Jim Spellos, CMP, is founder and president of Meeting U., a New York-based company that provides educational training and consulting to meeting professionals. If you've been to a meetings industry conference in the past few years, you've probably been to a Spellos technology session. We met up with him to discuss why podcasting, blogging, RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, and social networking tools should be part of your working life.

“The real benefit is that these tools are two-way,” he says. “It doesn't matter what tools you use. What's critical is that you're engaging and including your audience in building the next event.”

Financial & Insurance Meetings: You've taught packed planner sessions about podcasts. Can you give us a podcasting primer?

James Spellos: Well, first off, pod is an acronym that stands for ‘portable on demand.’ Podcasting involves using something as simple as a digital recorder or even a tape recorder to record content. Once your content is recorded, it gets transferred to a piece of software. I use an application called Audacity, which is free to download. The last piece is posting the content onto the Web. This can be as simple as posting it to your Web site with a link so people can click on it and listen to it. Or it can get more sophisticated. Also, it is important to note that you don't need an iPod to listen to a podcast. Any portable MP3 player will work, or you can listen to it through your computer.

FIM: How can planners use podcasts?

Spellos: Podcasting is ideal for short-burst training. Planners can make podcasts of meeting sessions available to attendees who weren't able to attend, or use a podcast to alert attendees about event information prior to the conference.

FIM: What technologies do planners need to get comfortable with right now?

Spellos: Radio-frequency name tags are more prevalent in meetings. A badge that gets triggered when you walk into a session and tracks which sessions you attend, generates CEU information, and can identify the flow of traffic on an exhibit floor is becoming a standard tool these days, because the technology has become more mature and much more usable.

From a Web-based perspective, I'd say using social networking tools is critical. Planners need to better understand how to market them not only to attendees who are more traditional, but also to those who are coming into the industry and have a knowledge of these tools yet haven't necessarily used them in a business environment yet.

FIM: You're referring to sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Second Life. How would meeting planners use them?

Spellos: Using these tools can keep our networks going before, during, and after a conference. I attended one of the first educational symposiums in Second Life a few months ago, led by [technology consultant] Corbin Ball, and it really takes the webinar to the next level.

Not only did we hear the presentation and see it in PowerPoint format, but we were then also able to interact on a one-to-one basis after the event. It was more like being there than a traditional virtual meeting approach.

FIM: You're a big advocate of blogging. Should meeting planners have blogs?

Spellos: Absolutely. I think blogging from an events standpoint is critical because it extends the message of the meeting outside to other people who might attend. A blog can get the word out to potential attendees about things they can look forward to at next year's meeting.


Faced with skyrocketing oil prices, aging fleets, and serious maintenance issues, the airline industry is in trouble. To learn what Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, has to say about the airline crisis, go to meetingsnet.com and search “Airline SOS.”

When times get tough, the tough set standards. To get up-to-date info on meetings industry standards, attend a free webinar about the Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange. Go to meetingsnet.com and click “APEX webinars.”

In June, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between AST International and the Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange Commission for the development of green standards for the meetings industry.

To check out peer reviews of meetings properties nationwide, and to rate your own experience with meetings venues, go to meetingsnet.com and click “meetings collaborative” at the top right of the page.

Podcasting 101

Try these three tips for effective podcasting from tech guru James Spellos, CMP, founder and president of Meeting U:

  1. The first thing to remember is, if you are going to interview anyone or record anyone's words, such as a speaker at a session, you need to get their permission.

  2. Make sure you don't run it too long. About 10 to 12 minutes is the edge of how much people are willing to listen to.

  3. Keep it to one or two critical points.