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It’s Halloween: Are Your Events Haunted by the Blackberry Prayer?

You know the blackberry prayer. It’s that pose that attendees adopt when they stuff their faces into their blackberry devices (or iphones) during the keynote address or breakout sessions. You know – at the exact moment that they should be listening.

For some speakers and event organizers this can be embarrassing and frustrating. After all the content is supposedly important stuff. Based on what I am hearing and reading in discussion groups – it seems to be haunting events.

BlackBerry Prayer

New Flash: Mobile Devices Are Here To Stay

With more than 120,000 applications available for smart phones, mobile phones are only going to grow in usage. So, you can expect the blackberry prayer to become more common at events in 2010. Here are some additional facts:

  • More than 58% of Americans have a web enabled mobile phone
  • In Europe, 1 in 4 households cancelled their landline and are only using their mobile
  • More than 2 trillion SMS (text) messages were sent in 2008. (Yes! that is Trillion with a “T”!!)
  • 1 in 4 new mobile phones sold in the US is a smart phone.

Besides dressing up as the headless horseman and throwing flaming pumpkins at attendees (which, by the way, I don’t advise) – what can you do to get attendees to look up and pay attention to the speaker?

headless_horseman.014

If You Can’t Beat’em – Join‘em

You can’t prevent people from using their smart phones at your event – but you can engage them through the smart phones.  Ask attendees to use their devices to look up answers during a session. Ask them to tweet you questions or comments. Or use one of the mobile event applications that helps them keep in touch with you and the event.

If those ideas still sounds scary to you – here are 10 more ideas that will help you create interaction:

  1. Increase Interaction Time & Reduce Speaker Presentation Time
  2. Setup A Backchannel
  3. Use Mobile Texting Tools
  4. Use the Buzz Collaboration Format
  5. Try the Fishbowl Technique
  6. Try an Unconference
  7. Use Open Space Technology
  8. Try An Audience Response Team Building Game
  9. Start a Flash Mob – Like Oprah
  10. Try a Treasure Hunt

Bottom Line

Ghosts, Goblins and Blackberry-using-attendees do not control your event experience – you do.  When it comes to addressing the growing number of mobile devices at your events you have two choices: Trick or Treat.

Let me know if you have any alternative witches brew that might be useful here. Happy Halloween!

photo credits: jochen & oskay

Note: I discovered the term “Blackberry Prayer” in a Podcast between Jeff DeCagna & Sue Pelletier: Listen | Read


One Comment Post a comment
  1. Hi, in Sweden we ask our audience to turn off their mobile phones. The easiest way is always working.
    I think it´s a good idea using the auidence own mobile phones but you will always be challenged by that the mobile phone then is opened up to incoming calls and sms. Maybe the eventindustri should propose to the mobile phone industri that they should introduce the event mode. Today you only have normal or flightmode.
    Best regards,
    Dream – Motivating People

    November 4, 2009

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