Great Deal: APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange) Meeting and Event Toolbox 3.0. This user-friendly software package by OfficeReady includes 50 APEX-specific meeting management templates. These are industry-recommended forms for everything from RFPs to banquet event orders. In addition, the package includes more than 200 general business templates for planning your meeting, from name badges to marketing materials. Available from the Convention Industry Council for $99.95.
If you want something more powerful, check out Powershop by DataApp, an “APEX Compliant” software that has the ability to produce all the APEX documents and templates, but also allows you to distribute meeting data to hotels and features a Web portal. Available at apex.us.
Great Mobile App. With ChirpE, attendees can use their mobile phone to scroll through the exhibit floor plan, search for exhibitors, view conference sessions, and create personalized agendas with this fully mobile Web-based application. Produced by A2Z, ChirpE won the 2009 Innovation Award from Exhibitors.
Cheap Connectivity. For $299, Trade Show Internet ships exhibitors plug-and-play Internet kits that include a router, a modem, an antenna, and an ethernet cable in a protective carrying case. Up to four computers can run off the system wirelessly or via cable, allowing exhibitors with basic trade show connectivity needs to cut their costs substantially.
Social Networking. While the list of companies with a social-networking solution for meetings continues to grow, it was Seattle-based Pathable that won the 2009 Worldwide Technology Watch contest (organized by EIBTM, the Barcelona, Spain–based meetings and incentives exhibition). Other players in the meetings-specific social networking field include introNetworks, Leverage Software, a2z Inc., Eventvue, and EventMingle.
Far-Out Social Networking. Google Wave—still in the testing phase, but creating a lot of hoopla—is a real-time communications platform that combines aspects of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, Web chat, social networking, and project management—all on a single screen. You can bring a group of friends or business associates together for a discussion or to share files. Find the Complete Google Wave Guide at completewaveguide.com.
Meeting Results Measurement. GuideStar Research's MeetingMetrics took home the 2008 prize in the annual EIBTM WorldWide Technology Watch competition for its system that provides customizable pre- and post-meeting surveys and gives meeting managers access to real-time, online results. Among other features: a library of more than 1,000 meeting-related survey questions.
Networking Tool (and Conversation Piece): A conference networking gadget called BusyEvent won the Technology Shoot Out at the 2009 Corporate Association Summit. The service gives each attendee a hand-held device, which allows him or her to enter the number of any attendee, product, or session at the conference and get related information sent to their personal BusyEvent Web site for review after the show. Comparison shopping? Also check out Mingle360’s MingleStick.
For Free. Excel is the workhorse of any planner's toolkit. Check out all the custom Excel spreadsheets for meetings listed on the Web site of industry tech guru Corbin Ball. (Click on Meeting Planning Software Tools at www.corbinball.com). These free spreadsheet planning tools include an Calculator, Catering Cost Estimator Worksheet, Exhibitor Tracker, and Hotel Room Pickup Tracker.
Hot Hardware: So you don’t want to lug your laptop around when you’re on the road? Netbooks are ultra-small computers that seem ready-made for road warriors who don’t need a fully loaded laptop but are looking for a simple computing device with Internet capability. For a review of Netbook options, check out NotebookReview.com.
Low-tech tool: Meeting Professionals International offers Arranger, a handy pocket guide that calculates how many people can be accommodated in seven seating arrangements in a specified room size, or the number of 8-foot-by-10-foot exhibit booths that can be accommodated in a specified room size. Standard and metric measurements. $6.50 at the MPI Store.