©2002 Corbin Ball
meeting planner’s job, on its most fundamental level, is bringing people
together. Whether it is for education, business, or simply entertainment, there
is a common denominator in nearly all meetings – the need to network.
meetings get larger, this process becomes increasingly difficult. Finding people
with like interests from the sea of the others is often a challenge and standard
name badges are inadequate for the job.
there are some great technology tools emerging to help. This article will cover
some of the more interesting ones.
attendee scheduling programs
Resource Group (www.crgevents.com)
scheduling program called “Rio” is a convenient, web-based addition to
birds-of-a-feather programs and other events designed to segment audiences into
meeting manager starts the process by providing a list of profiling questions
when the online registration form is developed. Then, as part of the online
registration, attendees are asked if they wish to make their names and interest
area profiles available online to other registrants.
a registrant agrees, their answers to the profile questions are made available
to other registrants in a searchable online database. For example, if you are
interested in “xyz product” or from a certain city or work for a certain
company, others could “find” you based on their selection criteria. However,
email and direct contact information is not disclosed.
finding a “match,” attendees can invite each other to meet during the
conference using the Rio online scheduler. The inviter looks for a free time
slot (the meeting manager can make all general sessions and other conflicting
times off-limits). Upon finding an open time, the inviter initiates the request
for a meeting received by the invitee as an email from the Rio scheduler (not
directly from the person).
recipient can choose to accept, ignore, or decline the invitation. If the
invitee declines, he/she can suggest an alternate time. If the invitee accepts,
both sides are notified via email from the scheduling program and automatically
assigned a table number in the meeting area, usually a large room with round
tables, chairs and table numbers. This appointment, as well as all of the other
events, can be added to the users’ Outlook calendar with a mouse-click.
Attendees can also print out
their custom schedule onsite if they forget to bring the information with them.
Future iterations of this product will include PDAs using onsite wireless
interactivity. Users, such as Brian
Rosenberg, Director of Sales and Marketing for the New York New Media
Association report that the Rio product helped bring people together and
improved networking opportunities at their events.
and Cell Phone Systems
provides as system employing personal digital assistants (PDAs) using a wireless
local network (WiFi)
or using the cell-phone hybrids and has developed a wide range of tools
applicable for meeting planners. The “Venue Messenger” is a wireless
messaging service allowing attendees to send messages (text, scribble or voice)
to online or offline users at the venue using PDAs. The “Venue Match” is a
profile-based matching service for events and tradeshows. Using the PDAs,
attendees can sort the attendee list by various criteria, and use the Venue
Messenger to make contact. These
two services used in tandem provide entirely new ways of networking and
communicating at meetings.
wireless networking devices
another interesting networking tool.
you register, your digital picture is taken, and you are handed a small wireless
PDA-sized device. Using radio frequency detection, this mechanism determines
your location and the relative location of people around you.
PDA screen provides the names of the people around you grouped in two
categories: those within 10 feet and those within 10-30 feet.
Highlighting and clicking on a name will show that person’s picture and
their contact information. Currently only available in Europe, similar systems
are being developed in the U.S.
wireless tracking devices are being developed by Tabula Rasa (www.t-rasa.com)
and Avante International (www.avantetech.com).
a meeting, a person often meets hundreds of other attendees. The need to carry
around hundreds of business cards and enter them into your personal database may
be replaced by a new device called Fobulous from Exclaim Enterprises
It is about the size of your car alarm control on your key chain. As you
register, your will be given one with your "virtual business
card" stored in it. It also has the capacity to store up
to 500 other "cards." Using infrared beaming, you can instantly
exchange virtual business cards with others. All of the data captured can then
be beamed to your Palm or Pocket PC personal digital assistant (PDA), or, using
the built-in USB port, directly to your Outlook program or
other database on your computer – no need to enter all of the contact data.
quantity, they sell for as low as $10 each, so they can be used as branded
giveaways for many types of meetings. They are also reusable for future
ability to make the most of meetings, to find and network with clients and
colleagues, and to keep track of whom you have met, can be enhanced through
using these networking tools.