Did you know, nine out of 10 Gen-Y?s [people age 18-34] are online and are social network users, according to the New Media Trend Watch? And, the rest of the population [Gen-X and Baby Boomers] is not far behind in their usage of tablets and smartphones. For meeting planners this means that most of event attendees will be connected to each other before, during and after an event. Sound like a distraction? It's not, so go with the flow.

To boost participation, tap into meeting attendees? connectedness. Cheryl Cran with MeetingsNet gives planners five suggestions:

  1. Make Your Own Social Network. Create a social hub [a place where all of your attendees can come together] through Facebook, Twitter or another social media network. A network can encourage attendees to connect with others within your industry, your organization or those who will be attending a specific meeting.
  2. Make a Game of it. Create a participation type of game where attendees use their smartphones and interact with one another. Cran highlights one meeting planner who created a game where clues were sent via text message and then attendees had to use their smartphones to find the answers.
  3. Enlist Speakers. Ask speakers to use technology to increase participation in their sessions. Using technology such as text-to-screen allows participants to engage by asking questions and becoming part of the program. Other options include encouraging attendees to tweet about the conversation.
  4. Create a Contest. Every smartphone has a camera, have your attendees use it. Create a contest in which attendees submit their best photos of conference activities. Share the photos at the end of the conference and give prizes to the best, funniest, most creative, etc.
  5. Create a Cell-Phone Directory. In addition to publishing e-mail contacts for attendees, how about adding cell phone numbers [depending on privacy guidelines]? This allows attendees to text each other on site and follow up after the conference.

Gone are the days where we ask people to turn off their phones. Today, encourage attendees to keep phones on, connect and participate at your next meeting in Tacoma + Pierce County.