The argument for understanding the technology we bring on site recently received passionate support from an unlikely source: Mark Cuban, online media magnate and owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks.
“We don’t need no stinking smart phones!” shouted Cuban, in the headline to his December 24 blog post. Cuban was reacting to the flood of technology vendors who want to work with him to offer in-game entertainment, statistics, or social networks to fill the down time between plays at the Mavericks’ games.
“I can’t think of a bigger mistake than trying to integrate smart phones just because you can,” he wrote.
For Cuban, it’s the excitement and face-to-face interaction that make a basketball game a special occasion for fans. “I want it to be very participatory. I want it to be very social. I want it to be very inclusive. I want it to be memorable. I want it to be so much fun people talk about it to their friends and can’t wait to go back.”
And if that’s the kind of experience a game is supposed to create, “the last thing I want is someone looking down at their phone to see a replay,” Cuban wrote. “The last thing I want is someone thinking that it’s a good idea to disconnect from the unique elements of a game to look at replays or update their fantasy standings…
“The fan experience is about looking up, not looking down. If you let them look down, they might as well stay home. The screen is always going to be better there.”
Most meetings aren’t quite like an NBA basketball game, and a nuanced educational program is a more complicated user experience than a couple of hours of entertainment. But we can draw two lessons from Cuban’s post.
- It’s a mistake to bring new technology on site just because you can. If a new product or app helps you achieve your meeting’s objectives—even if it runs on a “stinking smart phone”—you should use it. But too much of the technology advice in our industry consists of indiscriminate links to the kinds of ceaseless product pitches that Cuban says he’s sick of seeing. Meeting professionals are sick of them, too, but we rarely receive third-party assessments that help us figure out when, why, or whether a particular product might be a good fit.
- The wrong technology will make your meeting worse, not better. Hybrid meetings consultant Samuel J. Smith says too many virtual experiences are like “bad public access TV.” Hybrids work best when the presentation is fast-paced, vibrant, and three-dimensional. We need to be just as focused in our expectations for mobile technologies and on-site .
Cuban helps us remember that meeting technology is like any other tool. When it helps us get where we need to go, we should embrace it. But to make that decision, we have to be “looking up, not looking down,” to understand what we’re trying to achieve whenever we go on site.
Mitchell Beer, CMM, is president of The Conference Publishers Inc., Ottawa, one of the world’s leading specialists in capturing and repurposing conference content, and founding chair of the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Foundation. Beer blogs at http://theconferencepublishers.com/blog and tweets as @mitchellbeer.