The second in a three-part FutureWatch 2011 feature series.
Tired of investing hours of employee time and thousands of dollars in printing thick documents for its quarterly trustees’ meetings, Abilene Christian University took a step into the future. The West Texas educational institution offered each of its 31 trustees US$300 toward the purchase of an iPad so they could view all of the documents they needed on the lightweight, wireless devices. The trustees liked the idea, and today their documents reside in PDF files on the university’s website, which the group can access from their gadgets during meetings.
"It’s about $4,000 a year in cost savings," said the project’s organizer Kelly Brown, executive assistant to the university’s general counsel. The university estimates that the devices will pay for themselves within three years. "One of the things our university promotes is mobile learning. For our board to buy into that and use mobile learning tools, it adds a lot of value."
It may come as no surprise that the world of meetings and business events is increasingly tech-enabled. MPI’s FutureWatch 2011 survey shows that—propelled by requests from everyone from corporate clients to meeting attendees—this year meeting professionals will increasingly gravitate toward meeting-enhancing online social networking tools such as Twitter, plan with software that helps with tasks such as RFPs and logistics and open their minds to the virtual domain to welcome offsite participants. The survey unveiled five key tech trends for the year.
- More demands from meeting professionals for innovative technology such as polling tools - A broadening scope of event technologies such as RFP and bidding software - Demands from delegates and speakers—especially younger ones who have grown up in a digital world—for increasingly sophisticated multimedia and other technologies that facilitate the flow of ideas between them and their audiences - The growing prominence of mobile applications - The growing adoption of events that combine in-person and virtual aspects.
"If you’re not on top of technology and what’s out there, you’re going to get left behind and your clients are going to get frustrated with you," explained Brian Meyer, president of international planning firm Meeting Expectations.
On top of this, many new technologies play into the growing demand for more sustainable meetings, reducing the need for resources such as paper and cutting down on the need for travel. It was for that reason, in part, that the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, a 600-room property in Northern Michigan, recently hired MacroView Labs to build a mobile application for smart phones that helps visitors find their ways around the premises, keep up with what is going on there and access documents such as programs for meetings they are attending. The eco-benefits of such developments can be significant.
Thinking similarly, the management of the 1,840-room Sheraton Dallas Hotel recently invested nearly $200,000 in a Cisco TelePresence system, a high-end virtual conferencing setup. General Manager Ray Hammer says that beyond bringing a cutting-edge technology to the hotel that is available in fewer than 30 locations around the world, the system helps the property to reduce its carbon footprint. The hotel has even used it for local meetings, such as one with the Dallas CVB.
In an industry that still, at its heart, centers on human interaction, many professionals have mixed feelings about the march forward into an increasingly digital and device-driven world.
"It’s kind of a bittersweet thing," said Karen Shackman, founder of 20-year-old destination management firm Shackman Associates. "We’re all moving ahead with technology, but my personal feeling is that when you are so plugged into technology, you are missing some of the basic connections built on a one-to-one basis."
And though technology may ultimately save meeting planners and attendees precious hours, many industry professionals say they have had to make a serious time commitment at the front end to understand what benefits various technologies offer, which ones work best for a particular event and how to actually use them.
"We’re shifting our team away from developing new technologies to becoming experts in reviewing and recommending every new technology that comes out," Meyer said.
That means a never-ending effort. To stay on top of social media, Meyer’s company recently experimented with mobile social media app Foursquare at the Arby’s Worldwide Franchise Convention in October to see if, for instance, offering discounts on products and services to those who visited trade show booths would improve attendance at that part of the event. (By his estimate only 10-15 percent of attendees used Foursquare at the gathering; it would take 50 percent participation to make a difference). At the Oracle Applications Users Group conference last spring, his team organized a Twitter wall. That generated positive feedback.
Beyond that, Meyer has also purchased a variety of smart phones for his team in recent years, to figure out which ones are the most meeting-friendly, he’s planning on taking the same approach to the iPad and similar devices. And, though Meyer says there’s still tremendous value in face-to-face meetings, Meeting Expectations has experimented with integrating a virtual component into meetings by working with tech provider On24.
"You need to develop a strategy where your virtual events don’t cannibalize your live events," he said.
Why go to these lengths? The underlying challenge for meeting professionals is that a technology that works for one group or meeting won’t necessarily play for another—necessitating broad technical knowledge by planners.
"It really depends on the audience," said Elizabeth Kerton, managing director of The Kerton Group, a consulting firm that plans and executes meetings in the telecom field, and president of the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley.
For instance, when her company has planned meetings for the Telecommunications Risk Management Association—which tend to be information-driven and focused on topics such as collecting payments from clients—the approach has been less high tech.
"It was really about getting the right speakers to deliver the right kinds of presentations," she said.
On the other hand, for the more interactive, networking-driven meetings at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley, which convenes about 40 times a year, her firm has used Twitter to create advance buzz and posted a screen next to the speaker where attendees can see other attendees’ Tweets about the presentations, which typically draw about 150 people. While presenters can’t see the feed during a session, she says the presenter has the ability to follow up afterward. The group—whose members range from executives at carriers such as Verizon to individual entrepreneurs—also uses LinkedIn to follow up after meetings.
"We have an online library so a presentation given at a meeting can be viewed by people who weren’t there," Kerton added.
No matter how much homework new technologies require, most in the industry agree there’s no turning back. Despite Shackman’s wistfulness about the loss of face-to-face interactions, her company is investigating the possible usage of Dopplr, a site that allows people to share travel plans, and TripIt, a mobile itinerary planning site. (See Page 16 for more on mobile productivity apps.)
"All of this technology is allowing people to be a lot more efficient and resourceful in finding the information they need," she said.
And in an industry that is slowly emerging from tough economic times, any smart, new tool that helps companies do more in less time is likely to find plenty of takers. One+
Wenn Sie ein Event planen in Spanien oder Marokko, nehmen Sie Kontakt mit uns oder direkt mit den 750
Qualitätsdienstleistern in unserem Portal auf für gratis Angebote, ohne Verpflichtung und ohne Provision.
Mit rund einer Million Seitenabrufen und 1,000 Angebotsanfragen im Monat ist Event Planner Spain derzeit das meist besuchte
Portal für Veranstaltungsorganisation in Spanien, in acht Sprachen verfügbar, mit Besuchern aus mehr als 160 Ländern.
Wenn Sie Interesse an Werbung auf unserem Portal haben, kontaktieren sie uns für ein interessantes Angebot.