Three Tools to Keep Your Attendees in the Moment

Tech Can Redirect Attention. Here’s How to Use That to Your Advantage.

If it were as easy as it sounds to “stay in the moment,” the mindfulness-app industry might be worth $1 million—not $1 billion. Fact is, in a world with distractions pinging us from every angle, it can be difficult to be truly present—which detracts from the attendee experience.

How can planners fight this battle for their attendees’ undivided attention? Use tools to help keep attendees’ minds in the moment and resist getting swept up into the rapids of distractions. Some of those tools are even digital—yes, tech can be a distraction in and of itself, but there are ways to harness it to stay present.

1) Go retro with instant cameras.

Yes, cameras are ubiquitous, but we’re not talking about the camera on your smartphone here. Remember Polaroids? Part of their charm lies in the one-and-done factor. Planners can activate this sentiment by supplying instant cameras at in-person gatherings.

You can’t top the convenience of digital cameras, but instant cameras are nostalgic and produce tangible photos that you can hold in your hand, which engage people more deeply compared with their digital counterparts. And something tangible is probably what your attendees are looking for after two years in front of screens. It’s no wonder that Polaroids are making a comeback in the age of smartphones.

2) Use apps to help attendees focus on the now.

Another thing about photography: When people take photos on their phones, they tend to immediately look at how the picture came out. Problem is, while attendees have their eyes on their phones, they’re no longer in the moment, missing parts of the event experience. But some photo-sharing apps can remedy this by delaying the payoff. Dispo, for example, acts as a digital disposable camera, building in time for photos to “develop” before anyone can see or share them—eliminating the tendency to look at photos while actually doing the activities being photographed.

Apps’ here-and-now potential goes beyond photos. Since many attendees are going to have their smartphones in their hands no matter what, planners can help attendees use their phones as a tool to stay in the know, in the moment. Some conference apps—such as Whova—let attendees submit questions to live Q&As, participate in polls and quizzes, access resources for more information on sessions and speakers, and interact with other attendees. On most of these apps, the event manager can also send push notifications to attendees about schedule changes and other updates.

3) Make it interactive.

Tech-enabled options to deploy during sessions include polls and quizzes—but there are non-tech options too, such as handheld signs distributed to participants, that allow them to express their sentiments during sessions.

You could also simply give attendees a quick task and have them split into groups to complete it—perhaps brainstorming an idea based on a creative prompt, which is then shared with the other groups. Virtual or in person, the goal remains the same: Get people involved. If you give attendees something to do instead of just information to process, chances are better that they’ll stay locked in.