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Transition from attendee to participant

Largely due to a demographic shift that is ushering in a wave of tech-savvy Millennials—and perhaps pushing those who skew on the older side—the dynamic of meetings is changing. Instead of “top-down,” it is “bottom-up.” Instead of attendees passively sitting at an event watching a talking head, meeting participants expect active engagement.

This is playing out several ways:

  • Social media channels are in use to recruit and engage participants before, during and after events. This constant stream of social input helps to design events, to allow for mid-course corrections, and to improve future ones. Thanks to social media channels, participants now have a greater say.
  • Mobile social tools, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, video and others, are seeing especially strong use on-site at many events.
  • Crowdsourcing of event content is working its way into wider use at events. The SXSW conference has used online input (the crowd) to help design the meeting for several years. This idea is spreading. EventTech, EventCamp and Lift are just a few events of using crowdsourcing for topic ideas, speaker suggestions, design applications and more.
  • Social media hubs and moderated live event social walls such as TweetWall, Postano, Hashcaster and SocialWall are seeing greater use at events. In this way, the event organizer encourages social media participation while moderating the use (some posts may not be appropriate), with opportunities to provide branding for the event as well.
  • Gamification is now integrated into many mobile event apps to increase participant engagement and appeal to people’s “fundamental needs and desires for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism,” according to gamification company Brunchball ( Gamification engages participants and helps shape desired actions, such exploring an exhibit hall or learning event content.
  • Matchmaking and networking options are developing in many mobile event apps.Armed with online and mobile matchmaking/appointment scheduling tools, event participants are assisted in making contacts and in having a more fruitful event.
  • Meeting designers are moving to shorter sessions and placing a high priority on audience engagement skills when choosing speakers.
  • Meeting designers are moving away from passive theater-style seating to alternate room sets in order to facilitate discussion and participation.
  • There are many specialized participant engagement apps and Web tools that are being used by speakers, including: Conferences i/o, Crowd Mics, Evenium ConnexMe, MeetingPulse, PollEverwhere, Social Q&A, Klowd and UberMeetings. Mobile technology has moved into the meeting room. Smart presenters are using these tools to engage the participants.
  • Polling and survey tools are now included in many mobile event apps, giving participants an immediate say and speakers and event planners immediate feedback.

Additionally mobile event apps offer an unprecedented amount of analytic data—a goldmine of useful, real-time information to improve the event experience. Every touch is trackable!

App analytics can answer instantly the following questions at any time, which can be used to make corrections and to improve and personalize future events:

✔ What are trending hot topics?
✔ Who are the top speakers?
✔ What exhibit booths have the most attendance?
✔ What is the crowd flow through an exhibit hall?
✔ What speakers/exhibitors are “liked” the most?
✔ Who are the key connectors/influencers?
✔ What app features are the most popular?
✔ Who, when, where, why and how are apps being used?
✔ What are the attendees’ ratings on specific survey and/or polling questions?

Event participants, armed with an array of engagement tools, are moving away from being passive attendees. They expect personalized communication. Participation, personalization and engagement will be at the heart of where events are going in the next few years.

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About the author
Corbin Ball | Speaker and Consultant

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With more than 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity.