ignore“The future is here. It just isn’t evenly distributed yet.” – William Gibson

The case for mobile at your event or campaign is simple: It’s already here. Halfway through 2013 (you know, the “year of mobile” but also the year that Google Glass and 3D printing became a real thing), I am still having conversations about how important it is to engage event attendees using the device they all have in their pockets right now. It’s a little stunning.

First, the numbers: As of March, 58% of the total American population have smartphones. Excluding babies, children, the very old, and people who simply can’t afford a smartphone, you’re looking at a market penetration of more than 90% among your attendees. Sound crazy? Go to your event and offer $20 bucks to the first person who is in attendance without a smartphone or tablet. You’ll probably keep your money.

So we can safely agree that all your attendees have a mobile device, right? Can we also agree that everyone is on them all the time? A Google study shows that 66% of the time we’re already in front of a laptop, we’ve got our phone open. Heck, more than 80% of people watching TV are also using their smart phones. Even when engaged and entertained, people are still always on their devices.

Mobile devices, the things that distract us and make time spent waiting in line more bearable, are helping businesses do business better. That smartphone means you have a camera with you and you know your co-workers can see your pics instantly, perfect if you want some opinions on a new placement or design. Have you seen your co-workers taking pictures of whiteboards at the end of meetings? We used to assume that we would have to wait for “smart whiteboards” (they exist, but are pretty horrible). Instead, we capture and save that data in our pockets.

Perhaps you might say that many advanced functions of a smartphone aren’t being used. I agree that Siri has become something of the iPhone’s Segway: a cute party trick that no one uses for serious work. But what about capturing and sharing video? Take, for example, Vine, the video app that lets the user record and share six-second videos incredibly quickly (and often very creatively). Lowe’s has been using it to great effect to showcase how to fix things. Vine hit 10 million users in three months (four times faster than Instagram). People are using it and sharing videos.

Do you record the audio of every meeting and download it for reference later? If not, why don’t you? The technology is sitting in your pocket.

You’ve seen people pay for their Starbucks with their phone, of course. Did you know that Starbucks makes 4.5 million mobile transactions like that a week? That’s 234 billion a year. It shouldn’t be surprising that 4 out of 5 consumers shop with their mobile phone.

So maybe you should re-think your argument about how you don’t need mobile for your event or campaign. Everyone is already mobile, embracing the time and aggravation-saving features for every aspect of life. If your event chooses to ignore the device that’s already in the room, already in people’s hands, already distracting them from your highly-paid speaker and expensive content, you are choosing to live in a world that no longer exists.

Here’s a huge number to think about: According to a Motorola study this year, 50% of Americans think they are better informed about products than store associates, specifically because they can pull up data on their phone. Half of all shoppers think they know more about the product than the people who’s job it is to know the product. Think about half of your audience thinking they are better informed on the subject matter than your VP of Operations speaking from the stage. The mobile audience isn’t just distracted by their phones, they are better informed because of them.

Are you paying attention yet?

It’s your choice. When you take the stage, do you want to see engaged faces looking back at you, or the tops of people’s heads as they find something more interesting, fun and engaging to do on their devices? Do you want the technology to work against you or work to your advantage?

The mobile world is here. Use it to your best advantage.