Saturday, March 10, 2012

Engagement - I don't think this means what you think it means!

"Room for Thought" at EventCamp Vancouver
It seems the more we talk about engagement at meetings and events, the greater the sense I have that it is like the "inconceivable" moments in The Princess Bride - does creating engagement mean what we think it means?

Are we treating our participants like active members of the process or are we still treating them as a passive audience? Are we truly creating environments that promote discussion and inspire conversation AND allowing adequate time for these conversations to happen?

There are some great examples of this happening - TedActive, EventCamps, #lessconf are some recent examples we have seen, but there still seems to be a fear that having unprogrammed time could lead to.... open space. As meeting professionals we struggle to balance all the zeal of the program committee with the actual time available, and our own fear of open space. What if people run out of things to talk about? Have you ever really seen this happen?  When I teach Event Planning at BCIT - an entry level course geared to people who have limited experience, the way I define a conference at its most basic is "bringing together people with an interest in a topic or area of interest". Yes, this is simplistic but it is easy to undestand.  

My opinion (and feel free to comment with yours) is that if we bring together people who have an interest in a similar topic and give them time to talk to each other - we will see engaged, participating attendees that leave inspired by the discussions they have had. These are the discussions among peers that will lead to innovation and collaboration and we must open ourselves up to having smart attendees that want to ENGAGE in a space we have created with their needs in mind.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, Tahira. I was at a town social event last night and had to leave early because the live music was too loud for people to talk. (The music was great, but people wanted to talk too, and the entertainment got in the way.)

    I think the phrase "creating engagement" is potentially misleading as it implies that we have to make people engage, while most people need little prompting. Rather, as you point out, our job is to create environments that facilitate and support engagement.

    One more point. Allowing time for people to talk is the first step, but we shouldn't assume that's all that's needed. Recent research has shown that traditional mixers are not great ways for people to meet new and interesting people. I just wrote about this here: