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Futurism

Twelve Technology Trends in the Meetings and Events Market

©2007 Corbin Ball Associates

 

Technology continues to advance at exponential rates and is changing the face of the MICE industry in astonishing ways. We will see many developments in the next few years, including:

 

  1. 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 (more about APEX in Trend 9).

·         Event marketers will have the ability to market inexpensively to targeted audiences using audio/video blogs (online journals) and RSS (really simple syndication) newsfeeds.

·         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 website 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 paper 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 (see trend below for more details).

·         Communities of meeting professionals are using interactive online forums help to share information, to mentor, and to network. Although these have been around for years, the new versions such as http://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 (see Trend 12 for more details).

 

The meetings and events industry is a highly social, mobile and collaborative one. It is also one where often thousands of details are tracked and needed at a moment’s notice in settings away from the standard office and with multiple parties.  These characteristics are ideally suited for benefit from the Web 2.0 revolution.

 

  1. Wireless broadband internet access is becoming available everywhere from many sources: Wi-Fi hotspots, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access - coming in 2008), ED-VO (mobile phone broadband), Edge (mobile phone broadband), UWB (ultra-wide band) wireless networks, mesh networks and others. Hundreds of cities around the globe are developing municipal wireless broadband networks. Meeting planners, exhibitors and attendees are business travelers and will be comparative early adopters of these technologies.

 

  1. With wireless broadband enabling them, many mobile applications are being developed using mobile phones and other handheld devices which will have direct meeting and travel applications. Log-On (www.log-on.nl) uses mobile phones to provide a range of tradeshow and event applications for attendees including: the conference agenda, exhibit product directories, event feedback and surveys, SMS audience polling, group announcements, networking capabilities, travel information and more. FoneKey (www.fonekey.net) will allow travelers use mobile phones for hotel check in/out and as the guest room key (avoiding the front desk entirely). Nokia and other mobile providers are developing Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA - http://research.nokia.com/research/projects/mara/index.html) for advanced geo-position guidance, location finding, sales, and more. Where is the convention centre? Or the hotel, museum, restaurant, shopping district or bar? Your phone will guide you. What is the name of that building or monument? Simply point your phone-cam at it and the name (with link for more information) will appear on the screen. MARA has enormous potential for destinations to guide convention goers, business travelers and leisure visitors in their cities.

 

  1. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voip) – using the internet to make phone calls around the world at little or no cost, will assist business travelers and meetings professionals. VoIP call can be more easily linked with data management and customer relationship management systems to better serve client needs. This change will happen for both wired and mobile phones. You will be able to send and receive VoIP calls on your mobile phone and your notebook computer will be able to emulate and serve as your office phone on the road (with all of the office phone features) simply by connecting to a broadband network.

 

  1. HDTV (high-definition television) is scheduled to become the U.S. broadcast standard in 2009 with significant global impact. This is pushing the technology limits in many ways for processing, storage, bandwidth, wireless throughput, video recording/editing and more. One of the impacts will be the improvement the quality of video conferencing. Telepresence companies, such as Teleportec (www.teleportec.com) and Cisco (www.cisco.com/telepresence) will have the potential to develop a substantially more life-like face-to-face virtual meeting experience.

 

  1. In related development, as flat-panel screen prices continuing to plummet (and they will do so substantially in the next two-three years), electronic signage will be use much more broadly for venues eliminating much of the “sign-clutter” seen at many large meetings today. Also, multipurpose kiosks, using wireless broadband and flat-panel screens, will expand their capabilities as virtual concierges. Check in to the hotel at the airport, check in to the airport at the hotel/convention centre, book restaurant seating, buy museum/attractions tickets are just a few examples of the capabilities.

 

  1. 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 cybercafé 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”).

 

  1. Continued progress will be made toward APEX standards (Accepted Practices Exchange – www.conventionindustry.org/apex) moving to electronic data interchange in 2007 and 2008. This ultimately will have very significant impact on the events industry. Although this is a North American initiative, the global need for industry standards is vast, and the work toward APEX could be a good framework to build this. The reduction of the rote tasks of entering, reentering and proofing reentries of meeting specifications data promises increase planning efficiencies enormously.

 

  1. Online booking of meeting space and group travel will continue to evolve, especially for small, corporate meetings. Products such as OnVantage/StarCite’s EasyBook (http://onvantage.entercomm.com/solutions/corp_fin_proc_prof/meetingview_easybook.php) and offerings from the major hotel chains, will push procurement to new levels, will speed the booking time, will cut costs and drive the need for pre-arranged contract standardization.

 

  1. Procurement and strategic meetings management programs will drive more meeting purchasing decisions, especially for large corporations. Combined meetings consolidation/attendee management software will save large companies millions of dollars/pounds/Euros annually due to increased efficiency, reduced liability exposure (centralizing meetings contracts), and better buying leverage by more accurately knowing actual meeting spend by vendor from previous years. Meetings consolidation products include: StarCite/OnVantage (www.starcite.com) and Arcaneo (www.arcaneo.com) and several third-party events companies.

 

  1. 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 handheld products such as SpotMe (www.spotme.com)  and nTAG (www.ntag.com); and will move into 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 assist people connect can increase the value of the event significantly.

 

  1. Although face-to-face meetings will remain vital as a means of education, networking, and relationship-building, virtual meetings will increasingly play a role. Web casts (increasingly for mobile devices via video podcasts); web conferences (collaborative interactive online events), and advanced video conferencing will serve to connect people at low cost regardless of their physical location. These “meetings” will need to be carefully planned, however, and not treated as simply an online version of a face-to-face event. In general, they are ideally suited for short (30 minutes or less), concise information exchange and training.

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.

 

 



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