Look Out! Run For Your Lives. They’re Coming To Your Next Event! Attendee 2.0

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.

 Look out. They're coming. 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?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Hurt, traci browne. traci browne said: love it! balanced post RT @JeffHurt: Look Out! Run For Your Lives. They’re Coming To Your Next Event! Attendee 2.0 http://ow.ly/ZmeF […]

  2. Emilie Barta says:

    The 1st time I experienced Attendee 2.0 was two weeks ago at CES when I was introducing the ability to place and receive Skype video calls on Panasonic Viera Cast HDTVs. During one of my demos, I counted 40 Flips, 3 smart phones, 6 point & shoot cameras, and 2 video cameras recording me…and not one piece of paper or pen! Throughout the show, it seemed that attendees “recorded” the information they wanted digitally, rather than by taking notes on paper as in years past.

    At first I found it annoying because it was difficult to make eye contact with these audience members. But I began to appreciate it when I realized that their new version of “note taking” would have accurate information straight from my mouth, rather than their interpretation of random thoughts they had scribbled on a piece of paper.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Wow, what a great example of a presenter making the shift and appreciating Attendee 2.0! Love it. You also have the benefit of having experience talking to a camera with the intent of engaging a watching audience. That’s going to become more and more valuable in the future. Thanks for sharing this experience.

      Very wise words you’ve shared with us that sincerity is key. An audience is smarter than some speakers think and will see clearly through inauthentic presentations. Like you said , “Attendee 2.0 is not going away and you can’t hide from them.” Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  3. Enjoyed reading the article Jeff and thanks for all the other twitter content I see from you as well. Clever use of humor and I think it applies to the underlying feelings organizers/planners have of what to do with this new mass of empowered attendees able to assemble instant ‘blobs, mobs and crowds’ using SM tools and new technology.

    Not sure if there is really one correct answer out there other than to depend on the integrity and sincerity of your content and message. When someone is sincere, accurate, and has faith in their own message, it seems to get reflected in how this new audience receives it. When someone even slightly tries to game the system or overstate things, it seems to immediately get addressed and flushed out in the blink of an eye.

    One thing is certain -Attendee’s 2.0 are not going away and you can’t hide from them!


    -Travis Melvin
    SmartSource Rentals

  4. Oh. My. Gosh. It really is Friday!
    Okay, so I JUST had a conversation yesterday with a good and respected friend/speaker who still doesn’t believe in visualizing tweets at an event. After about half an hour of wrangling, we finally settled on a middle ground of having them moderated so that noise is filtered out. His belief is that unless they contribute to the conversation, it’s just a distraction. And I get his point, it’s true. But then I fear that the moderator gets on the school teacher power trip and bam there goes the whole point of social media.
    Anyways, as for the lashing out at the “rude, dysfunctional” attendee 2.0, it alllll ties back to those “Needs Improvement” and “Unsatisfactory” grades on the citizenship part of our report cards. Good little citizens are supposed to sit quietly with their hands in their laps and never speak unless they are selected to speak. So, with 30 students in a class and maybe 10 questions asked per day, and if the chance to reply is evenly rotated (which we know never happens), that would give an average student the opportunity to speak up maybe twice per week? Craziness. No wonder we’re all so wacky!
    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for the comment and story. I can understand a speaker wanting to limit the display of the backchannel during their presentation. Yet, once again, it shows a speaker that does not trust their audience and feels they may get distracted. And that speaker does not believe that adults should control their own learning. In my book, that’s a sign of a speaker that’s not confident they can engage an audience with their entire presentation. Control, again. I get their intent and would say it’s misguided. Your citizenship comment had me laughing out loud. That’s citizenship that feels more like dictatorship, don’t ya think?

  5. Hi mt name is Cheryl Lawson and I am an Atendee 2.0 🙂

  6. davelutz says:

    and we all say, Hi Cheryl…welcome to the group! Don’t you feel better that you made your public declaration of being an Attendee 2.0? Our club is growing exponentially and there is safety in numbers. 🙂

    Dave Lutz – @velchain

  7. Attendee 2.0 does sound like a horror show for presenters! I wonder how many speakers will decide they’d rather write a book than stick their necks out on the speaking circuit. Most, no doubt, will learn to adapt – adjusting the presentation style, moving from the didactic to the Socratic teaching method, incorporating the social media backchannel into the presentation instead of trying to work around it?
    On the other side of the podium, an Attendee 2.0 etiquette needs to start emerging pretty quickly if their contributions to an event are to be more than a distraction or, in the worst case, bear-baiting. I’m not keen on the idea of moderators at all – seems a bit paternalistic. And moderation could well create an undesireable side effect of Attendees vying to create content deemed worthy of appearing on screen (we humans do so love a good competition!) which could even ramp up the level of audience distraction. Or a backlash afterwards, with cries of censorship and favouritism… No matter what, it’s going to be fun to watch unfold. From a safe distance!

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Lutz, Jenise Fryatt and MPINCC, Megan Fischer. Megan Fischer said: RT @lyksumlikrish: Look out! Run 4 your lives! They're coming to your next event: Attendee 2.0 by @JeffHurt http://ow.ly/ZskZ #eventprofs […]

  9. Yes @davelutz its very freeing. Glad to be amongst friends.

    As both presenter and attendee 2.0, I find A bit of humilty and humor you can get you through anything. I do agree with @Rebecca that a few speakers will retreat to book writing, but that will simply open the doors for more flexible and interactive presentations.


  10. '@mati4real says:

    Jeff I can’t wait for the movie. The trailer is riveting !
    Attendee 2.0 Power! How to harness, utilize and learn from the power of these masses will be the key. I have not had the opporunity to speak but I would think that turning the distraction into an interaction somehow would work in the speakers favor. Just like Web 2.0 has the potential to weed out the unresponsive, undesirable brands so to is the power of Attendee 2.0

  11. […] relationship among event organizers, presenters and audiences is undergoing a fundamental change. Attendee 2.0 has embraced social media platforms and frequently engages in the backchannel discussing the event […]

  12. […] Hurt asks: Are You Ready for Attendees 2.0? You better *get* ready, because they’re coming, ready or […]

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