More Choices = More Regret: Why Your Customers (and You) are Really Happier with Fewer Choices

Chris Ware tells us why less choice on booth location mostly means happier sponsors.

Imagine for a moment you have been asked by your spouse to buy a yellow cake mix at the store. You walk down the aisle and you encounter ten variations on yellow cake.  This is what you see: Lemon cake, pound cake, golden cake, gluten-free cake, yellow cake with chocolate swirls, cake with sprinkles--you get the idea.

Now imagine the same exact scenario – but this time you walk in the store and there are two choices for yellow cake, not ten. Which scenario do you think will end with you being happiest? You might think the first one. More choice is good, right? You can pick the yellow cake that matches your exact needs. But in reality, you would walk away from the second scenario much happier because there were only two choices. I had a 50% chance of picking the right one. (In the first scenario, you had only a 10% chance of making the right choice!)

Silly, right? But it’s how we are wired to think. Studies have shown that we are consistently happier with our choices and decisions when we had fewer options to choose from. We are pre-programed to avoid regret and fear of loss whenever possible.

So what does this have to do with niche events? Consider the exhibit hall and booth availability. You have 20 booths available and a customer on the line. Do you tell him about all 20 available spaces, or would it be better to tell him “We have booths 201, 204 and 207 available.” Your customer will be happier with option two. It makes the decision easier because there is less chance of picking the “wrong” booth. Note: When a prospect asks, “Are those the only three booths available?” tell the truth and say, “No, we have other options available, would you like to explore them?”

Also—and this is important, make sure to offer up the three best booths for that customer – avoiding their competition and placing them near cooperative companies. Don’t just pick three random booths. Every once in a while you get an exhibitor who really does want to know every possible booth location. If that’s the case, give them what they want. But understand that’s not what most people want.

The next time you have a hot prospect on the line, try offering fewer, carefully selected choices to them. They will end up happier with their selection – and a happier customer is always good business.


PS: If you are interested in more of these tips, pick up a copy of Dr. Susan Weinschenk’s  How to Get People to Do Stuff. It’s loaded with tips like these. (You will find the basis of this one in “Strategy 136” – which sounds like a CIA operation from the Cold War.)

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Guest blogger:  Christopher Ware, Vice President of Business Development, NAIOP  and a frequent speaker for Niche Media HQ.  Chris is an experienced association executive with expertise in generating non-dues revenue, including: corporate sponsorships, print advertising, online advertising, exhibit space and customized sponsorship plans.


Carl Landau has created numerous successful events. He now owns the event company Niche Media, which has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. Niche Media has helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments!

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