Weigh In On What Do We Call Them?

In a recent blog post I asked Registrant, Attendee, Participant Or Learner? What do we call people who attend a conference or event?

As a recap, here are the definitions of those words and I’ve added delegate to the discussion as well. 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.
  • Delegate – a person designated to act for or represent another or others; deputy; representative, as in a political convention.

Here are some of the responses to my question.

Dick Carlson – an Instructional Designer and presenter likes the word Delegate.

Judith Christian-Carter – a Learning & Development Owner, Instructional Design and eLearning specialist had a little fun with the word Delegate

Olavur Ellefsen – a developer of learning simulations and provider of team based education and training to oil and gas industry

Scott Klososky – author, professional speaker and technology consultant

Laura Bergells – a content, community and presenter consultant

Rachel Evans – Theatre Ed Teacher and Educational Theatre Association 

 Paul Salinger discussed how we may have trained attendees to be passive and just listen to lectures.

The one issue we may need to address is whether we have done such a good job of training our “attendees” to be relatively passive and listen rather than participate, or sit through a long powerpoint-laden presentation, that this new way of approaching learning design is actually too intimidating and that some people do not want this kind of engagement.

Adrian Segar says:

If people register at an event that makes them a registrants; if they attend an event they’re attendees; if they participate to some degree they’re participants to that degree. But what and how much someone learns is ultimately up to them.

Read more comments from Paul Salinger and Adrian Segar.

Do you think this is just a matter of semantics or an important issue to discuss? What ideas or suggestions do you have about what to call people who attend conferences or events?

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  1. Linda Chreno says:

    From a marketing perspective, I need to know what to call them — what they will relate to — in my promotional material.

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  3. I vote for Attendee, it is all of the above..

    Just because one is a registrant does not mean that they will attend and an attendee may be a participant but only if they participate.

    Now, just because you are an attendee, that does not make you a delegate and I personally know some attendees, delegates, registrants and participants who are not learners!

  4. I like participant. It’s hopeful and establishes a goal that we all know leads to more successful meetings. It can also encompass a wide range of activities and it doesn’t overstep the bounds of reality because just attending an event is a form of participation.

  5. Dave Lutz says:

    Thought I’d throw in another name. I want a bunch of “players” at the next event I go to. Players attend, participate, learn from one another and like to have fun too! That’s who I want to hang out with.

  6. Lindsey Rosenthal (@eventsforgood) says:

    I think participant is the best option if you want to encourage a two-way style of learning, as opposed to just presenting. It depends on the type of event, but with social media and experiential learning as options, participation is key to the success of an event.

  7. Ellen says:

    Jeff — So glad you raised this question and shared the various responses to it! Of course, my position is pretty clear on this 🙂

    As I read the responses, it occurs to me that we have our individual preferences based on where we’re sitting: “registrants” goes to the financial bottom line; “participants” while “players” goes to a desirable social atmosphere created by those who attend [if I interpreted Dave’s comment correctly].

    I appreciate the distinctions made here between “participant” and “learner.” I still advocate “learner” when discussing educational events because if learning *isn’t* occuring, then we’re doing something wrong.

    And when it comes to marketing, most employers approve requests for educational or conference events based on the professional education and training they believe their employee will gain by attending. Believe me, they aren’t signing those travel requests because they value the networking benefit (who wants to lose a good employee because they hooked up with a new job at a conference?) nor because of the off-schedule socializing.

    So if we want successful “registrations” we need to convince those writing the checks as well as those we’d like to see there [see http://alearning.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/convincing-the-boss/ and http://alearning.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/more-justification-for-your-members/%5D, don’t we?

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      ‘@Linda – great point, what do “they” want to be called in marketing materials. That’s a great question without an easy answer as we see from the different perspectives.

      @Jenise – Thanks for reading and commenting. I like what you say about participant, “It’s hopeful and establishes a goal…” Good point.

      @Dave – Players, h-m-m. My immediate thought is the common relationship term, “players” used to describe people who date and sleep with a lot of people. Not sure I want a lot of players at my event…unless I’m organizing a relationship style conference.

      @Lindsey – I like your point that it depends on the type of event. So true.

      @Ellen – Thanks for continually raising the bar and asking these type of questions! I also like how you framed the use of each word based on our perspective within the management of the meeting.

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