Relabel Conference Registrants

Labels by Katey, on flickrA Momentous Catalyst To Conference Attendee Behavior Change

I am often asked how to get conference attendees to adopt 21st Century learning habits.

The majority of conferences treat attendees as consumers of information. We encourage them to attend our programming and passively listen.

Some of them resist any changes we make to that model. They don’t want to be involved in small group discussions. Nor do they want to be responsible for their own learning. They believe that listening to the expert produces learning.

To Get Conference Registrants’ Buy-In For Behavior Change, First Re-Label Them

One of the simplest yet most profoundly effective change strategies is relabeling registrants from attendees to active participants. We have to get them to change their self-image.

Instead of asking conference audiences to collaborate, participate and co-create at our event, we should call them co-creators, collaborators, active learners and participants.

We need to specifically ask our conference audiences to be participants, collaborators, active learners and co-creators of the experience. We should remind them that their level of learning and retention is directly related to their level of active mental engagement and participation. It is not related to the amount of time they sit in an education session or listen to a speaker.

Shift From Verb To Noun

This subtle shift from a verb to a noun has a profound and positive results say The Achievement Habit author and Stanford Professor Bernard Roth. Roth sites studies that show if you ask people to be voters there is a larger voter turnout than just asking them to get out and vote. Likewise if you ask people not to be cheaters, there is less cheating than if you ask them not to cheat.

Huh? This seems counterproductive to our conventional thoughts. Doesn’t it?

Roth says the research points to the fact that people are more concerned with reinforcing their self-image than with their actions. Thus to change actions and behaviors, we must first get them to change their self-image.

So start now by relabeling your conference attendees as active participants. Call them collaborators, co-creators and innovators. Make sure your marketing materials state that they are active learners and not just attendees of lectures and consumers information. Then step back and watch what happens.


Why do some conference organizers resist relabeling conference attendees to participants? What happens if you relabel attendees to participants and don’t change the conference programming to be participatory?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. Roger says:

    Fascinating. I couldn’t agree more about re-labelling attendees as active participants! Get them involved. Get them engaged in their own learning. This is a fundamental shift in the way we design meetings/conferences and should be the starting point of the design process.

    Love this blog. Love Velvet Chainsaw. Keep banging the gong, Jeff. It’s making a difference.


    Perfect! Words Matter to our lizard-brains, and this is a prime example. Thank you for describing what we must do so clearly!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *