During the last decade, technology has evolved at a breakneck pace. Every year, there are faster, etter and cheaper technology products on the market, which are revolutionising the event industry to such an extent that it is sometimes hard to keep yourself abreast of the times. As before, this section's aim is not to cover exhaustively each and every one of these products, but to give people involved in event planning, organisation and staging a general idea as to current technological trends. We also recommend our tecnology posts in the interesting reading section, and our tool eventilo.com designed to make online event planning and management a simple and quick task.
A recent tendency among associations and organisations is the use of blogs – informal, online journals – instead of other sorts of publications, to keep members posted both on updates and on forthcoming activities and events.
Blogging is an efficient way of stimulating an ongoing debate about conference session content, the choice of location and other related matters, which can save you the trouble of having to poll your target audience. It is also a faster way of communicating with members than a newsletter, as well as saving on printing and mailing costs. And as blogs usually contain a great many outbound links, they tend to appear at the top of searches on link-related search engines, such as Google, which helps to increase the number of hits on your site and, consequently, to reach a wider target audience.
There are many blog software packages available. If you are unacquainted with blogging, however, it is well worth your visiting a free blog host site to get an idea of what you are letting yourself in for. As with everything, blogging also has its inconveniences. Since they involve research, writing posts and moderating comments, they are very time-consuming.
A wiki is a type of web site that allows users to add, remove, or otherwise edit and change all content very quickly and easily. The main advantage of wikis is that they allows you to create and improve web pages instantly, even if you do not know anything about programming. Given that wiki interface are very simple and user-friendly, they are a very useful tool for event planning and organisation.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
Another product that is catching on fast is Really Simple Syndication – an XML format for distributing news headline on the Web – which is incorporated into blogs and web sites. You can plug RSS feed into the newsreader on your computer or on special host sites, which will then let you know as soon as something new has been posted to the sites you are monitoring.
In the near future, when RSS has become more widespread, event planners will be using this system to keep the target audience posted in detriment to e-mails, which have the alarming habit of being blocked by spam filters, ignored or accidentally deleted.
Rich media is a term that embraces a wide range of digital interactive media, which can either be embedded in a web page or downloaded from a site and viewed with a media player. With broadband penetration on the rise, rich media is the tool of the future for hotels and event venues, since with images, plans, virtual and 360° tours, video, animation and flashes, audio and music, it will be much easier and enjoyable for consumers to visualise their travel experience.
Electronic newsletters are a very useful communication tool for pre-event planning and organisation and, as with blogs, for post-event feedback. Basically a web site connected to a complex database of event attendees, potential attendees and other interested parties, their chief advantage over a blog is that information can be segmented into different areas of interest, allowing you to send targeted information.
Self-booking or strategic meeting management tools
There is a lot to choose from: some tools focus on management, while others are tailored to planners. Bearing in mind that these tools are not cheap, they are more suited to large corporations than to SMEs. And whereas some are fairly basic, others are more comprehensive, covering practically everything from policy control and the company's event calendar to measurement systems and pre- and post-event reporting. Furthermore, most tools are compatible with other systems.
Online attendee registration system
A tool that can save you a great deal of time and human resources is an online attendee registration system, like those used by many PCOs, DMCs, event organisation agencies and international hotel chains.
As in the case of strategic meeting management tools, there are many systems available. Although most of them cover meeting registration, travel and accommodation, and reporting, not all of them offer the same features. Some will send targeted communications to different groups and automated confirmation for registrations and for any changes made, generate real-time accommodation lists, automatically calculate and update costs per person throughout the registration process, and provide detailed pre- and post-event surveys, among other features, while others have a more limited scope.
Online registration tools
If the turnover of your company or the number of events you organise per year does not warrant large investments in comprehensive meeting management or online attendee registration tools, you might be tempted to use an online registration tool in situ.
Some tools will allow you to print badges, addresses and little else, whereas others will generate searchable databases from detailed attendee profiles, provide printouts of attendees with the same profile, send messages to other attendees, and schedule meetings. Peering at name badges during coffee breaks, armed with a fistful of business cards, or trudging round a trade fair, trying to find what really interests you, is not a very efficient form of networking.
The value added of this type of application is that it also provides you with valuable information about your target audience.
Digital interactive badges
Still on the subject of event networking, digital interactive badges, which intercommunicate via infrared sensors over a wireless network with a central server, allow organisers to keep track of attendance and attendees. When attendees approach each other, the badges' sensors exchange information, their LCD screens displaying areas of mutual interest.
Radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs)
Radio frequency identification devices will revolutionise not only society in general but also the event industry. RFID tags are minute computer chips, with an enormous data storage capacity, which can transmit through non-metallic materials, clothing and human bodies. When a tag comes within range of a reader or transceiver, the data on the tag is transmitted via radio frequency waves. Needless to say, the applications for the event industry are manifold.
Digital badge and RFID technology is of course pointless if your event venue does not offer Wi-Fi. There was a time, not so long ago, when wireless Internet systems were practically unheard of in Spain. Nowadays, the number of hotels, business centres and event venues equipped with Wi-Fi systems is on the increase.
For meeting and training courses, interactive tools are growing in popularity. One such system consists of LCD screens and keyboards, all linked via a local area network, or across remote locations if used in more than one room. Among other functions, the system provides real-time assessments for training courses.
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