CONNECTING WITH YOUR ATTENDEES is the name of the game, and two facility-based technologies offer a glimpse into leading-edge, on-site meeting communications.

At Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla., iConnect, an in-house creation, has been operating in the resort's 1,406 guest rooms for about six months. The system gives attendees free Internet access (on a 15-inch flat-screen monitor with a full-size mouse and keyboard) as well as the ability to send instant messages to other guests (as long as they know their name or room number), order housekeeping and valet services, and get information on local attractions. More importantly, iConnect allows meeting organizers to communicate with their attendees — or any particular slice of attendees. Planners can post their daily agendas, send instant messages with updates or changes, or use the surveying tools to ask for feedback while company issues are still fresh in attendees' minds. Gaylord also touts the system's revenue-generating potential — groups can sell banner ads on the site or allow sponsors to send promotional messages. A virtual trade show function is also being tested.

For the 1,700 attendees — insurance salespeople and their guests — at Brown & Brown Inc.'s recent sales meeting, iConnect allowed meeting organizer Doug Hudson, director, corporate communications and investor relations, to welcome attendees with an e-letter from the insurance company's chairman, provide agenda information, and direct them to registration. It was also nice, he said, for attendees to stay connected even if they left their laptops at home, and while he did not use the system's free surveying capabilities or need to instant message attendees with schedule changes, he was glad it was there. The expansion of iConnect to Gaylord properties in Nashville and Grapevine, Texas, is still being discussed.

Convention Television

In Honolulu, another variation on attendee communication has evolved through the Hawaii Convention Center's partnership with Convention Television, a private enterprise that is based in the center. Through the CTV network, convention information can be broadcast to any of approximately 28,000 hotel rooms in Waikiki, as well as monitors in the convention facility.

“We use it to enhance the experience for delegates and exhibitors,” says Randy Tanaka, director of business development at the Hawaii Convention Center. “It gives them [exhibitors] exposure beyond the four walls of the convention center.”

Recently, delegates at the Professional Convention Management Association's conference in Honolulu were able to tune in to the CTV channel in their hotel rooms for information on the schedule, the destination, keynote addresses, welcome messages, daily wrap-up of convention activities, and interviews with key executives.

CTV can help organizations to promote themselves, explains Tanaka, by broadcasting information about upcoming conferences. Also, CTV can produce 60- to 90-second spots for organizations and their exhibitors, which can run on CTV during an event and then be streamed on the companies' Web sites.

In operation for two years in Hawaii, CTV is branching out to other cities, including San Francisco and, soon, Las Vegas.