A tire pressure sensor is broken on my husband’s truck. At a few hundred dollars to repair he’s been in no hurry to get it fixed.
I like driving the truck but I joke that driving it raises my blood pressure by a few points every time I do. That little yellow warning light draws my eye and I feel a fleeting moment of anxiousness even though I know nothing is wrong. I look away for a few minutes but, inevitably, the little yellow warning light draws my eye again, I glance at it and this causes me a millisecond of anxiousness. This happens again and again.
We are all programed to pay attention to warnings.
Which is bad news because we inadvertently provide little yellow warning lights for conference attendees all the time. When their badge is not at registration. When their badge is wrong. When a speaker is nervous. When the AV doesn’t work. When attendees feel nickel and dimed. When networking is awkward. When they were not welcomed. When a speaker or fellow attendee tells them how hard it will be to change. When it’s hard to find a vegetarian meal. And there are a hundred other little common or unique-to-this-conference warning lights we accidentally broadcast to our attendees.
Most of the little warnings attendees perceive but wouldn’t comment on so we don’t know they are there. These little warnings, though, have the effect of diminishing the conference experience, making it harder to engage, harder to connect and harder to learn. Try to put yourself in your attendee’s shoes. Walk through the conference. Where are the warning lights? If there’s no time to really walk through the conference because you are hosting it, walk through it a week later in your mind’s eyes. Find the warning lights and plan how to eliminate them for the next conference.