People are looking at their phones constantly. Whenever they walk, eat, go to bed, or attend events, the smartphone always seems to be in their hands. This keeps them from fully experiencing their immediate environment or engaging more with physical reality. Is this a problem for the events industry? This is the question we’ll be trying answer in this article.
Games, cute cat videos, Facebook notifications, emails, and more are the elements distracting people from day-to-day life.
The same is true for event attendees.
Instead of paying attention to the speakers or engaging in meaningful conversations with other people, your guests might prefer their digital reality (aka their phone) to the event environment.
Is this bad or good?
Although I’m sorry to disappoint you, the truth is that there’s no absolute answer to this question.
The bad component involves, obviously, the degree of distraction people experience when attending an event.
This constant attention jumps from the speakers to their phone screens, for example, may reduce their focus or interest in what’s happening in their immediate surroundings.
On the other hand, we, as event professionals, can use make good use of this phenomenon by meeting and engaging with our attendees via event mobile apps or social media platforms, where we can continue the conversations tackled during the event.
What we should strive for is the right amount of use of the smartphone at events.
What we want from our attendees is to use the mobile app to navigate better the event environment, communicate with other guests, and plan their activities agendas.
What we want to avoid is the obsessive use of the smartphone during events.
Here’s how we can achieve this:
Invite relevant and powerful speakers
I bet there’s only a handful of people who’ll be scrolling through their social media feeds while Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, is speaking.
But if you’ve got dull speakers who are reading things from a piece of paper in a monotone voice, you can be sure that all of your attendees will be looking down at their phones scrolling through their Instagram accounts.
Even if the information is relevant to them, if it’s delivered in a flat, dull manner, your attendees will get bored.
The secret is to find speakers who are relevant to your attendees and can help them tackle their most burning pains, and make the session so interesting that attendees will forget all about their phones.
Go for shorter session formats
People feel better and more engaged when they’re given bite-sized pieces of information.
So instead of keeping everyone seated for a two-hour speakers’ panel, go for 25-minute sessions with breaks in within. This will help your attendees not only reenergize, but also digest the information better.
Ask your attendees to create content
One sure way to bore everyone to death and get them on their phones is by taking the action away. To keep your attendees engaged, encourage them to become content creators instead of idle content consumers.
How can you do that?
For example, you can run a vlogging contest, offering an appealing important incentive. Also, you can engage your guests in the conversation by running multiple quizzes and live polls during different panels and seminars.
This way, your guests will connect better with their environment and stay off their phones (unless they need to use them for the event-related activities).
Plan unusual activities
Everyone knows what to expect when attending an event, so why not shake up your guests’ expectations by offering them something unusual?
For example, you could ask your attendees to move outside to listen to a specific speaker, or invite them to play a game. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing more engaging than a game, so make sure to have one (or a few) at your event.
Encourage your attendees to be more mindful
Finally, you can engage your guests more by offering them a meditation session before they listen to the next speaker.
You can ask the moderator to run this exercise or even invite a meditation teacher to guide your audience through a five- to ten-minute session. This exercise will help most of your guests and be more focused and connected to their surroundings.
We can’t do much about digital distractions. But instead of focusing on how to decrease the use of phones during events, think about ways in which you can make your conference, seminar, or convention more interesting and more appealing.
It’s definitely not an easy task, if you ask me, but totally worth it if you want to get your guests off their phone screens and fully immersed with your event.