11 Things People Hate to Hear at Events

At events and conferences, there are a number of dreaded words and phrases which nobody wants to hear. Avoid these at all costs!

We were tickled in the office by this very funny Twitter thread from Very British Problems about two-word horror stories:

We couldn’t wait to compile our own list specifically for conferences and events.

We came up with 11 commonly heard items that can strike fear into any attendee. Many with good reason!

Frankly, some of these should never be heard again and must be banished forever from modern events and conferences.

  1. “Queue Up Here.”

No one likes queuing, particularly when they are eager to get into an event and, no doubt, find some coffee! Nothing can bring down excitement levels and enthusiasm more than standing in a queue for any length of time.

There is so much technology out there nowadays that can speed up the check in process, for most events, queuing is luckily a thing of the past.

Event Planner Tip: If you need to check in a lot of people within a short space of time invest in plenty of registration staff and tech to make sure you give a great first impression. Self-check-in, beacon technology, RFID, and facial recognition are just a few ideas of what can be used for slick event entry.

2. “This slide says… “
<Cue reading out the slides word for word>

Sometimes speakers are chosen for their subject knowledge, but this doesn’t automatically mean that they are an accomplished or confident speaker. Inexperienced speakers can sometimes rely heavily on their slides to get through the presentation. No one wants to see text heavy slides, let alone have the content read out to them.

Sigh.

Event Planner Tip: Brief and support your speakers in advance on what is required of them and outline what you are looking for if they choose to use PowerPoint (e.g. visual slides with very minimal text).

As an event management company, we always check every single presentation that is received ahead of an event. This isn’t to pick holes in the presentation, this is to check that everything is working and looking good and to ensure that the audience are not going to have “death by PowerPoint”!

3. “WiFi Fail”

If only we could say this was only an occasional inconvenience!

In reality, venue WiFi overall throughout venues in the UK is simply often not good enough to cope with the amount of users and the requirements of attendees that need to stay connected.

Some venues try to charge thousands of pounds for WiFi capability to be upgraded for an event but even then it is not always fast and reliable. Your attendees have taken time out to be there and stress levels can quickly rise if they can’t access WiFi to check on their emails, post to social media or access the event tech.

Event Planner Tip: Never believe that the WiFi is good enough to cope with the demands of your event and attendees without testing it out yourself under similar conditions and user numbers. If the WiFi isn’t up to scratch this can be a dealbreaker. Choose a venue that is moving with the times and your guests will thank you for it.

4. “I need a volunteer”

Hearing these words will instantly make many of your attendees anxious.

“Don’t choose me”

“What on earth do they want a volunteer for?”

Of course, it probably isn’t anything to be worried about but still most audience members would feel more comfortable if they knew exactly what they were volunteering to do first. Especially less confident or introverted attendees would prefer the option just to stay anonymous and undetected within the crowd, rather than have all eyes on them at the front.

These words stray into the zone of forced participation, conjuring up memories of school or bad conferences they attended in the past.

Event Planner Tip: A skilled facilitator will always be mindful of the audience and how receptive they may or may not be to requests such as this. With this in mind they will avoid any uncomfortable requests and moments that pressurise attendees into contributing against their will and find a better approach.

5. “Here, take my card!”
<Cue sales pitch>

Attendees are bored and wise of forced sales pitches, whether it is from event sponsors, speakers or workshop hosts. Even overbearing selling and self-promotion from attendees when networking is a turn off.

This is the quickest way to switch off your audience. Building trust and authenticity through softer approaches could actually be much more effective than giving it the hard sell anyway.  

Event Planner Tip: Make sure your sponsors, speakers, and workshop hosts know that overt self promotion and selling is not the approach you want them to take. Instead, tutor them on the best ways to get buy in from the audience and see results. Help them by offering other ways to market themselves at the event so they feel less pressured into giving an unwanted sales pitch.

6. “It’s a Healthy Lunch.”

Don’t get me wrong, for some of your attendees hearing that a healthy lunch is being served will be greatly appreciated. For others in the audience though these words will fill them with dread. For some, going to an event is a “jolly” and this means that they want to have a calorific menu to match!

Event Planner Tip: The best approach to satisfy all attendees is to offer a variety of options in your catering offering. Everything is fine in moderation but try to offer a balance and also let the attendee choose.

If you are serving dessert ensure there are smaller and larger portion sizes available. Then those that just want a little can have it without food going to waste or them overindulging.

7. “Any questions? Please!!!!”

Attendees often have lots of questions to ask interesting speakers, but some people need some thinking time before they ask and brave speaking into the microphone. If the host is desperately appealing for any questions and forcing the audience to speak up, it encourages microphone hoggers and irrelevance.

Event Planner Tip: Give advance warning if there will be the opportunity for questions. The host and some audience members should always have some quality questions up their sleeve in case the audience needs some time to warm up.

Consider alternatives to the traditional hand held microphone, which many people dread. Tech for attendees to type and submit questions are popular and other audience members can vote to signal the best questions which should be prioritised. Alternatively, there might be the opportunity to use throwable microphones or an app that allows people to speak into their mobile phone instead!

8. “Sorry, we’ve run out!”

If you run out of, or stop serving, any items this is guaranteed to instill panic in your guests! Even if the items are just being replenished and the next break is around the corner, this phrase is certain to unsettle your guests.

Event Planner Tip: If you need to replenish food and beverage, ask the venue to try to do it in stages if possible so that items are available when attendees want it. Latecomers will often be desperate for caffeine too so try to give some flexibility to keep everyone happy!

If there have been any last minute adjustments in terms of numbers, perhaps more people turned up at the door than you expected, be sure to let the venue know so they can control portion sizes more effectively or even prepare extra food to ensure there is plenty.

9. “Can I scan your badge?”

Exhibitions often encourage this form of data capture so that exhibitors can quickly record their visitors details and seek permission to send them more information. The problem unfortunately comes when exhibitors then exploit this opt in and bombard attendees with follow up information, particularly when it is generic marketing emails being blasted out.

Event Planner Tip: GDPR means that exhibitors need to be a lot clearer about what exactly attendees are opting in to receive. Don’t be afraid to ask the exhibitor if it isn’t immediately clear.

And of course, there should always be the option to unsubscribe at any time if you change your mind at a later date.

10. “Feedback Forms!”

Hearing these words can induce doom for a number of reasons!

Often, feedback forms are mentioned right at the last minute as people are eager to get out of the event, rather than a reminder being given at the start of the last session so there is plenty of time to complete it. Feedback forms often still mean paper feedback forms too, as these are easier to police. Either way, I doubt any attendee ever got excited about filling out a feedback form. Unless perhaps they have a lot to complain about?!

Event Planner Tip: Try embracing digital event evaluations to encourage faster responses and analysis and cut down on paper and printing. Always keep surveys short and limited to useful data that will actually be used to verify or make improvements.

Think about it.

What do you actually gain by asking attendees to rate the food?!

Precisely nothing.

Come on!

11. “We are running a little late but…”
<insert x, y and z>”

Good event planners and event facilitators will always ensure that the event finishes by the advertised time. It is disrespectful to your audience to overrun and expect that the audience will just accept it.

Event Planner Tip: Do everything in your power to adjust times throughout the event to remain on track and finish as scheduled and your attendees will thank you for it. When you overrun you often lose the attention of your audience anyway so pushing on regardless can be a pointless exercise.  

In Conclusion

There are a number of words and phrases which are best to avoid at all costs at your conferences and events. This list of 11 is a good place to start.

Which words and phrases do you most dread hearing when attending events?

Let us know in the comments below.

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