blowing live virtual adventure. The team viewed the screen as a portal, not a boundary, and used it to take participants places they might not ever get to go to in person and meet people and see new perspectives that might change the way they do business.

Participants were also included in a research study that will define a new industry metric—ROE, or Return on Emotion—and prove in a measurable way precisely which emotions must be evoked and in what way to drive connections and inform business decisions.

We know that 95 percent of our decisions are driven by emotions, and shared experiences anchored in conversation can create genuine connections to drive profitable business relationships.

In February, the CONVO gathering was about marketing and sales data and analytics. Our virtual adventure was live in the Pacific Ocean on a shark research vessel that tags and studies data from the migration patterns of apex predators to affect global conservation efforts.

In April, the topic was account-based marketing and targeting customers that you already have. Our adventure was to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, to learn from shopkeepers who have been keeping their customers coming back for literally generations.

In July, the conversation was about the sales and marketing ecosystem (people and tech). Our virtual adventure was about our Earth’s ecosystem, from the marine mammal center and aquarium at Atlantis in the Bahamas. September’s session was the fourth and final conversation of the CONVO series, with the topic being human-centric business and purpose-driven marketing. The virtual adventure component was space! Not a literal blast off, but an experience with a professor who studies human physiology and space travel that has been pivotal in the ESA’s new para-astronaut program that recruits candidates with lower-limb deficiencies, with the understanding that it’s only gravity that disables them.

Participants were then virtually transported to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. They met with visually impaired students and learned about the camp’s adaptations to help these kids get to space.

And finally, there was a Q&A with NASA Astronaut Nicole Scott, who spent 100 days on the International Space Station and is the first astronaut to paint with watercolors in space. She’s the founder of Space for Art, a nonprofit organization that combines her love of space with art therapy for children with terminal illnesses.

These were unforgettable experiences tied to real discovery among peers. Yes, meaningful connections are definitely possible in a virtual arena.

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