Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine Editor Barbara Scofidio caught up with Kirsten Strand, CITE, CMM, the CEO of Invenia Incentives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the pioneer behind MeetingApps.com, a portal where visitors not only learn about new meeting apps but review them for others.
Corporate Meetings & Incentives:When did you get your first smartphone and start using apps?
Strand: I had a BlackBerry for a while, and then transitioned to the iPhone two years ago. When apps were launched on iTunes, I started searching for the best ones for our industry. I was frustrated that it took so long to find them. After spending countless hours searching, I came up with the idea of creating a portal to help meeting professionals, third parties, and hospitality partners save time. I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, and it was my way of giving back to the meetings community. The goal is to save everyone a lot of time in finding the best apps for their meetings and events.
CMI:So how does MeetingApps.com work?
Strand: We list the apps for free, and many of the apps on the site are available at no cost. Paid apps are the same price through MeetingApps.com as purchased directly through the iTunes store.
CMI: Was it challenging to develop the site?
Strand: I partnered with two very talented programmers and Web designers—Joseph Lo and Jane Huynh—to build the portal. We initially created the site, and then, fortunately, several sponsors shared the same vision of developing a portal to help meeting planners. These companies are IMEX, Travel Alberta, AVW Telav, Kuoni Destination Management, the Toronto Congress Centre, and Encore Web Studios. They supported the project because they also believe in helping planners, as well as hospitality partners.
CMI:Where do you think the meeting planner population is in comparison with other professionals when it comes to being tech-savvy?
Strand: Meeting professionals have challenges, as they are always working under deadlines. There is too much to accomplish within these limited time frames. Fortunately, we have meetings industry technology gurus, like Corbin Ball and James Spellos, who do a great job keeping everyone up-to-date on the latest technologies. Their sites [www.corbinball.com and www.meeting-u.com] cover trends and the latest meeting technology tools and have helped advance this industry.
CMI: Do you think there’s an age gap as far as who uses meeting apps?
Strand: Yes, it always seems that the younger generations are more tech-savvy. However, I believe that everyone is catching on to the concept that, by using apps, they will have information immediately at their fingertips. This will allow them to be more efficient and save money—and it can even eliminate some of their stress.
CMI: What are some of your favorite meeting apps?
Strand: OK, here’s my short list: • GoTo Meeting: It works for online meetings, where you can view presentations, spreadsheets, and reports. • AutoStich: It can merge more than 20 photos together. This is great for taking photos of venues and hotels during site inspections. • iMeet: It tracks your “friends” through GPS, which is perfect for locating your colleagues on site. • Bump: You can exchange photos, contacts, and other information by “bumping” phones. • Things: This is a great task manager, perfect for planners on the go.
CMI: What are some of your favorite personal apps?
Strand: For fun over the next few weeks, I will be testing some of the wine and golf apps. Here are some favorites: • Dragon Dictation: You speak into your phone and text appears. • Live Flight Tracker: Lets you track real-time flights • LinkedIn: You use it to keep in touch with your entire network. • Skype: You can call your Skype contacts from your mobile phone and save money.(It reduces roaming charges.) • Airline Seat Guide: It lets you review the seat configurations of the major airlines.
CMI: Your site is so rich, but there are so few reviews so far. What are you doing to attract them?
Strand: We just launched the site, and our first objective was to ensure that meeting planners can easily access the apps they need. This took hundreds of hours of research and categorization time. Right now, we also have numerous articles about apps on our site. By getting the word out, I’m sure more planners will see the value of sharing information by writing reviews.
CMI: When are the Droid apps coming?
Strand: Our current mission is loading our site with BlackBerry apps specific to the meetings and events industry. This should be accomplished very soon. Currently, there are more BlackBerry and iPhone users than Droid users, but I think this will shift soon. We’re actually very excited about Droids and will be adding the Droid apps next.
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