Technology continues to advance at exponential rates and is changing the face of the meetings industry in astonishing ways. We will see many developments in the next few years. Web 2.0 (the participatory Web) will change the events industry in several seemingly subtle ways, but with an overall profound impact.

  • Wikis (interactive, collaborative Web pages) such as Google spreadsheets (spreadsheets.google.com) can track event management details in a common document visible and usable by geographically dispersed event planning teams (including suppliers).
  • APEX standards enabled by Web 2.0 Web services architecture will help planners and suppliers communicate electronically on the same page.
  • Event marketers will have the ability to market inexpensively to targeted audiences using audio/video blogs (online journals) and RSS (really simple syndication) news feeds.
  • Event content managers regularly ask the question: What do attendees want? Web 2.0 products will give an easier and richer way to ask them. Social media will enable this conversation with the audience. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to rate, rank, and rant about meeting content. For example, they could vote on their choice of speakers, activities, and other event details.
  • Presenters can submit proposals to a Web site where attendees could comment, ask questions, pan the speaker from previous presentations, and more.
  • Wikis can be used by speakers to upload abstracts, bios, photos, podcasts, video clips, RSS feeds to their blogs, PowerPoint slides, and more.
  • Speaker and abstract selection, often a team effort, will be made easier using Web 2.0 collaboration tools.
  • Blogs and online/mobile surveys will allow attendee feedback and voting during the event rather than waiting for surveys to be tallied afterwards.
  • Social software, business networking, and matchmaking programs are participatory Web 2.0 examples.
  • Communities of meeting professionals are using interactive online forums to share information, to mentor, and to network. Although these have been around for years, the new versions such as groups.google.com/group/MiForum are easier to use.
  • Hotels and other industry suppliers could be rated and ranked by planners in a manner similar to how eBay or Amazon has buyer and seller ratings.
  • Virtual meeting and collaboration tools will provide an alternate meeting platform, replacing face-to-face meetings in some situations.
  • RFID (radio frequency identification), the barcode of the future, will provide many events-related applications, including lead retrieval, access verification, attendance (continuing education unit) tracking, catering count verification, automated cybercafe login, exhibit hall flow analysis, and more in the next few years, despite concerns regarding privacy. (See www.boycottgillette.com as an example of the case against “spy chips.”)
  • Matchmaking programs, popular in the singles scene, will continue to work their way into the meetings arena to bring people of like interests together. This includes Web-based products such as IntroNetworks (www.intronetworks.com), Leverage Software (www.leveragesoftware.com), BDMetrics (www.bdmetrics.com), and NetworkingMatch (www.networkingmatch.com); proprietary hand-held products such as SpotMe (www.spotme.com) and nTAG (www.ntag.com); and, in the near future, mobile devices (www.jambo.net). One good contact at a meeting can often pay for the price of the entire trip. Using these technologies to help people connect can increase the value of the event significantly.

    We are living in exciting times. These technology developments are just a few in the digital revolution that will help meeting professionals work faster, better, and cheaper while helping to personalize the interactions between planners, suppliers, and attendees.

Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, Corbin Ball Associates, is a speaker, author, columnist, and consultant specializing in meeting technology, based in Bellingham, Wash. E-mail him at corbin@corbinball.com or visit his Web site, for hundreds of articles and categorized links for event professionals.