Archive for the ‘Meetings Technology’ Category

Wi-Fi: The Lifeblood of Events – Should It Be Free to Attendees?

January 14, 2012

©2012 Corbin Ball Associates

As the use of mobile event apps continues to explode, there is an increasing demand by attendees to have easy-access, barrier-free and, hopefully, cost-free Wi-Fi in the meeting space and in sleeping rooms. Consider these statistics:

  • Free in-room Internet access ranked as the most desired guest-room amenity. — Synovate survey, 2011, 6,300 people, 10 countries
  • 47 percent of respondents said a hotel must cater to their technology needs before they book it, with wireless  access a top priority. — Synovate survey, 2011, 6,300 people, 10 countries
  • Internet access is at the top of things most guests care about hotels (including luxury, upscale, mid-scale full-service, economy/budget, and extended stay properties) — J.D. Powers Survey, 201
  • Free Wi-Fi affects the choice of venue (64% yes; 31% maybe/depends on other factors as well; 5% no) – InStat survey, September 2010

Increasingly, meeting attendees are carrying around one or more wireless internet-enabled devices. They are business travelers and expect to check email, use social networks (40% of all tweets are mobile), and wish to take advantage of a wide range of mobile meeting and travel apps. For international attendees, the cost of roaming fees is often prohibitively expensive. Wi-Fi is their lifeline to stay connected. 

With this growing need and demand by attendees, planners are pressing venues for free event Wi-Fi and are making this a key criterion for venue selection. Associations such as ABPCO (Association of British Professional Conference Organisers) have a country-wide initiative to promote free basic conference Wi-Fi for attendees (see www.theconferencecloud.co.uk for details). 

The Challenges:

There are many issues involved:

  • 60% of travelers in the US, Europe and Australia indicate they already have had a poor hotel downloading experience because the system was slow. — Ttnooz, Nov. 2011
  • Many facilities are unable to keep up with the demand. The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (the world’s largest technology show) asked attendees to turn off their phones and Wi-Fi to enable access for the keynote presenters.
  • The demand for broadband is exploding for many events. For example, 5,000 attendees consumed one terabyte (one thousand billion bytes) of data via Wi-Fi in four days at the London Frieze Art Fair, Oct. 2011. This is one example of many.
  • 90% of meeting professionals have smartphones and/or iPads/tablet computers and 62% use their apps constantly throughout the day (M&C Research Survey, December 2011).
  • A November 2011 white paper by iBahn, a major hotel internet provider, notes that 25% of devices on their network are iPads. These video streaming and media consumption devices use 400% more data that the average iPhone,
  • 25 million iPads have been sold as of June 2011 (UnwiredView) and an amazing 5 million Wi-Fi only Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are estimated to have been sold in the last three months of 2011(J.P. Morgan, December 2011).
  • This explosion of iPad and other tablet computer is driving bandwidth requirements to what is felt by some hotels to be unsustainable levels. To quote David Garrison, iBahn CEO in the November 2011: “The iPad is the final nail in the ‘all internet is free’ coffin.”
  • There is a big discrepancy between event organizers and venue managers on whether attendees should receive free Wi-Fi: 90% off organizers say yes while only 48% of facility managers replied favorably (IAEE Survey, July 2011).
  • 64% of venue managers and CVB stakeholders feel that show managers have unrealistic expectations when it comes to what they want and are willing to pay for regarding event Wi-Fi (Red 7 Media, Summer 2011).

Some solutions:

The facts are that the Wi-Fi at many venues is not satisfactory (it sucks!) and with increasing bandwidth requirements things are getting worse. What can or should be done?

Here are some recommendations:

  • Meeting venues need to plan on high double-digit annual growth in Wi-Fi bandwidth requirements at least for the next five years. The good news is technically this is completely feasible. According to Ian Bull, Head of Sales Business Development for the Wireless Technology Group for Cisco, there is “significant growth potential for Wi-Fi using micro cells and Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0 technology. Even very large venues with thousands of simultaneous users can be managed in a way that good quality wireless internet signal can be provided.”
  • Venues must step up to the plate and build the infrastructure for this growth. This will increasingly be the deciding factor in venue selection.
  •   Meeting venues should provide detailed assistance to meeting planners to help them determine the Wi-Fi and internet requirements. It is not enough to reply “yes we can provide Wi-Fi.” Many questions need to be asked, such as: Wireless internet for how many people simultaneously? On what devices? For what apps? In what locations? How much bandwidth is needed? Venues must know their capabilities and limitations well and communicate them to clients.
  •   Meeting planners also must educate themselves as well to the specific needs of their attendees, their expectations, their internet requirements, and must be very clear to venues about what they expect in detailed requests for proposal.

Dealing with Costs:

A major challenge is cost. Meeting venues are for-profit entities and the demand for internet services is growing exponentially. How can these costs be offset or limited?

Here is my view:

  • Venues should provide basic, mobile-friendly Wi-Fi internet access (512kb/s) throughout the entire facility (sleeping rooms/lobby/meeting rooms/exhibit hall) for free without the need for extensive log-in procedures. 512kb/s is fast enough to check email, tweet, and do some basic web browsing but not fast enough to stream HD video, download audio files, etc.
  •  Provide a reasonable rate “premium service” for attendees who desire more speed.
  •  Charge reasonable rates for specialized services: dedicated bandwidth, dedicated IP address, VPNs, specialized exhibit services, etc. As an example, the Las Vegas Convention Center (one of the largest in the world) in November 2011, launched their internet service plan: free for basic service, $13/day for premium service, and $100 for exhibitors.
  • Another option to offset costs is for meeting planners to solicit internet sponsorship. Internet access and mobile apps have many opportunities for splash page or banner ad sponsors. These page views are completely trackable and can provide great visibility to attendees using a much desired service.
  • With the increase in smart phones and tablets, cyber-cafes are going the way of the banks of pay phones. Divert the sponsorship funds and other monies spent on these services to help offset the cost of attendee internet access.
  • Venues should also look for sponsors.  Meeting attendees spend money at nearby establishments. Many of these businesses would likely be willing to pay for advertising space on conference Wi-Fi services to gain visibility.
  • Planners, exhibitors and attendees should expect to pay for premium internet services. Venues are for-profit entities and have every right to charge to cover costs at the minimum.  However, planners and attendees should not be gouged with exorbitant fees.  Hotels, convention centers and other venues should not consider internet services a major profit center any more that they consider providing lights and water for attendees and guests – Wi-Fi has become an expected utility.
  • The price gouging employed by a number of upper mid-scale and luxury hotel properties (i.e. US$9.95/day/each device) must stop! Planners and hotel guests commonly will be making venue decisions based on fair policies for internet access.

Wi-Fi challenges will likely get worse before they get better. The increasing demand will exceed the supply as venues struggle to upgrade their internet infrastructure. It will be incumbent on all venues to gear up for these increased bandwidth demands. It will also be important for planners, exhibitors, attendees and venues to educate themselves on the issues and help each other find the optimum way for providing Wi-Fi for events. As Wi-Fi increasingly becomes the communication life-blood of events, we will all need to work toward optimal solutions.

__________________________________

This article with hundreds of other free articles, dozens of free software tools and thousands of categorized meetings technology links can be found at: www.corbinball.com.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a consultant, writer and speaker focusing on events and meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He has been named by MeetingNews Magazine for four years as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry. He has also chaired the judging committee for EIBTM Technology Watch for meetings technology innovation for the past eight years. He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and followed on www.twitter.com/corbinball. Subscribe to TechTalk News, the meetings industry’s longest running and largest technology newsletter sent every other month to over 9,000 subscribers in 70+ countries: www.corbinball.com/techtalk.


Bonus Trend: 12+ Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Face-to-face meetings and trade shows will remain vialble

December 7, 2011

©2011 Corbin Ball Associates

This is last in a series of 13 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows:

Bonus trend: Despite the economic downturn and the increased use of virtual meetings technology, face-to-face meetings and tradeshows remain viable (a repeat from last year’s predictions).

Virtual meeting and web conferencing usage is up and conference attendance has dropped for some markets in these economically challenging times. However, meetings and tradeshows can still provide very good value for your education, networking, and sales budgets. Events offer unparalleled opportunities to bring buyers and seller together, to build relationships, to brainstorm, to network. For an exhibitor, it is often the best way to meet so many qualified buyers in such a short time. For buyers, it is a great chance to meet vendors of interest – all together in one location, categorized and mapped for your choosing. The events, tradeshow and hospitality industries are relationship-based and events and tradeshow are some of the best ways to build these relationships.

Although webinars are good for short information exchange, meetings offer a much richer learning experience. What happens in the meeting room is important – people have made the commitment to be there and are not as distracted as in the office. However, the conversations in the hallways, receptions and exhibit hall contribute greatly to the information exchange. Meetings provide a vastly richer, more targeted, and more focused learning experience than any virtual meeting. There is no such thing as a “virtual beer!” 

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a consultant, writer and speaker focusing on events and meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He has been named by MeetingNews Magazine for four years as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry. He has also chaired the judging committee for EIBTM Technology Watch for meetings technology innovation for the past eight years. He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and followed on www.twitter.com/corbinball.

11 of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Free, easy to access Wi-Fi is increasing expected by meeting planners

November 23, 2011

This is the eleventh in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows:

11. Free, easy to access Wi-Fi is increasing expected by meeting planners

Free basic Wi-Fi broadband internet access is expected by planners for attendees in the meeting room, guest rooms and the lobby. Although some luxury properties are clinging to internet fees as a profit center, internet access is viewed by attendees as a utility similar to lights and water. Planners are saying “do not nickel-and-dime us with add-on charges for basic internet access.” If “Motel 6” can provide free Wi-Fi, so should meeting hotels and venues.

However, the does not mean unlimited access. Internet bandwidth can be expensive and most venues cannot handle unexpected, very large demands.  If 500 event attendees pulled out their iPads to access HD video simultaneously, there are few venues in the country that could handle this without making special arrangements. If a group needs dedicated bandwidth, a dedicated IP address or other internet services, it is reasonable to charge for these. But basic, throttled access (with a minimum of 500kb/second download — fast enough to access email and limited video streaming) should be free.

Additionally, venues need to make logging onto the Wi-Fi network easier. Opening the browser and clicking “OK” is all that should be required.  As mobile devices are being used for internet access with greater frequency, make the logon screen readable in smaller formats as well. Better yet, use autosensing technology and provide a mobile web log-in page optimized for a smaller screen.

See more on the advances of hotel guest room technology at: http://ow.ly/6kJqx.

10 of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: iPads and tablets will provide a new medium for accessing data at events.

November 16, 2011

This is the tenth in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows:

10. iPads and tablets will provide a new medium for accessing data at events.

The iPad is the most recent of the long-running, game-changing innovations from Apple.  The Mac brought the widespread use of the mouse and graphical user interface to portable computing (1984); the iPod changed how we listened to music (2001); the iPhone revolutionized mobile phones  (2007), the App Store is changing the software procurement model (2008), and the iPad (2010)/iPad2 (2011) is having similar long-term ramifications.

The iPad and other tablet devices represent new ways to access information. Light weight, highly mobile, highly intuitive. The larger screen allow for bigger fonts, easier readability and more real estate to display material in a page-like format. The navigation is intuitive (with your fingers instead of a keyboard and mouse).

Tablets are a natural for events as our industry is a mobile one:

  • We do business away from our offices and from our “large screen” computers on a regular basis.
  • Most of us don’t carry around notebook computers at events for a number of reasons: weight, security, the inability to access easily while standing, etc
  • We constantly need to manage a wide range of data at events. For lack of a better way until now, much of these data have been in the form of paper.

Tablets will increasingly be used at events for interactive conference programs, course notes distributions, surveys, interactive exhibit floor plans, product displays, information kiosks, lead exchange, speaker Q&A, onsite blogging/social networking and more.

See more on the impact and benefits of iPads and tablets at: http://ow.ly/6jdGw

8 out of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: YouTube and other social publishing tools will be used increasingly to promote and manage meetings and to engage attendees

November 3, 2011

This is the eight in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows

8. YouTube and other social publishing tools will be used increasingly to promote and manage meetings and to engage attendees

Much has been written about the power of Facebook.com and the other social networking sites to engage potential attendees before and event to increase attendance and networking onsite. I believe the wide range of free social publishing tools will also be used increasingly for similar purposes:

  • Twitter.com (technically a micro-blog and, therefore, a social publishing tool) is widely used at events with event hashtags to engage attendees before, during and after an event. Planners should advertise the event hashtag well in advance of their events for the broadest utilization.
  • Free blogging tools (such as WordPress.com) can be used to create event blogs to increase attendance. Ask your speakers to participate to add comments about their sessions. Invite influential bloggers to your event, and give them internet connections to spread the word.
  • Encourage attendees to upload their event photos under a designated event name (using the Twitter hashtag) to Flickr.com so everyone can share their experience. This page can then be used to help promote future events.
  • Speakers can share their slides using SlideShare.com.
  • YouTube.com (the world’s second largest search site after its owner Google) is potentially one of the most promising event promotion tools around. The old saying goes that “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  A video can be worth a thousand pictures and be far more compelling than web pages or brochures full of text! Video is the most compelling language of the internet.

A few YouTube tips:

a.)   Encourage your speakers to make short video describing what they will speak on and upload this to YouTube.

b.)   Link or embed these videos at your event site.

c.)   Keep the videos short (no more than 3 minutes).

d.)   Record in HD.

e.)   Choose a compelling thumbnail image using the posting tools YouTube provides.

f.)    Enable the comments and sharing options.

g.)   Rename the videos using meaningful names (MPI-WEC-speakers.mov is much better than 38404949.mov)

h.)   Use a keyword laden, meaningful description of the video.

Five out of Twelve Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Conference recording and distribution is becoming cheaper, faster and much more capable.

October 12, 2011

This is the fifth in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows.

Conference recording and distribution is becoming cheaper, faster and much more capable.

Conference recording has been around for decades starting in the days that audio-cassettes of the presentations were mass-produced onsite and sold in the foyer. Recent technology advances have made it possible to quickly and relatively inexpensively distribute speaker video, audio and visuals over the web in real-time and on demand afterwards.

This technology to do this was simply not there just a few years ago. The price of high-definition video cameras has plummeted (we are even carrying them around as mobile phone feature). Accessibility to reliable broadband is as available for most meeting facilities and the price is dropping. Video streaming encoders are turn-key. Presentation management software has proliferated.

For example, the “video recording and webcasting studio in a box” pictured below is the Roland Systems Group (www.rolandsystemsgroup.com) VR-5 incorporating a 5-channel video switcher, audio mixer, video playback, recorder, preview monitors and output for web streaming. What previously would have required crates of equipment and $100,000+ has been shrunk into a 9 pound (4.3kg).box for under US$5,000 greatly simplifying the production, recording and streaming of live events.

Using these smaller, cheaper, and faster tools, it is now possible for conference recording companies to record video/audio and slides for dozens of simultaneous presentations and have them available for sale or distribution on the web that evening. Streaming technology for real-time distribution is also easier and simpler than in the past. Some of the companies providing these services are: Content Management Corporation cmcgc.com,  Freeman freemanco.com, OmniPress omnipress.com, PSAV Presentation Services psav.com, Sonic Foundry sonicfoundry.com, Digitell digitellinc.com and Soma Media soma-media.com.

More information and details on the benefits for conference recording can be found at the following article: http://ow.ly/6i8Mh

Three of Twelve Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Do it yourself (DIY) mobile event apps will proliferate

September 29, 2011

This is the third in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows.

3. Do it yourself (DIY) mobile event apps will proliferate.

One of the hottest areas of mobile development is in the low-cost DIY arena. It is possible to create a fully featured, cross-platform business app (iPhone, android, iPad and mobile web) with customized logos, colors and content using BiznessApps.com for as low as $39.95/month. This DIY site is very easy to use with video tutorials throughout.

Although BiznessApps has an “events” option among the dozens of business templates offered, there are several companies that are targeting events specifically with DIY products including: Grupio.comGenieMobile.comEventKaddy.com and even the high-end QuickMobile.com.  Often times, these will be at a fraction of the cost of a standard application built by mobile app programmers.

Two of Twelve Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Mobile technology crosses the chasm from the early adopter to the early majority for events

September 21, 2011

This is the second in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows.

2. Mobile technology crosses the chasm from the early adopter to the early majority for events

Recent data from MPI”s FutureWatch 2011 Survey and others indicate that more than 80% of meeting professionals use smartphones and other mobile devices in their jobs. Yet, relatively few planners (9%) have used mobile applications yet for their own meetings. This is about to change. There will be a very significant adoption of mobile apps for events in 2012 and 2013. If a meeting does not have a mobile app, the attendees will soon wonder why the meeting organizers are behind the times.

There are hundreds of mobile companies and mobile apps targeting meeting professionals (I have more than 200 linked at my regularly updated online web links file: http://www.corbinball.com/bookmarks/#MobileApps). Although there will likely be a shakeout similar to the dot.com deflation in the late 1990s, the companies that survive will change how we do business.

There is a very strong business case for adopting mobile apps for your events including better real-time distribution of conference information, better location-aware/way-finding capabilities, event greening through paper reduction, better onsite networking, lower cost survey/polling options, enhanced branding, better attendee analytics, better CRM, advertising revenue generation and enhanced attendee experiences. More details on building the business case for mobile apps can be found at: http://ow.ly/6i35J

Another driver increasing the use of mobile apps at events is be the growth of applications targeted at the meeting venues rather than the meeting planner. Meeting facilities managers will either resell (at low cost) or give the app customized to the event to meeting planners and attendees. Examples of this model are SwiftMobile.com and eMarketing360.com.

One of Twelve Technology Trends to Watch for 2012

September 16, 2011

©2011 Corbin Ball Associates

This is the first in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows.

The rate of technology change is increasing. Meetings and tradeshow technology continues to advance with technology products becoming better, cheaper and easier to use. Innovation is bubbling with new options. Here are some of the major meetings and tradeshow technology trends to watch for this coming year.

Trend 1: More free or low cost apps for events and trade shows

“Information technologies of all types are doubling in capability every year”

– Ray Kurzweil, Technology Pioneer and Futurist

Another way of looking Kurzweil’s observation is the cost for the equivalent technology is being cut in half every year. Web software development technology is much faster and easier than ever before. What used to take $100,000+ and a team of programmers weeks or months to do, can now almost be accomplished by a gifted teenager in his/her bedroom over the weekend.  Web services and application programming interfaces (programming standards allowing easy data sharing among websites) allow additional functionality to be added to a website or web software program in a vastly easier manner.  For example, an online registration program can work with Saleforce.com or other contact database simply and quickly without expensive and time consuming custom integration programming.

Consequently, many free or very low-cost web tools have emerged to help meeting professionals do their job better.  There are free online databases of meeting facilities (Cvent’ Supplier Network: http://www.cvent.com/en/solutions/event-planning-software.shtml); free exhibition floor plan/sales tools (Floorplangenie.com); a wide range of social media tools for promoting events (FacebookTwitterLinkedInYouTubeWordPressFlickrSlideshare, etc); free HD video conference tools (Skype and Google Hangout); free collaboration tools (docs.google.com and join.me); thousands of free or very low cost mobile travel and other apps to help meeting professionals and attendees, and much more. These are just a few examples. There are many more to come.

iPads and Other Tablets: New Mobile Options for Events and Trade Shows

January 25, 2011
The iPad is the most recent in long-running, game-changing innovations from Apple.  The Mac brought the widespread use of the mouse to portable computing (1984); the iPod changed how we listened to music (2001); the iPhone revolutionized mobile phones  (2007), the App Store is changing the software procurement model (2008), and the iPad (2010) will likely have similar long-term ramifications. 

The iPad — What is it?

iPads have been sprouting like mushrooms at events since the release last April. The iPad is a type of tablet computer with a touch-sensitive screen instead of a keyboard. It is sleek and light (1.5 pounds) and has a very high resolution 9.7 inch/24.5 centimeter. It has similar functionality of the iPhone but without standard phone capability.  This larger screen size opens up a wealth of opportunities for meeting planners, exhibitors, attendees and others in our industry.  It is a polished, intuitive way of accessing data and consuming media wherever you are.

Why is it important for events and trade shows?

Our industry is a mobile one:

  • We do business away from our offices and from our “large screen” computers on a regular basis.
  • Most of us don’t carry around notebook computers at events for a number of reasons: weight, security, the inability to access easily while standing, etc.
  • We constantly need to manage a wide range of data at events. For lack of a better way until now, much of these data have been in the form of paper.

The iPad and the coming iPad clones represent new ways to access information. Light weight, highly mobile, highly intuitive. The larger screen allow for bigger fonts, easier readability and more real estate to display material in a page-like format. The navigation is intuitive (with your fingers instead of a keyboard and mouse).

The iPad and its clones will fit the bill in many ways for events. Here are some of the ways this new format is developing:

Interactive conference programs:

Paper conference programs go out of date as soon as they are printed. They are heavy to carry around, difficult to use, and they usually end up in a landfill after the event. Mobile phone apps, although helpful, have limitations due to small screen size.

iPads open a new range of possibilities. Not only can the conference program be included, but also easy links for more information about the speakers, topics, session handouts and other events. Videos of the speakers with slides and transcriptions can be included after the event. Surveys of the presentations can be included as well. QuickMobile (www.quickmobile.com) is one of the web developers pioneering this full range of interactive iPad program options.

Course notes distribution:

Citing environmental concerns, paper session handouts and course notes have been dropped from many events, even though they can helpful to attendees for increasing retention. Sometimes, the notes are distributed in Adobe .PDF format either before or during the event for printout on demand. The iPad may be a perfect tool to use with this. Using an annotation tool such as iAnnotate (http://www.ajidev.com/iannotate) attendees can download all of the .PDF formatted handouts to their iPads in advance, make notes on them during the presentations using the annotation tool, and then store/share them digitally for future reference and easy retrieval.

Surveys:

One-on-one surveys happen routinely at events… in the exhibition booth or in the registration area to gain insight on attendee thoughts. Paper surveys, however, are laborious to tally. The iPad, with its larger format similar to a page, could be the perfect solution. This will allow the interviewer to collect the data as he or she would with paper and a clipboard, but capturing and tallying the data electronically in a much more efficient manner. The iPad could also be used with self-service survey kiosk as well. SurveyAnalytics (http://www.surveyanalytics.com) is among the many providing iPad survey applications for events.

Interactive exhibitor displays and information kiosks

With the iPad’s intuitive touch navigation, large high-resolution screen and full multi-media capabilities, it will be a natural for self-service information demos in a booth or elsewhere. If the attendees like the demo, they can electronically request more product information or even load the app and take it with them.

Attendees and exhibitors do not have to be tied to a particular area of the booth for demonstrations. High-resolution, multimedia presentations can be given anywhere due to the iPad’s great portability.

Lead exchange and qualification:

One good contact at a meeting or tradeshow can be worth the price of the entire meeting.  The traditional bar-code reader employed at most large tradeshow needs to be replaced with simpler solutions. One step forward is Bartizan’s iLeads (www.bartizan.com). Instead of standing in line wait to pick up and return bar-code equipment, the exhibitors simply download the iPad app, and then they can enter a badge number on their iPad or iPhone. This will pull the contact information from the registration database. It then contains customizable qualification questions, survey questions and actions items. The larger iPad interface makes it easier and quicker to view the options instead of scrolling through iPhone screens. Both formats, however, have the advantage of portability. The bar-code scanner is booth-bound; these mobile alternatives can be used at receptions, coffee breaks, or anywhere at the event.

Lead tracking can also be tied into exhibit demos mentioned above. When attendees identify themselves via badge numbers or scans, topics based on their profile can be presented and/or specific interest areas chosen can be tracked.

Interactive exhibit guides and floor plans:

Traditional printed exhibition guides for large tradeshows can weigh several pounds; are expensive to print and ship; and go out date as soon as they are printed. Paper floor plans are difficult to navigate and of limited use, especially with larger shows.

The iPad and other tablet PCs as they become available, will provide a much more convenient and efficient way of navigating the exhibit hall. You will be able to search on an exhibitor name or product category to identify booths you wish to visit. Then, using the iPad’s location-aware GPS capabilities, you will be able to see exactly where you are in the exhibit hall floor plan and then identify from booth-to-booth the most efficient navigation steps to visit them. Mobile providers such as Sherpa Solutions (www.sherpa-solutions.com) are providing this functionality for mobile applications.

The GPS capabilities will also be useful in navigation in other parts of the venue and the neighborhood around it as well.

Hotel sales and planner assistance:

iPads will also be a natural for hotel sales. A great example is eMarketing360’s (www.emarketing-360.com) eSaleskit which contains a hotel or venue’s property photos, floor plans, menus, videos and other assets in on the iPad making it convenient, portable tool for the exhibit booth or sales calls. Once the sale is made, the ePlannerToolkit provides the meeting planner with property details in both a web and iPad format containing property logos, floor plans, room capacities, photo gallery, menus, hotel forms (hotel fact sheet, guidelines, preferred vendors, exhibit forms, AV pricing, etc), area information, room information (photos/descriptions of accommodation types), hotel directory of contacts, and travel information, as a convenient iPad app immediately accessible to the planner at anytime.

Speaker Q&A:

The iPad, with is larger and quicker touch keyboard is being used by event bloggers on site and as a means to post on Twitter and other social networking tools. This will be a natural tool for audience members to post questions to speakers (either via a tweet stream, SMS, or other channel).

The iPad is leading the way, but there are many clones coming (more the 70 different tablets were show last week at the CES show in Las Vegas). There is great potential with these tools to assist with meetings and tradeshows. I have listed a few of them.  What are some others with this exciting and rapidly changing new tool for events?

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is an independent 3rd-party analyst focusing on meetings and trade show technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings and shows, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and followed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/corbinball.


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