The NSW Government recently announced a trial of in-ground “traffic lights” at key intersections in the CBD, to warn pedestrians on mobile phones who don’t look up while crossing the road. It’s been interesting to see the reactions to this idea on social media. Many people are saying it just discourages bad behaviour, and that pedestrians (or “mobile phone zombies”, as they derisively refer to them) should just look up! In fact, in Idaho in the USA, authorities have the power to fine people $50 for walking and texting at the same time.
I don’t want to start a debate about traffic lights. But I do want to point out what the NSW Centre for Road Safety executive director Bernard Carlon, said, defending the new system, “In our society, things have changed”. In other words, yes, it would be nice if all pedestrians stopped looking at their phones and focussed on their environment, but they don’t! So it makes sense to change the environment to adapt to their new behaviour.
The same principle applies to conferences. Despite the growth of videoconferencing, online meetings, telepresence and virtual reality, in-person conferences still have a place. We still want to get together, face to face, and belly to belly.
But the role of the conference has changed. Good conference organisers adapt to these changes, and great conference organisers embrace them and see them as opportunities.