Why do we still call the guests at our events attendees? The answer is, of course, that that’s what they are and that’s what we’ve always called them. How about if, starting now, we begin the end of the term attendee? I’m serious.
Are you having attendees over for the holidays this year? Do the Rolling Stones have attendees at their concerts? Do retailers have attendees shopping in their stores? Do houses of worship have attendees at their services? Do universities have attendees on campus? Do you have attendees at your birthday party? Get the idea?
How we think about the guests–the audience at our events–matters – a lot! What we call them matters – a lot.
Why is the word attendee so bad? Why drop it from our vocabulary? One overarching reason. The definition of an attendee is someone who is present at a specific time and place. Present, that’s it. Yes, they’ve checked in, but are they tuned-in and turned-on? We need the people at our events to be engaged, challenged, leaning-in. They must participate. This is not a TV show where we expect a viewer accustomed to passive, submissive, absorption. Some of you may remember when the TV was called the “boob tube.”
What if we had fans and teams and customers and worshippers and guests and shoppers and students at our events? Guess what? We do. They expect to be entertained, educated, inspired, surprised and delighted. None of these emotions or expectations happen in a passive environment. You must be more than present to get the most from a conference, annual meeting or even a trade show.
Let’s stop calling them attendees, right now. And let’s stop thinking about them as one homogenous group. Let’s stop thinking about them as lapsed, or lost or loyal. Let’s think about them as people who have a relationship with us; people who have needs, expectations and desires, and who want to be part of your event because you mean something to them and they mean something to you.
Goodbye to the attendee.