Cell Phones Never Banned at Connections

Over the past few years, as cell phones have gained more and more popularity, we've started to see "no cell phones beyond this point" signs outside libraries and hear "please silence your cell phones" announcements in movie theaters, classrooms, and even church services--but never will you hear this announcement made at Connections.

Yesterday, in the "CMO Roundtable: Fuel for Thought" general session, ExactTarget CMO Tim Kopp made an interesting observation: in the past, speakers and presenters used to get offended by the use of cell phones during their speeches--but not anymore. Today, seeing your audience type away on their cell phones during a presentation doesn't necessarily mean that they're disengaged. In fact, it probably means that they're extremely engaged and that they're tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook about your discussion topic right then and there.

So as a speaker or facilitator, don't fret if your audience members aren't making direct eye contact with you because they're using their phone. They're most likely tweeting something interesting that you just said, promoting the topic you're discussing, or looking up more information about you or your business--and who wouldn't want that?

Even now, as I sit inside the "Ask the Experts: Release 139" Connections break-out track, plenty of attendees are typing away and using their cell phones to "share the good news" of the Interactive Marketing Hub with others. Even ExactTarget's own Doug Wilson emphasized this point when he presented on Mobile updates to the ExactTarget app.

"How many people do not have a mobile phone with them right now?" Zero hands raised.

People don't go anywhere without their cell phones these days (especially not when attending Connections) -- something you should definitely consider when deciding whether or not to invest in SMS capabilities. Want to stay connected to your subscribers at all times? You can bet they'll have their phone on them...

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  • Rick

    With this in mind… speakers and or conferences should have social network (at least the most popular) or aggregation displays to keep a peripheral or "heads up for all – I’m watching you" eye on what is actually being shared (while speaking). Clearly it’s a skill that would need to be trained (for the speaker), but they could then see if people really are interested by the live data feed or not… thus stating to the speaker, "something needs to be done about what I’m doing/saying to re-engage the audience". Social interaction gone full circle! :)

  • Susan

    I fully agree! In fact when I present I encourage everyone to Tweet about my presentation – it’s a great way to share content to others realtime, stimulate conversation as well as for me to receive feedback.

    I was pained to attend a national sales conference where attendees were told to turn off their phones so they could better engage with the presentations. For me – I’d have rather let the conversations take place whereever and however plus it would have been a great way for the presenters to receive realtime questions and insights from the attendees.

  • Stefanie

    I totally agree, Rick. If at an event, it’s a great idea to display tweets or attendee feedback somehow. It certainly helps presenters and event hosts know what they could be doing better. This year at Connections, we took that to heart by setting up our first "Social Media Lounge" with monitors displaying tweets about Connections as they were being tweeted. If someone had positive feedback about a session or was upset by a Connections experience, we knew about it. It really helped us feel out how the attendees were enjoying Connections. It makes audience members and attendees feel like they have a voice or can speak to the presenter directly.

    This is definitely a great way to stimulate conversation, Susan. It’s sad that some presenters prohibit their audience members from using their cell phones during the speech–today, this is a compliment. (Ok, this idea may not work the same way in a high school classroom, as I doubt students are tweeting about how engaged they are with classroom topics…, but it certainly does for professional conferences and presentations.) Keeping people from tweeting, blogging, or sharing during a presentation just hurts your brand and image in the long run.

    Glad to see that both of you are passionate about helping others Fuel the Conversation!