Words, words, words. They are everywhere. Billboards, blogs, books, Facebook, menus, movies, internet, LinkedIn, magazines, newspapers, roadway signs, screens, social media, smart phones, television, Twitter and websites to name a few.
Words are rapped, shouted, spoken and sung. Some are believed, felt and trusted. Some are disputed, doubted and cause negative emotions.
Some words dance, move and scroll across screens. Some change colors and sizes. Some say, “Buy me. Drink me. Eat me. Feel me. Smell me. Taste Me. Take me home. You need me.” With so many words, have some lost their meaning? Have some lost their power?
Words Have Meaning And Power
When we say, “I need you,” we offer someone hope. When we say, “I hate you,” we destroy another. Words can offer life or wound. They can lead or separate.
We use words to name things. Words describe people, places and things. Call someone by the wrong name and they don’t respond. Use the wrong word and people respond according to their interpretation of that word.
We can use words to describe what we are living, how we work and how to improve our professional lives. These words need to be received, responded to and acted on by others.
A blog needs a reader. A movie needs a viewer. A speaker needs a listener. A conference needs a _______________?
What Do We Call People Who Attend Conferences?
What should we call people who have registered to attend a conference? What’s the right word to use to describe how we want people who attend a conference to act, behave and respond?
Registrants? Attendees? Participants? Learners?
Take a look at these definitions. The differences are subtle yet articulate distinct responses and actions.
- Registrant – one who registers or is registered; a person who is formally registered and gains certain rights thereby.
- Attendee – one who is present or attends a functions; a person who participates in a meeting
- Participant – one that participates, shares or takes part in something; a participator; a partaker
- Learner – one that gains knowledge, comprehension or mastery through experience or study; someone who learns or takes knowledge or beliefs; one that is learning; one that is acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values or preferences.
From Consumers To Participants To Learners
If we really want conferences and events to shift from people consuming information and passively listening to lectures to active engagement and contributors, perhaps we should choose a different word to define our registrants.
Ellen with aLearning Blog has raised this question several times here on this blog and on her own. As a professional educator and former association exec, she states:
First, semantics are important (or the pen wouldn’t be mightier than the sword): let’s stop calling those who attend our educational and conference sessions “attendees” and start calling them “learners.” Attendees show up. Learners want to leave a session with something more than what they arrived with: a new skill, deeper understanding, or something else.
So what word or words should we use to call those that attend conferences and events? Do you think using the right word has any impact on behavior or is just all a matter of interpretation? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.