All of us know how connected this society is. Emails circulate almost instantaneously throughout the world. The internet allows us to access information from virtually anywhere at any time. And social media never sleeps.
This of course has had a huge impact on how we plan and deliver events. Only 10 years ago, I was at a 5000-person event for a large Canadian multinational, and the first thing the president said when he came on stage was that everyone should turn their phones off because what was really important was going to be said from the stage in the main auditorium.
How times have changed. Now we design and operate apps for our meeting attendees to ensure they have access to the most up-to-date information and can connect with others who have similar interests. We set up social media boards in our function space and can run a live feed throughout the meeting. Attendees can even ask the speakers questions by smart phone while they are still on the stage.
The disadvantage of continual connectivity is that we know many of our attendees are still linked to their regular routine while attending an event and their attention is divided between multiple tasks. We have to ensure the message from the stage is reinforced by different forms of communication so it is clear and easily understood in a world of competing priorities.
Another change is that the industry seems to believe that getting a message across in a video-literate world requires more “flash” and attention stimulus. Keynote speakers are still in demand, but are often asked to deliver shorter messages. We seem to have lost the belief that the audience will be entertained and spurred to action by longer, more substantial presentations. We show videos and offer short entertainment sequences to keep the attendees’ attention.
Even if we live in a constantly connected world, what I find really interesting is how much our audience seems to crave personal interaction. I was visiting a venue recently and saw over 100 people lined up to spend a few minutes with the presenter who had just left the stage. We use technologies like “smart” name badges to allow attendees to locate and connect with others who have similar interests or challenges. We plan networking spaces within our conferences.
And that is why I believe face-to-face events are as important if not more so than in the past. Events allow people to meet face to face and have a more in-depth conversation than they can have on social media. We encourage our attendees to interrupt their regular routine and embrace new ideas and concepts. We create the “moments” that people will remember for years – whether it was having a few minutes of personal time with the company president on an incentive program or getting to sit with recognized industry experts at a workshop. Ultimately, live events have a real impact.
– Les Selby is the Director of Meetings & Events for Aimia’s Channel and Employee division in Canada. He has been a corporate, third party and independent event professional for over 25 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors, and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.