Conference organizers and speakers, they’re coming to your next event. Bigger than the Blob. Mightier than the Undead. Faster than the Twilight Vampires. Here they come as you shake in your boots. Meet your new audiences: Attendee 2.0.
They are coming to your next event and like the Blob, have the potential to overtake all in its path. They will ooze into your opening general session. They will start small like some virus that’s released on the masses. They will consume everything said from the stage and their voices will grow. They will creep and leap, and glide and slide across the conference floor and right on to the Internet. Indescribable… indestructible… insatiable, bloated with the messages of your conference presenters. They will transmit your messages…good or bad…to those outside your conference four walls. They can eat the conference organizers, sponsors and the presenters alive.
Or, they will find nourishment, protein and emotional connections with your conference messages. And they will still consume it and tell everyone. They will still creep, leap, glide and slide. Yet the messages they share with the universe may be positive, drawing more of their kind and those they influence to your next meeting or event. The choice is yours on how you involve Attendee 2.0.
Go ahead and scream now, while there’s still room to breathe. Get it out of your system. Then begin to plan accordingly.
So who is Attendee 2.0? And how can you recognize him or her?
Do you need to hang garlic at your event to keep them out? Do you rid them by hiring or outsourcing to a meeting planner named Buffy? Or do you embrace them by playing “Thriller” for walk-in music? Should you plug all electric outlets so they can’t recharge their weapons? Should you choose venues that clearly block their communications with the aliens in the sky?
You won’t recognize them by the size of their pocket protector or their nerdy dress. They don’t have messed up hair (different than intentional bed-head hair with lots of product). They don’t have bags under their eyes with a wide-eyed look from being online all night. You can’t see them with your 3D, X-ray or night goggles.
So how do you know? You don’t really know by their appearance. One may be standing or sitting near you right now. They are everywhere and multiplying.
You may see them carrying their laptops and pulling out their smart phones taking pictures. They may have a video camera and shoot some of the presentation to transmit back to their followers. They ask you if there is WiFi accessible in the event venue. You may see them sitting on the floor, with electrical cords plugged into their laptops and smartphone waiting to recharge.
If you haven’t seen Attendee 2.0 at your conference or event, you will. Here’s the secret, undercover manual of what Attendee 2.0 looks like from the stage:
1. Attendees typing into laptops and texting with smartphones instead of sitting quietly, looking at you (or the ceiling, or wall, or floor if you’re a boring speaker) and possibly writing notes on paper.
2. Audience members that record everything you say on computers, online, in photographs, audio and video. They are today’s historians, your community reporters, and post information in real time.
3. Attendees’ texting and typing about you to other people inside and outside the four walls, before, during and after your presentation. Some praising you. Some criticizing you. Some laughing at you. All reviewing you with more confidence and truth than you might get by asking them one on one or through the conference evaluations.
4. Participants interrupting you and asking questions during the presentation instead of waiting until the end.
5. Audiences that check your facts in real-time to see if you speak the truth. Some will call you out and question your credibility if they find contradicting research. Some will disagree with you and distribute documentation to the world while you present.
6. Attendees that will challenge you, judge your attitude and cry foul if they feel you are lecturing, being condescending, using jargon, are insincere, selling, patronizing, rambling or not making sense.
7. Participants that get up and walk out of your presentation if they don’t think it is the right fit for them. Sometimes others will walk into your presentation if they’ve heard good things on the backchannel.
The presentation rules have changed. Attendee’s now have the power and bull horn. They can become a Blob, an angry mob or a cheerful crowd in an instant, or click of the mouse.
Ultimately, conferences and events are about the attendee anyway, or they should be. So all humor aside, why should this shift in power scare so many? Why does the inability to control the customer cause presenters, association executives and conference organizers to lash out at Attendee 2.0 and call them rude, dysfunctional and inappropriate? Do other businesses get upset and try to control their customers when they do something different with the product than what was intended? Do business owners lash out in public at new customer behaviors calling for a new resistance? Why the fear? Why the need to control?
So, how do you feel about Attendee 2.0 and the shift of power?