No audience engagement without active listening
I’ve seen it so many times at so many conferences. Whenever handouts are made available to the audience, conference delegates tend to quickly browse through them. They only look for the parts that they find most interesting. That always has a negative impact on audience engagement. So if you want to understand why conference speakers do not like to distribute digital conference handouts upfront: do not look any further.
But when you start to think about it: searching forward in conference handouts is not a good thing for conference delegates either. Surely their first mission is to build a set of personalized and relevant information on a number of selected topics. At least if they want to learn from the views and the experience of conference speakers. Taking notes helps them do that. But there is simply no such thing as note taking without listening. If conference delegates do not actively listen to a lecture or a presentation, they are not fully engaged. Their notes – if any – will mirror that.
Putting two and two together
Conference speakers are willing to share presentation contents if previewing of upcoming slides is disabled. Conference delegates want to take notes on digital handouts. These observations made me put two and two together. And when I think of it now, that really made the beauty of the crowdbeamer concept. It’s a solution that not just gives an answer to what conference delegates expect these days. It also addresses a number of concerns that so many conference speakers have.
Everything is just-in-time these days
One of the things I’ve seen happen over the years is that presenters increasingly tend to work just-in-time. They keep making changes to their presentation until the very last moment. That makes it a bit tricky for them to deliver digital handouts upfront. The handouts will usually be outdated by the time the presentation is actually given.
I’ve learned to appreciate the commitment of many conference speakers to deliver the best possible presentation to their audience. But still, conference delegates generally have a different view on that. They do not really like handouts that do not match the presentation projected on the big conference screen. Usually, most of them are momentarily at a loss. That’s when you see them searching through their handouts. Next, they forget to take notes. Until it finally dawns on them (too late!) that the speaker is presenting something altogether different. Having access to live handouts solves that problem. It puts conference delegates at ease. And it lets them focus on listening and taking notes.
Freedom of speech delivery
But believe me: being pressed for time is not the only reason why conference speakers like to make last-minute changes to their presentation. Conference speakers are storytellers. Whenever they give a presentation, they want to tell a story to their audience. And make sure it is easy for their audience to pick up that story and to take notes. That’s why they spend time and effort to deliver a presentation and a matching set of handouts.
To be honest, their motivation to do so is not entirely unselfish. In the end, an up-to-date presentation and a matching set of handouts make it much easier for them to deliver their presentation freely. It gives them full freedom of speech delivery.