Are You Connected?

For our industry, 2008 was the year social networking tools made their way into the hands of many planners and suppliers. Facebook (www.facebook.com), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), and Twitter (www.twitter.com), among many others, are being visited and used by a wide age range of people in our industry — and their use will only increase in 2009. While many folks are still struggling to figure out how to use them most efficiently in the meeting planning industry, it's easy to see how they can be productive. As an example of how best to use a service like LinkedIn, check out a great blog aptly named www.imonlinkedinnowwhat.com.

Time to Pownce

While Twitter has received the most attention, many folks think that an even better microblog is Pownce (www.pownce.com). A microblog is a short posting (typically limited to a few sentences) that people subscribe to, or use to “follow you” (and vice versa). Pownce's value is that in addition to enabling these short-burst communications, the service allows you to exchange files, send links, and even send event invitations. (Hmm, using a microblog to promote a meeting?) As always, the best way to find out more is to follow the blog (www.blog.pownce.com).

Maybe That iPhoney Thing Is Useful After All

While I'm a huge fan of open source (which the iPhone developers are not), it is cool to see that a direct application for our industry is available for Apple's phone (and in the future, others). Runtriz's Hotel Evolution (runtriz.com/hotel) is an application that you can download for your iPhone to access hotel services once you have checked in. Ordering room service, contacting housekeeping, and placing a wake-up call are just some of the functionalities. Currently being used at the Malibu Beach Inn, it and other phone-based apps are sure to become a standard part of the guest experience. Don't have an iPhone? The hotel will give you one to use while you're there.

And the Winner Is…

Every year, the EIBTM conference in Barcelona, Spain, holds the WorldWide Technology Watch for our industry. Industry technology expert Corbin Ball (who chairs the competition) and Bruce MacMillan of Meeting Professionals International awarded the 2008 prize to MeetingMetrics (www.meetingmetrics.com). The company's online measurement system allows planners to customize surveys and use other tools to better define meeting benchmarking and ROI. Check out EIBTM's WorldWide Technology Watch page (at www.eibtm.com. Look for the Technology Forum on the left navigation bar) for this year's other winners.

Hungry for Mashups?

One of the hottest terms among technology geeks is mashup, which is an application created by combining two existing services. A general (and very successful) example of this is Housing Maps (www.housingmaps.com), which combines the mapping functionality within Google with the housing rental and sales information contained in Craigslist.

Even more important, mashups are part of the customization capabilities that these technologies offer us right now. Imagine combining your event's attendee list with Google Earth to create a visual representation of your attendees' demographic makeup. The great thing about this approach is that any person can create an application (give your IT folks some ideas and let them go to town with it), so that the next great industry technology might not be one you read about here. It might be one your team develops specifically for you.

James Spellos, CMP, is founder and president of Meeting U., a New York-based company that provides training and consulting to meeting professionals. He also is a frequent speaker on technology at meeting industry conferences. Contact him at jspellos@meeting-u.com.

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