Web 2.0 -- What It Means for the Meetings and Events Industry
©2006 Corbin Ball Associates
This article is available in Spanish. Este artículo está disponible en español.
Meetings bring people together -- it is the most fundamental job that meeting professionals do. Our industry is highly social, mobile and collaborative. 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.
These characteristics are ideally suited for benefit from the online transformation that is occurring. Web 2.0, the second generation of the web, brings richer and more efficient means of planning, collaborating, communicating and promoting events. The web is replacing shrink-wrapped, stand-alone software as the platform; data is becoming the driving force; participation is becoming the key ingredient.
Web 2.0 is more than an internet buzzword. It is a revolution in the web as we know it. It comes with a whole new vocabulary that meeting professionals should understand it as it will surely affect our business processes. This article will sort through some of the terms and discuss why it is important for our industry.
What exactly is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0, more aptly named the “participatory web,” enables users to collaborate and share online information more easily. This is in contrast to the first generation of the web which is built in static web pages (isolated information silos). The data in Web 2.0 are easier to get in and out of the system and for users to interact with.
Web 2.0 is a blanket name for number of advances combining to provide a richer online experience:
Wikis: Wikis are interactive websites allowing teams to add, remove, share, exchange and edit/change the content. A great example is Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia with millions of articles posted, reviewed and edited by viewers. A related example is Google spreadsheets (spreadsheets.google.com) where a group can view, edit and save free web-based spreadsheets from multiple locations simultaneously.
Web Services: This group of applications is an alphabet soup of acronyms, but at the core they allow different web-based databases and software applications to work well with each other.APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange), the meetings industry standards eventually will use web services to allow planners and suppliers to be on the same page electronically. For example, planners will be able to enter event specifications using their “APEX-approved” software or even an Excel template. This will communicate using web services to the hotel or facility property management system automatically without re-keying the information.
Web Syndication: This makes internet newsfeeds easily available. Google Reader is one of many free RSS (Really Simple Syndication) news aggregators available. Users subscribe for new specific content from many sites delivered automatically directly to their desktop in one neat package – a much easier system than having to go to each web site or blog for new content.
Social Software: This broad range of applications allows people to connect, collaborate and generate content online. Although this includes email, instant messaging and online forums which have been around for years, it also includes blogs (web logs or online journals), Wikis, web collaboration tools (such as Live Meeting and WebEx) and a many new social collaboration tools. An example is MySpace – currently the most popular site on the web. These online means of bringing people together is a central characteristic of Web 2.0.
Online Collaboration: Many virtual meeting and collaboration tools are available including LiveMeeting, WebEx and the free alternative Vyew. PowerPoint slides and other documents can be shared, annotated, edited and worked with online by geographically distributed participants.
Meeting Industry Applications:
There are many ways that Web 2.0 tools can help meeting professionals. Here are just a few examples:
- Wikis and Google spreadsheets can track event management details in a common document visible and usable by geographically dispersed event planning teams (including suppliers).
- APEX standards, enabled eventually by web services architecture, will help planners and suppliers communicate electronically on the same page. The reduction of the rote tasks of entering, reentering and proofing reentries of meeting specifications data will increase planning efficiencies enormously.
- Event marketers will have the ability to market inexpensively to targeted audiences using audio/video blogs and RSS 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 including IntroNetworks; Leverage Software, ExpoExchange Smart Events, and NetworkingMatch have direct applications to bring people together at meetings in a more efficient manner.
- 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 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.
Web 2.0, the participatory web, is already having a significant impact, but the major changes are yet to come. Ultimately, it is about much more than pixels on a screen. It is about how humans interact with other humans. Those that understand, prepare for and use these changes will be able to provide better service to their clients. Meetings and tradeshows are social, collaborative and highly mobile industries perfectly suited for this revolution.