Sarah Halfpenny Events

The audience are taking control!


by Sarah Halfpenny

The events industry is changing. Why? Well quite simply delegates are demanding more of their live experience. Conventionally one of the key reasons a delegate would attend an event was to gain knowledge and insights. In a time when this knowledge and information is now readily available 24 hours a day, Events have got to work even harder to provide a useful experience.

Traditionally, a large proportion of the events being produced were what I class as ‘safe’ and ‘unimaginative’. Whether it was a seminar, lecture or conference, there would be a standard format. This would consist of someone providing an introduction to a topic, a number of speakers filling 45 minute slots and some time for Q&A at the end. The coffee breaks would be just that, a break for coffee and networking would be limited due to the full programme. The delegates would claim a seat and stay there for the entire event and then leave with only having had a chat to his or her event neighbour. Whilst these ‘safe’ event formats still can work for some sectors today, I do believe that things are now changing and the audience are demanding more.

Delegates want to take advantage of being in a live environment. They no longer want to be talked at, they want to be talked too. They want the speakers to come to them, and interact with the audience. They want to experience a live unrehearsed debate and discussion which can be facilitated. They want the opportunity to talk to the presenters in a safe environment. They want the opportunity to introduce themselves to the thought leaders in the room. They want the opportunity to trade business cards, they want the opportunity to discuss and debate issues around a table with others.

They don’t want to sit in a row next to people, they want to sit with people. They don’t want to sit in the same seat all day long they want movement around the room, the opportunity to sit with as many people as possible without it feeling disruptive. They don’t want to be rushed and pressured for time, they want a relaxed, friendly and positive environment. And yes they still want good content, but they also now want content that they can take away. Content that they not only consume but they can discuss, debate and contribute too post event.

I do believe people are starting to respond to this idea that the audience should be at the heart of the event instead of the audience being observers to an event.
It seems like the old rule book is a little outdated and now its about trying stuff out to enable delegates to participate. And the fun thing, some new elements will work and some will just be put down to experience, but events are changing and we all have to learn to adapt and be brave!

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