When it comes to meeting technology, there’s a constant stream of new product launches and improvements to existing tools. Use these guidelines from Dave Weil, vice president, event services, at SmithBucklin in Chicago to frame your thinking about which technological advances fit best for your organization and your events.
1. Think about integration.
There are so many great companies out there with lots of great ideas, but any new technology needs to be compatible with current systems in order to be most effective. You can’t have silos where the registration system works one way, the session software works another, and the mobile apps aren’t compatible with the rest. They all have to be connected so that people can easily access, for example, program changes and registration information.
2. Understand your audience.
While most people have smartphones these days, remember that not everyone does. For those who don’t, use kiosks or other ways to update them on session changes or information about the meeting. Have a computer bank or an area where they can access the Internet. In sessions where audience response is required, don’t rely on everyone having a smartphone or tablet. Provide audience response systems or some kind of response mechanism to ensure that you get all participants’ input.
3. Use tablets to manage the show.
Instead of carrying around binders with show information, planners and sales personnel can use tablets to make show management more efficient. Floor plans, banquet event orders, specifications, programs, and any other pertinent documents can all be uploaded onto tablets to reduce paperwork and free up staff members, thus allowing them to be more mobile in assisting attendees or exhibitors. The key is making sure the facility has wireless and that it is accessible and affordable for the attendees as well.
1. Do something just because it’s a hot new technology.
Look at any new technology from a strategic perspective. What problem are you trying to solve? How is this technology going to help solve it? Understand how it may or may not help meet your goals. Next, make sure it can be integrated with current systems.
2. Think only about your attendees.
You also need think about who is not attending. Technology can be used to introduce your meeting to members outside the confines of the convention center or hotel. Use technology to stream sessions from a face-to-face meeting to a virtual audience. Studies show that the exposure will encourage people to attend the face-to-face event, not keep them home. But make sure the hybrid event is customized for virtual attendees by using moderators, encouraging questions and answers, and doing post-session interviews exclusively for the virtual audience.
3. Ignore new technology tools.
Technology is ever changing, but it’s not going away. It can be used to make meetings more measurable and more efficient, as well as improve the customer/attendee experience. Keep up with new offerings and always be looking for innovative ways to make technology work for your association and its members.