Technology forecaster and business strategist Daniel Burrus believes that meeting planners who aren’t developing mobile technology apps (short for applications) are making a big mistake. Mobile apps are the future, he says. And, oh, by the way, the future is now.

What can a meetings mobile app do?
1. Add the ability to share an article of interest in a show daily or other publication via e-mail

2. Make maps interactive. Because smartphones are GPS-enabled, organizers can include a map of the convention center and hotels that will allow attendees to get walking directions by just pushing a button. A mobile app can also build in the ability to track the location of friends and colleagues.

3. Distribute slides and handouts and gain immediate on-site access to a speaker’s Web site to download meeting-specific information and resources

4. Provide “hot leads” to vendors though a 24/7/365 extension of the trade show. The app would allow users to type in what they need and be directed to an appropriate (paid) vendor. The user then could touch a cell phone number and immediately speak to that vendor about their issue, or click on a link that will take them to a special section of the vendor’s Web site that is customized to what attendees of that meeting will be most interested in.

5. Replace signage with GPS directions delivered via smartphone

6. Let attendees sign up for after-hours and spouse activities on their smartphones, and also see who else is signed up to attend

7. Save money by eliminating the need to print out that 600-page conference program. (While an association’s printed magazine has been a traditional way to extend the learning after the meeting, smartphones and smartpads have a screen resolution high enough to make the need for printed materials obsolete, says Burrus.)

All this allows the meeting organizer to use fewer staff, save time and money, and actually increase their attendees’ access to information, says Burrus.

Shift Happens

Major shifts in hardware and software technology have been a driving force in the mobile app revolution. Burrus points out that you used to need a mainframe and a terminal for computing. Desktop computers, then laptops, got powerful enough to become most people’s main tool. Now smartpads and smartphones are beginning to fill that role.

Those who don’t now have a smartphone soon will; all devices are working their way toward being smart devices, says Burrus. Cost drops as processing power increases, and bandwidth goes higher as the cost of storage lessens. Software also has undergone some serious shift, from enterprise-level software that worked on a mainframe with a terminal, to packaged software for PCs, to today’s app mania. Five billion apps have been downloaded just from the Apple store, Burrus says.

“Our customers and employees are changing, and we need to be changing with them,” says Burrus. “You need to move now—this is not a time to wait and see.”

Related Article

AANS Conference First Northern U.S. Medical Meeting to Use iPod Touch

For more on technology and meetings, check out our Technology Special Report.

How to Save Money on Guest Rooms