Ten Technology Predictions for the Meetings Industry
Technology will continue to evolve at a remarkable pace. Computers will get smaller and cheaper; processors will get faster; batteries will hold a charge longer; displays will have better resolution and be more flexible; data projectors will get smaller, cheaper and brighter; and broadband internet will get faster and ubiquitous. Experts predict a doubling of performance tied to price every 18 months into the next decade. The phrase “faster, better and cheaper” will continue to apply to most of the technology products we buy.
Technology is revolutionizing business in general, and, specifically, the meeting industry. We will see many developments in the next few years, including:
1. Wi-Fi and broadband Internet will be in nearly all public meeting space: The rate of Wi-Fi deployment in convention centers and large meeting hotels is skyrocketing. Even McDonalds is starting to provide “free” Wi-Fi access.
2. More mobile products. With access to wireless broadband (see above), today’s cell phones will evolve to long-lasting mini-PDA phones that will can access high-speed internet access through multiple channels including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even faster wireless formats. We are seeing a number of products that being developed on these mobile platforms for the meetings industry including mobile registration, networking, surveys, audience response, interactive programs, electronic attendee lists, product directories, lead retrieval and more.
3. We will see tablet PCs develop as a platform to manage meeting specifications and site inspections.
4. RFID (radio frequency identification), the barcode of the future, will work their way into a number of lead retrieval, access verification, and attendance tracking systems in the next few years, despite concerns regarding privacy.
5. Web services (.NET) are emerging as the new platform for meetings technology products. The benefit is that it becomes much easier for different programs (for example online registration and housing) to work together even if not made by the same company. As there is a huge range of web-based technology products for meeting planners (more than 1,100 categorized links at www.corbinball.com/bookmarks), this interoperability between programs will be of significant benefit as it will allow the planner to more easily mix-and-match different applications.
6. Voluntary standards will continue to make slow but steady progress. APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange), lead by the Convention Industry Council in North America, will provide technology standards in this next year for: resumes/work orders, request for proposals (RFPs), housing, and meeting/site profiles. It will only be by adopting standards that the meetings industry can truly digitize its business process. This will reduce laborious clerical inputting and proofreading that both meeting planners and hoteliers/convention service managers are now required to do for nearly every meeting.
7. Procurement will increasingly drive more meeting purchasing decisions, especially for large corporations. Combined meetings consolidation/attendee management software will save large companies millions of dollars annually due to increased efficiency, reduced liability exposure (centralizing meetings contracts), and better buying leverage by more accurately knowing actual meeting spend by vendor from previous years. Meetings consolidation products include: Arcaneo, PlanSoft MMS, StarCite, SeeUThere, Plan2Attend, and Carlson.
8. Technology will assist in strategic meetings management to track and communicate return on investment (ROI) metrics to all meeting stakeholders – many of the products listed in Prediction 7 will lead the way.
9. Matchmaking programs, popular in the singles scene, will work their way into the meetings arena to bring people of like interests together at meetings. Matchmaking programs include: Columbia Resource Group’s Rio, and Smart Event from ExpoExchange
10. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) - people will use broadband internet (wireless and wired) to make phone calls around the world at little or no cost. Calls can then be more easily linked in with data management and customer relationship management systems to better serve client needs. This change will happen for both wired and mobile phones and will impact the way the meeting professionals communicate
We are living in very exciting times. These technology developments are just a few in the digital revolution that will help meeting professionals work faster, better, and cheaper while improving and helping personalize the interactions between planner, suppliers, and attendees.
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