It’s an exciting time to be a meeting planner!
Meetings technology has been rapidly evolving, driven by dramatic growth in cloud computing, mobile devices, and moved along by the parallel growth in the overall world of technology.
Every month, meeting organizers are being bombarded with all types of new tech to consider! Every month there is a blog or magazine article talking about what is new, what is coming and what is on the horizon in meetings technology.
We’re all talking and discussing things like augmented reality, body heat mapping, the Internet of Things, beacon technology, wearable devices, event intelligence, and that oldie but goodie, virtual meetings.
It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it has great potential to make our meetings more effective, efficient and less costly. What’s not to like?
The short answer is while there is a lot to like, there’s a lot of reasons to exercise some caution!
From a technology perspective, almost every meeting planner fits into the technology life cycle in a pretty predictable fashion.
There will be early adopters and there will be late adopters and a few other categories of adoption to boot. Amazingly, this theory was discussed as early as 1962 by Everett Rogers in his book The Diffusion of Innovations. The theory has great practical implications for today’s meeting planners.
Essentially, the Diffusion of Innovation theory will identify the following categories of technology adopters:
- Innovators (16%) – the folks who take the risk and are first to adopt a new technology
- Early Adopters (13.5%) – these are the folks who are second fastest in adoption and tend to be younger and more socially engaged than other users
- Early Majority (34%) – This category takes the most amount of time and tend not to have leadership roles in their organizations
- Late Majority (34%) – More skeptical than most and tend to be older and less socially engaged
- Laggards (16%) – These are the folks who are last to adopt. Traditional to the core, they tend to stick with what works and refuse to consider innovations
What type of technology adopter are you?
For many meeting planners, the answer is not quite so easy to pin down. Meeting budgets and a varying demographic of meeting attendees often drive the pace of technology adoption. Additionally, meetings tend to be extremely cost sensitive and early adoption of new technology can often lead to unacceptably higher budgets.
All this leads back to the discussion on what’s more important to meeting planners: obtaining the latest technology or providing a well-managed event with the technology you have in place. New technology is an attractive siren song, but what is the cost to the face-to-face connections and networking event attendees experience?
Fortunately, a lot of new technology has come into the meetings industry in the past five or six years that doesn’t cost a lot of money and can make a significant different in connecting and communicating with our attendees.
When you are looking at event technology, it can be a useful process to consider the tools and technology that it offers that speak directly to participant engagement and communications. These are the essential skills and processes all meeting planners need to have to promote a positive and happy experience for your participants.
How easy is your event platform to use when you get a phone call or respond to an email? Can you open up multiple records at the same time, or even multiple events? Can you set aside one record (keeping it open) so you can answer a phone call and attend to another enquiry in a timely manner? For most attendees, registering online and contacting the event organizer is their first and primary form of contact. Is it a positive experience for your attendees?
Are you using attendee apps? Once cutting edge, these are now considered a routine part of many meetings and conferences. Attendee apps offer fantastic ways for attendees to connect with other attendees, research and design their agendas, connect with social media and serve as a central hub of news, alerts and other communications from the event organizers. If you aren’t using attendee apps at your meetings yet, rest assured you will at some point!
Other technology is also coming into the mainstream, such as live audience polling and attendee-to-exhibitor appointment setting. The cloud is bringing costs down and in some cases, accessible at virtually no additional cost at all!
EventsAIR, a cloud based event management platform published by Centium Software, has been leading the industry with an innovative suite of apps included in the core license fee.
“Not only do we offer flat monthly license fees that eliminate per-person registration fees, but our suite of built-in apps can save meeting planners tens of thousands of dollars at every event they run,” said Alec Sonenthal, Director of Technology for Centium Software. “We are pioneering an inclusive cloud-based architecture that includes self-service check in, access control, exhibitor portals, meeting matching and even exhibitor lead management without charging any additional fees to the client.”
Mr. Sonenthal noted that all these tools have in common a central database that increases communication, engagement and social connections in ways never seen before in the meetings industry.
“Not only do meeting planners have the tools they need to connect and engage their attendees, they can do so at dramatically lower costs than they have ever seen,” Mr. Sonenthal said. “Even more important, all services and technology share a common database, so you can eliminate data drift and assure unparalleled data accuracy.”
New advances and innovations in meetings technology is happening all the time, and it can be a challenge to figure out what’s worth pursuing and what’s worth waiting a bit to see how it matures in the market place.
At the end of the day, our goals haven’t changed – we organize meetings where our attendees connect, learn, and network. Technology comes and goes – some stay around for a while, some come and go in the blink of an eye. But our attendees come back time and time again, that is the one real constant in today’s world of meeting planning.