Archive for the ‘Tradeshow Technology’ Category

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.

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

The Business Value of Mobile Apps for Meetings

May 4, 2011

Recent data from MPI”s FutureWatch 2011 Survey and others indicate that more than 80% of meeting professionals are using smartphones and other mobile devices in their jobs. Yet, with this high adoption, relatively few have used mobile applications yet for their own meetings. This is about to change.

Meeting professionals and attendees are crossing the chasm of early adoption and are entering into the early majority phase. We will see a very rapid adoption of mobile applications for events during the next two years.

There are many ways that mobile applications can assist events. Here are some of the features found in many of the full-featured mobile applications for events and trade shows:

  • Agenda management, building and sharing for attendees
  • Alerts / conference messaging / updates
  • Analytics (tracking attendee interests and activities for business intelligence)
  • Appointment scheduling for attendees
  • Attendee list distribution
  • Audience polling
  • CEU tracking
  • Concierge and local area information
  • Conference program and schedule
  • Content distribution — paper replacement (session handouts, course notes, exhibit literature)
  • Content distribution — video (YouTube, conference streaming media)
  • Cyber café replacement
  • Evaluations of speakers, sessions, overall conference and other activities/services.
  • Exhibit guide with interactive floor plan
  • Exhibitor management including interface with exhibit service contractor
  • Housing management (with interface with housing provider)
  • Hybrid and virtual meeting access
  • Lead exchange / integration with contact managers
  • Marketing and advertising of events and sub-events
  • Meetings logistics management while onsite (including attendees management, housing management, budget tracking, meetings specifications, and meeting spend tracking)
  • Membership management
  • Messaging for events (SMS, email, group announcements, etc.)
  • Networking / social media / friend finding (event and location-based
  • Product and merchandise sales with micropayment capabilities
  • Registration
  • Revenue generation from exhibitor, sponsor, and local business advertising
  • Mobile team building exercises at events
  • Show contractor /supplier communication and logistics
  • Site inspection check-list
  • Social media onsite integration (for white label apps, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter)
  • Sponsor ad revenue (with full tracking)
  • Surveys Ticketing and access control
  • Transit tracking (flight tracking, light rail times, etc.) and other business travel tools
  • Treasure hunts and other games to stimulate exhibit hall flow
  • Way-finding and mapping (through exhibit hall, venue, nearby attractions, city)

Beyond these features, however, there many tangible benefits that mobile technology will bring to event organizers, exhibitors and attendees. Here are a few of them:

Real-time distribution and access to all conference information: Paper conference programs, exhibition guides, and announcements go out of date almost immediately after they are printed — conferences are fluid and things change! Mobile guides and other conference information can be changed on the fly assuring that attendees have instant access to the current information in a manner that is faster, lighter and easier to access. Event managers can send alerts of significant program changes as well.

Better way-finding through interactive maps, floor plans and location-based services: Attendees often need assistance in finding their way around a venue, an exhibit hall and the neighborhood surrounding the meeting venue. There are a range of mapping and GPS tools that can help. Some of the advanced mobile exhibit applications (such as Core-Apps.com and Sherpa-Solutions.com) can even pinpoint attendees locations in the exhibit hall and guide them through the hall finding the most efficient path between exhibit booths. Adding to this will be augmented reality applications (such as Google Googles) which will layer additional information on phone-cam screens simply by pointing the phone camera at places where attendees want to know more information about.

Environmentally friendly: Events are often awash in paper: program guides, session handouts, course notes, exhibit directories, exhibit brochures, surveys, events specifications and more. These documents can be accessible more efficiently in mobile platforms. With the upsurge of iPads and other tablets, people will annotate these documents as well. Mobile devices documents are lighter, easier to use, quicker to access, cost nothing to print/ship and are much more environmentally friendly that paper documents.

Enhanced onsite networking: Social mobile networking apps (meeting industry-specific apps such as Pathable.com and Dub Events), the big three social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and the location-aware apps (such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places) provide completely new networking channels for events. One good contact can often be worth the entire price of the meeting, and these tools will help bring people together to make these contacts.

Also, savvy meeting planners and venue managers are now monitoring the event tweet stream (Twitter comments around a specific event) as the fastest way of being notified of a problem during an event.

Real-time feedback through surveys and polling: Paper surveys for speaker and meeting evaluations are laborious to tally – so much so that they usually are done after the event. Web-based surveys sent via email links also are usually sent after the event. In either case, the data received is too late to make mid-course corrections during an event. Mobile surveys are automatically tallied in real-time while the information is fresh. If a session bombs, or if there are other problems, there are opportunities for corrections during the rest of the meeting by using this survey feedback during the conference.

Audience polling keypads, although they are very helpful feedback tools, tend to be expensive ($3-12/person/day). As mobile polling apps (such as PollEverywhere.com, Validar.com, Zukuweb.com, and others) move into this space, attendees can use their phones to vote or respond to speaker questions via text messages, mobile-web based polling tools or even Twitter. Additionally, there is the ability to send questions to the speaker, allowing input from audience members who are not ”brave enough” to ask questions aurally. Often, these tools are at a fraction of the cost of keypads and sometimes for free.

Enhanced branding: Mobile apps are hot and give the impression of being up-to-date technologically — they are a great way of event branding! It won’t be very long where, if an event does not use mobile applications, attendees will be wondering why the conference is behind the times.

Cost reductions and new revenue streams from sponsorships and advertising: As has been mentioned, there are many ways mobile apps can cut costs while providing enhanced onsite services. In additions, there are many potential revenue sources from exhibitor and sponsor advertising. Several mobile companies have business models where there are no direct costs to the show/event organizer. They rely instead on revenue from exhibitor sponsorship.

Better analytics: Mobile apps have the ability to track page views and other attendee activity. Some mobile application provide extensive data analytics of attendee behavior, which can be invaluable for improving future events. Page view data regarding specific exhibit products can also be invaluable for exhibitors providing connections to attendees who are specifically interested in a product or services.

Better onsite management tools:  Gone soon may be the days where you can identify the meeting planner as the person who is carrying around a 4” 3-ring binder full of paper specifications and event orders at the event. Event-related apps for iPads and tablets may change this. Ootoweb.com offers a “paperless meeting binder” for meeting planner to carry around related documents converted to .PDF files on an iPad and iPhone. Future versions will include other tablet operating systems and will have ability to change, annotate and easily share these files.

Better CRM:  The current barcode lead retrieval model used at many tradeshows is broken. It is one way (attendee to exhibitor); location based (at the booth); it costs the exhibitors substantial sums; and is not standardized in terms of data collection. Other methods, such as business card exchange have paper-based inefficiencies.

Why can’t all attendees collect important contact information from any other attendee in a standardized method electronically anywhere at the event? There are several mobile apps providers (such as Dub and BusyEvents) that are working in this direction. The next generation of iPhone, it is rumored, will have near-field communication (NFC), a cross-mobile platform that will allow quick, standardized exchange of contact information as well as micro-payment and mobile commerce capabilities. This will likely push this technology to wide-spread usage providing much more efficient ways of business contact exchange at events and tradeshows.

Enhanced attendee and exhibitor experiences: The bottom line is that mobile applications are offering a wealth of new capabilities that will increase the business value of events. It will make the lives of meeting planners easier; it will reduce costs; and will provide richer experiences for planners, venues managers, exhibitors and attendees alike.

____________________________________________

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on 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 can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and followed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/corbinball.

Eleven Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2011

September 16, 2010

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.

1. Web-based software increases meeting planning ease and options.

The web has been the driver for much of the technology change we have seen in the last decade. The days of shrink-wrapped, custom-installed meeting software programs are gone — they now delivered over the web. With the development of web services, a communication standard enabling different web programs to work together, the ability to exchange attendee, exhibitor, and member data has never been easier. Rich-internet applications are giving desk-top functionality to these programs. In short, the web is providing software for nearly every aspect of the meeting planning process in a manner that is cheaper and easier to use than ever before. See http://www.corbinball.com/bookmarks/ for 1400 categorized meetings technology products in 40 categories, most of them web-based, as examples.

2. Freeconomics – the rise of free or low cost meetings and tradeshow software is increasing.

Another benefit of the web software distribution is that it is more efficient than “shrink-wrapped” software. With the plummeting costs for data storage and bandwidth, the cost for web software delivery is going down as well. There are now many meetings and tradeshow technology products that are free (with ads or upselling as a business model) or substantially lower prices than they have been in the past. See http://bit.ly/atMwXp for many examples.

3. Mobile apps for meetings are exploding.

Mobile apps are hot! This 2010 has seen hundreds of new mobile phone apps benefiting meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors – and many more are in the pipeline! Smart phone “micro-computers” are increasingly being used for networking, lead exchange, electronic ticketing, way finding, audience polling, surveys, pocket programs, pocket exhibit guides, course notes/literature collection and much more. A new website www.meetingapps.com has come online to track them.  2011 will see many of these tools working into mainstream conference use and many new ones emerge. See http://bit.ly/bEQuqu for many examples.

4. Location-aware applications are finding their way to meetings.

A hot area in mobile development is location-based or geo-position based applications. In the context of meetings, attendees are business travelers who need way-finding information as well as location-based networking. There are many applications that can help with meetings:  Google Goggles (currently only for android phones) can help with identifying landmarks, restaurants and other places of business using photo recognition and augmented reality (a layering  of web information over a phone cam image based on GPS and compass data).

Foursquare and Gowalla are networking and social review mobile apps designed to encourage loyalty at restaurants, bars and other local businesses are beginning to be used at meetings. Specific business networking tools such as Sipity (www.sipity.com) using location-aware services have direct application to events. Facebook, the 800 pound gorilla has just entered into this space (http://www.facebook.com/places) and will likely have a major impact.

We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of location-aware services and augmented reality applications for meetings. These will have huge potential in the future.

5. iPad and tablet PCs displaying options for meetings and events will be increasingly used.

As the iPhone lead the way for a whole new genre of mobile phones, the iPad will lead the way for a wide range of touch-sensitive, tablet-like PCs in a wide range of formats. Dell, for example, is coming out with two “Streak” tablets with an Android operating system in 7” and 9” versions. The Microsoft booklet PC (two 7” touch screens that fold like a book) is another proposed option on the drawing boards. Several others are on the way.

These highly portable, easy-to-input-while-standing (or walking) tools will be a natural for meetings: for surveys, for lead qualifications, for interactive displays at booths, for meeting planners to access specification data, for attendees to view streaming event video, for distribution (and annotation) of session handouts for attendees, and for a larger-version of the hundreds of mobile apps currently being developed for meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors. Companies such as Quickmobile (www.quickmobile.com) have iPod meeting apps available (conference schedule, polling, course notes/transcriptions) in a very nice format. Ootoweb (www.ootoweb.com) has integrated its online registration with an iPad app allowing planners access to meeting status, documents, and attendees on the go.

6. HD video for hybrid meetings will bloom.

Skype newest 5.0 beta version provides 760p high definition video conferencing at no charge (as well as the ability for four simultaneous callers). This is just one way that HD will lead the way to jump in hybrid meetings and speakers presenting remotely at events.

The price has plummeted, and with increasingly more reliable internet connections, the reliability is good.

On the high-end, Starwood and Marriott hotels are building public telepresence suites to provide full-size, high definition face-to-face virtual meeting spaces for small groups to meet virtually in dozens of cites with more to come: http://bit.ly/QV7n7

7.  Social media is working into the mainstream for events.

Social media continues to be a huge driver for change at meetings. Meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors are all getting their feet wet, but most have not figured out how to integrate fully a social media strategy into their marketing mix.

This coming year will see increased usage of the “big 3” – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – for event marketing with efforts in increase attendee engagement before, during and after the event. Twitter in particular, with its 140-character limitation making it a natural for mobile use at events, will see continued growth.

Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) and other social media aggregators will be used increasingly as meeting professional try to manage multiple accounts more effectively.

This is an extremely dynamic and quick-changing field. It will not be surprising to see a new platform will emerge to take a strong position, merge with or unseat one or more of the ‘big 3.”

8. Online collaboration tools will begin to replace email as a primary project management tool for events.

Email was invented forty years ago, and as means of project management for meetings, is not efficient. It is interruptive, often incomplete, it is difficult to manage a stream of multiple conversations, and people are often not on the same page with document versions.

Meeting professionals need a better way of managing these data!

Wikis (collaborative websites) will emerge as much more efficient ways of tracking conference logistics and other details among geographically distributed meeting planners and suppliers. Free tools such as Google Docs will play a role as well as other web-based project management wikis.

9. Speaker and content management systems are being adopted.

There are many tasks in setting up programming for large events:

*   Sending out requests for speaker proposals
*   Speaker selection
*   Arranging programs into tracks
*   Collecting speaker information (bios, AV requirements, session handouts, photos)
*   Providing presentation visuals onsite in multiple locations with multiple presenters.
*   Distributing session handouts
*   Capturing/redistributing presentations (video/audio/presentation visuals) at meetings
*    And more…

Historically, each of these has been a separate task, each with lots of data management required.

Fortunately, there are a number of companies (including Content Management Inc. www.cmcgc.com, OmniPress www.omnipress, One World Presentation Management www.owpm.com and others) that combine most or all of these tasks under a unified system greatly increasing the efficiency.

With the increased ease of networking in large convention venues, these systems will become standard operating procedures for large, multi-session events

10. Strategic meetings management and ROI measurement is expanded and refined to improve meetings.

Strategic meetings management programs (SMMP) have been used historically by large corporations to reduce meeting spend by using tighter controls on procurement of sleeping rooms, meeting space and other meeting services.

There is good news along this front:

·         There are several companies who are developing web-based SMMP tools with a range of pricing models (including Certain Software www.certain.com, Cvent www.cvent.com, and SignUp4www.signup4.com).  The increased competition in this field will provide better meeting procurement tools at lower costs to a wider range of companies and associations – not just for the ‘Fortune 500’ anymore.

·         SMMP programs are being refined. It is no longer just about reducing meeting spend. There is work using Lean Six Sigma framework (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Sigma) to improve the business process. Originally designed for manufacturing, this process focuses on increasing efficiency by reducing waste, rework, and activity that does not add value to increase value added activity.

·         The communication pathways set up to track meeting spend and also be used to measure and track meetings ROI (return on investment). Additionally, ROI measurement tools are being offered with pricing tiers for small meetings and event on an individual attendee basis. For example, MeetingMetrics (www.meetingmetrix.com) has just introduced MyROI designed to provide attendees measurement tools to track their personal return on investment from meetings attended.

11. 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 is down in these economically challenging times. However, meetings and tradeshows can still provide the best 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 Wordwide Technology Watch for meetings technology innovation for the past seven years. He can be contacted at his extensive web site:www.corbinball.com

Freeconomics” – The Rise of Free or Very Low Cost Meetings and Tradeshow Software

July 15, 2010

We are going through a major technology transformation — we are moving from shrink-wrapped software to the web as a major means of software distribution. With the price of data storage, computer processors and bandwidth plummeting, this is leading to low cost and free tools for meetings and trade shows.

Web-based software is more efficient than shrink-wrapped software in a number of ways:

  • It does not require local installation, network configuration, local customization, local firewall protection and local backup – everything is stored, backed, virus-protected and updated remotely, usually in highly secure data farms.
  • The only requirement is a web browser and internet access — this makes the programs accessible 24/7 anywhere there is an internet connection. This lends naturally to event workers who typcially are in out-of-the office locations.
  • The web is cross-platform: A PC, a Mac, a Linux operating system, and mobile platforms can access the data.
  • With the plummeting costs for data storage, processors and bandwidth, costs are substantially lower than shrink-wrapped.

This is leading to many free web tools to market, manage and improve events.

This posting will cover a several new free or lower-cost web tools to manage events and tradeshows, and will discuss things to look for in the “freeconomic” world.

FloorplanGenie: Free floor plan management tool from A2Z
http://www.a2zinc.net/show6/public/ShowPressRelease.aspx?PRId=108
A2Z has just released a full-featured tradeshow management floor plan tool including the following features:

  • Exhibitor database integration
  • Real-time, online interactive floor plan with color-coded booths
  • Merge, split, delete, revive, resize, rename and renumber booths easily
  • Manage non-exhibit space including meeting rooms, registration area, etc.
  • Reporting engine for custom exhibitor reports, booth inventory and change logs
  • Print wizard for custom scale, camera-ready, high-resolution printouts
  • Contractor access to real-time floor plans, exhibitor lists, booth inventory and change logs

There are no hidden costs or add-on fees, and this is not a free trial. The only limitations are that it can be used for a maximum of three shows per year and that the minimum show size is 10,000 net square feet.

BabyCAD – free exhibit booth design
http://www.babycad.com
BabyCAD provides a nice set of exhibit booth design tools with the ability to print out in PDF format. It is very easy to use and free to try. If you would like to save the files and use your own branding, it is $39/month.

OotoWeb: Online attendee management/registration and mobile meeting management
http://www.ootoweb.com/
Although this is not free, the attendee management tool is substantially lower cost than most other web registration products. Veteran designers from the pioneer meetings technology company SeeUThere have built a new attendee management/online registration product using state-of-the art web technology. It looks very easy to use, but can handle large, complex events. It has full mobile integration so planners can access all attendee/housing data from an iPhone.  The pricing is free for the first month and then only $49/month per user thereafter with no transaction fees. This is substantially lower than traditional web registration vendors which charge per transaction (an average of $6 per registration).

DimDim web conferencing
http://www.dimdim.com
This web conferencing/collaboration product is similar to WebEx or GoToMeeting, but is free for up to 20 users, only $25/month for up to 50 people. Additional people or features such a HD video and recording features can be added on – but usually at a price that is less than half of WebEx.

Skype high-definition and multiple person video conferencing.
http://www.skype.com
The newly released Skype 5.0 beta version allows 5-way group video conference calls as well as high definition (HD) capabilities. This opens up the potential for free or near-free telepresence-like capabilities and will be a natural for developing low-cost hybrid events and video conference participation by speakers. Skype makes money though Skype-Out, Skype Manager and other VoIP (voice over the internet) phone offerings.

MogoTIX — Free mobile ticketing solution for events
http://www.mogotix.com
MogoTix provides mobile event ticketing using QR (Quick Response) codes. It is free for events where no fee is charged and $0.99/ticket + 2.5% of the ticket value ($9.95 maximum/ticket) for those events selling tickets via credit card or Paypal.

Free audience polling from Poll Everywhere
http://www.polleverywhere.com
Traditional audience polling keypads rent for about $10/keypad/day. Poll Everywhere uses mobile phone text messaging (similar to American Idol) to accomplish a similar result. It integrates fully with PowerPoint making it easy for presenters to use. Pricing is free for up to 30 poll participants, $15/month for 50 participants and up.

Free wikis (interactive websites) and group collaboration tools
http://wave.google.com and http://docs.google.com
Google provides a great set of free collaboration tools that are far superior to standard email for managing hundreds or thousands of event logistics details. See http://tinyurl.com/2bxeova for more details.

Mobile apps for meetings
http://www.corbinball.com/articles_technology/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artID=7856
This is one of the hottest areas of software development with hundreds of applications applicable to meetings – and several of them free.

Social media to manage and market events
http://www.corbinball.com/articles_technology/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artID=6680
This is another very rapidly growing software market, with most of the application free and most of the having direct applications for marketing and managing meetings.

Free site selection database
http://guest.cvent.com/rfp/default.aspx?wt.mc_id=CSN_Venues_Btn
Cvent provides a free searchable online database of over 100,000 event venues and service providers allowing planners to search detailed profiles of event venues and service providers, send Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to the most qualified meeting suppliers and then compare bids, supplier details and availability with side-by-side reports. Funding is made through vendor enhanced listings.

Is there such a thing as a free lunch?

These are just a few of the free and low cost meeting technology tools available. Many may ask, is ‘free’ too good to be true?

Companies need to be profitable to survive, and very few offer free tools out of pure altruism. As these tools become part of the meeting planning process, it will be important for planners to look at each company’s business model to judge whether that specific ‘freeconomic’ model is viable. Is their company stable? Will they be around through my event, next year and beyond? What will happen if they change options or drop services?  All these questions need to be asked before building into your business process.

The good news, however, is that it appears that the price of meeting planning technology is dropping along with the cost of computers and data storage. There will be more options as a lower price than ever before.

©2010 Corbin Ball Associates

2010: The Meetings Technology Revolution – Are We There Yet???

March 3, 2010
I recently attended a concert in the small city where I live, Bellingham, WA. Before the music began, I noticed a teenage daughter, mother and grandmother sitting in front of me. I heard a phone ring and watched the 70+ year-old grandmother reach into her purse to for her iPhone. She adroitly answered the call and then, as an afterthought, used the phone to take a picture of her family members before turning off the ringer and putting it back into her purse.

This brief observation got me thinking.

I have said many times over this course of my career that technology needs to be easy enough for your grandmother to use in order for it to be fully adopted into the business process.  Ease of use is THE key to adoption!

The question arose as I watched the grandmother user her iPhone, have we finally arrived in terms of using technology? Has technology become pervasive enough and easy enough to use, that society has made it over this adoption hurdle? Are we there yet???

Society’s Technology Adoption:

Society is making progress in this digital revolution to adopt technology:

  • Most people in business in the industrialized world have broadband internet access, a website and an email address.
  • The mail box has given way to the email box… the yellow pages have given way to web pages… classified ads have given way to Craig’s List.
  • Most people have text-enable mobile phone at the minimum and an increasing number (especially business travelers) have web-enabled “smart” phones.
  • These smart phones are quickly morphing into “widgets” (wireless internet devices for geo-positioning, ecommerce and telecommunication) far more capable than mere “telephones.”
  • Computers have become much easier to use than just a few years ago. What once was “plug and pray” now truly has become “plug and play.” Many applications are web-based and easier to use.
  • Google is the first stop for research for many or most people in the industrialized world.
  • More than 350 million people are using Facebook – if it were a country it would be the third largest country in the world behind India and ahead of the United States.
  • Television has gone digital – one more step in the convergence of all data to IP (internet protocol) based systems.

In general, the technology infrastructure (broadband, the web, computers, mobile phones) has been built.  Applications have become easy enough that most people (even grandmothers) can use them and society is adopting quickly many of these new technologies. 

Meeting Professionals’ Adoption:

The meetings industry has not been especially known for its early adoption of technology. However, things are changing rapidly.

Here is where we are now:

  • Online registration has become commonplace.
  • Online housing is common for meetings, especially for large, multi-property room blocks events.
  • Speaker management tools are used by many associations for their large, multi-session conferences.
  • Exhibition management and show floor plan applications are widely used – especially for the larger tradeshows.
  • Web-based video and web conferencing tools have become easy to use, inexpensive and reliable adding virtual meetings as another tool in the meeting planner’s tool chest.
  • There are hundreds of applications to help manage web sites, scheduling, banquet seating, event logistics, procurement, site selection, surveys/audience polling, travel and more. Increasingly these are being incorporated into the business process of running events.
  • Hundreds, if not thousands, of mobile phone applications are emerging to make meetings more efficient for planners, suppliers and attendees.
  • Meetings planners are beginning to use social media tools to connect with suppliers, attendees, exhibitor and other stakeholder to manage, market and improve events.

Where do meeting professionals need still need to go with technology adoption?

Despite these advances, we still have a ways to go. Here are some key steps that must be done for this technology revolution to be fully implemented.

  • Eliminate nearly all paper in your office: One of the quickest ways to identify organizational inefficiencies it to look for the paper, and work out digital methods to manage these data. Paper (and flat files such as Word/Excel) are still central to many meeting planners processes: especially for event logistics and supplier procurement. Paper and Word docs are terrible ways of storing, using and sharing event logistics data! Alternatively, web-based processes for planning tasks can put everyone one the same page.
  • Eliminate nearly all paper at your events: Meetings and tradeshows have historically been awash with paper onsite as well (for programs, exhibit guides, exhibit brochures, course notes, and others). Technology can provide more efficient ways of accessing and transporting these data, it will help reduce the environmental footprint as well.
  • Eliminate email as a significant logistics communication tool for events: Invented 40 years ago, email is interruptive, non-threaded, and inefficient – especially for tracking the thousands of details surrounding events. Wikis (online, collaborative websites) and new collaboration tools such as Google Wave can provide all documentation sequentially in the same place and are much richer and more efficient ways to sharing meeting data.
  • Meetings technology companies should step up to the plate and incorporate APEX standards for meetings logistics: Millions of dollars have been spent and tens of thousands of people have met in working groups to develop meeting industry standards. Yet, APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange from the Convention Industry Council) standards are not fully implemented (especially in the very time-consuming process of exchanging event logistics data).  The meetings technology companies must step up to the plate to provide the connecting tools to make this happen. The CIC should not be the technology developer or provider and should emphasize the open nature of standards allowing all technology companies to participate. Both planners and suppliers need to push for standards with their technology suppliers.
  • Figure out social media and use them to engage attendees and improve event content: Meeting professionals are just getting their toes wet with social media. There are huge opportunities for meetings to use the wide range so social media tools (social networking, video sharing, slide sharing, blogs, podcasts, social review sites, social calendaring, social bookmarks sites and more) to engage prospective attendees before/during/after an event. They can be used to market, design and manage events. They can be used to make better purchasing decisions. This drastic change from business as usual will feel uncomfortable to many, but, like it or not, this is the direction things are going.
  • Transform your event website (and other sites) from Web 1.0 (static) to Web 2.0 (interactive): Meeting attendees and association members will increasingly expect the ability to interact with you online… to respond to blog posts, to make suggestions for meeting content, to engage with speakers, to consume a variety of content, on their terms when and how they want it.  Associations are among the original means of networking. Meetings are the original social media. Social media tools at your website are a natural fit.
  • Embrace mobile technology: Mobile devices, a huge emerging force for meeting technology change, will be used for registration, micropayments, lead exchange, way-finding, surveys, ticketing, networking, audience polling, and more. Move your company toward the adoption of these tools for events

The benefits of this technology revolution include more efficient and less expensive meetings with greater impact. As we move into a decade where technology infrastructure has been built and technology is easy enough to use that your grandmother can do it, we need to take these final steps to fully digitize our business processes. Digital Darwinism is alive and well and the “race” for meetings and tradeshow business will often go to those who use technology to be nimble, reduce cost and provide superior customer service.  We’re not quite there in terms of full digital adoption, but we are making progress.

©2010 Corbin Ball Associates

Google Wave for collaborative note taking at events

December 30, 2009

Google Wave, an emerging real-time online collaboration software by Google, will have very significant applications for meetings. Think of it as email, SMS, text messaging, file/photo sharing, a wiki and much more combined. My next blog posting and my newsletter will focus on several of these options. In the meantime, a great introductory video about Google Wave can be found below:

Google Wave was used for collaborative note taking at a recent ECOMM conference. This will be one of many applications including:

  • Developing a collaborative meeting agenda
  • Meeting invitations
  • Group brainstorming
  • Back-channel conversation tool (such a Twitter) for events
  • Group reports and follow up
  • Photo and file sharing for events
  • Conference feedback

The video below shows how the collaborative note taking was done.

More on this topic can be found at: http://www.corbinball.com/articles_technology/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artID=7514

10 Questions for Meetings Technology Providers: Mingle 360

November 3, 2009

 This is a first in a series of posts asking 10 questions from meetings technology providers, specifically focusing on meetings technology innovation.  Let me know what questions you would like to ask and what technology products you would like to cover. 

 As in independent consultant, I have never accepted a cent of commission on the sale of any meetings technology product. The reason I am making this post is to increase awareness of how meetings technology innovation can improve the meetings process.

Corbin

________________________________________________________________________________

 10 Questions for Mingle 360

1.    What is your company name?

Mingle360 (www.mingle360.com) is our company name and we were founded in 2006.

2.     Briefly, what is the background and/or history of your company?

The co-founders of the company are Dan Coffing, Lou Bonfiglio, and Bradley Blinn.  Back in 2006, we came up with the idea of the electronic business card.  At that point in time, MySpace was very popular while Facebook was exclusive to the college market.  Our innovative idea turned into the MingleStick product.  We filed our patents back in 2006 and raised investment capital shortly thereafter. 

We quickly realized the MingleStick has a variety of applications, but it was important to focus on a specific industry.  Tradeshows and conventions were an obvious fit based on our personal experiences with exchanging business cards and making introductions and connections at events.  We simply thought to ourselves “there has to be a better way!”

3. What is your product?Mingle360 has two main products for the tradeshow and convention industry:  The MingleStick and The MingleStation.   

The MingleStick is a small keychain device that enables two people to connect with each other with a click of a button.  The simplicity of the device is its strength – its only one button!  The MingleStick can be distributed to all attendees at an event – this ubiquity combined with its simplicity makes the MingleStick an extremely powerful networking tool for attendees and exhibitors.  Imagine a convention or tradeshow with 10,000 people and giving ALL participants the ability to network with exhibitors and each other with a simple click of a button.  This is incredibly powerful!  A person could easily make hundreds of mingle connections.  Event organizers create a unique and memorable experience that helps differentiate their event from the competition.  For more information about the MingleStick, visit: http://www.mingle360.com/faq_answers/the_minglestick.html

minglestick

The MingleStation is a small countertop unit that acts like a simple lead retrieval unit.  Instead of traditional name badge scanning, attendees walk up to the MingleStation and ‘click to connect’ with the exhibitor’s MingleStation.  Attendees like this experience because they feel in control.  Exhibitors benefit from the station because they don’t have to be present in order to facilitate the connection.  For example, the exhibitor might be talking with another customer or stepped away from their booth, but the attendee can still connect with the company by clicking their stick with the station.  For more information about the MingleStation, visit:  http://www.mingle360.com/faq_answers/the_minglestation.html

minglestation

The MingleStick and MingleStation products create a powerful networking solution for both attendees and exhibitors.  The connections made in person are uploaded online whereby attendees and exhibitors can view contact information and profile pictures (facial recognition) of the people and companies they met.  People can message each other online and share their favorite social networking profile pages found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others.  Additionally, online document sharing enables exhibitors to present a wealth of information to interested attendees.  All in all, the Mingle360 solution extends the life of an event by turning real-world conversations into online connections.  Relationships are formed as a result of these connections, thus increasing the perceived value of the event.

4.     How does it fulfill a need or a problem?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the MingleStick and MingleStation help facilitate networking at events.  When people are looking to meet, greet, and network with each other, the MingleStick is a perfect solution.  Companies spend a lot of money to attend tradeshows, conventions, and business meetings with the goal of networking, building a sales pipeline, enhancing customer relationships, and more.  This involves personal human interaction and the MingleStick helps people engage each other. 

The following are key features and benefits associated with the MingleStick:

  • Conversation Starter:  The MingleStick is a great ice breaker at events.  Because it helps stir conversation, it enhances networking at events.  The MingleStick creates a social environment for business professionals.
  • Simplicity:  The MingleStick is a one-button device.  Just press the button to make a connection – it’s as simple as that!
  • Facial Recognition:  When you mingle with lots of people, you login to view your connections.  In addition to viewing contact information, profile pictures are displayed to help recall the conversations you had with each person. 
  • Save Time Typing:  The MingleStick is akin to an electronic business card.  No need to type in the contact information of 25, 50, 100+ people.  Just mingle with them and login to your online account to view their information.
  •  Go Green:  The MingleStick reduces the need for business cards.  At a recent Jiffy Lube event, 700 attendees created over 30,000 mingle connections!  That would be a LOT of business cards!
  • Data Export:  We allow a person to easily export their mingle data into a CSV file.  This allows people to use Salesforce.com, Outlook, or any contact management program they desire.  

5.     What is your unique selling proposition? What differentiates you from the competition?

Our unique selling proposition is the following:

 For event organizers:
– Mingle360 offers revenue, branding, and buzz.  Revenue can be generated because the event organizer can monetize our platform by selling sponsorships and MingleSticks.  It’s very feasible for organizations to generate profit with our solution.  Event organizers can choose to brand the MingleStick with their own colors and logo.  Because the MingleStick is a new technology, people are excited to use the MingleStick and it creates buzz at the event.  Creating digital connections with a click of a button and integrating with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. creates curiosity, excitement, and incredible value.  Event organizers and meeting planners looking for that competitive edge and ‘wow factor’ can turn to the MingleStick.

For attendees:
– An enhanced networking experience
– Electronic capture of mingle connections (no business card exchange needed)

For exhibitors:

– A new way for lead capture and retrieval.  The MingleStick and MingleStation solution offers facial recognition to help remember the conversations with attendees.

For sponsors:

– The opportunity to brand the MingleSticks with your company name and colors for maximum exposure at the event.  Companies can associate themselves with an exciting technology that people will remember.

Our differentiation from the competition is the fact that we are bringing a new and innovative technology solution that can replace the way ‘old business’ was done.  Who needs to trade business cards and scan badges, when you have a MingleStick!?  Forward thinking companies love the MingleStick and see the benefits of bring innovative yet simple technology to their events for enhancing the networking experience.

6.     What audience(s) are you trying to reach?

The audiences we are trying to reach are meeting planners and event organizers for small, medium, and large events.  A corporate meeting with 100 – 250 people is perfect for the MingleStick.  Similarly, a large tradeshow of 50,000 people could create over 1 million mingle connections!  No matter what size event, the attendee experience can be greatly enhanced with the MingleStick.  When people look to meet, greet, and network with each other, the MingleStick is a great tool for enhancing networking at the event.

7.     Are there common misconceptions about your product or service?

 Sometimes event organizers don’t comprehend the entire revenue and branding opportunity with our platform.  It’s easy to think we’re a simple electronic business card, but our value proposition is much more.

 8.  Do you have an online demo of your product?

            To see how the MingleStick works, please watch this video:
            http://www.mingle360.com/video_minglestick_works.html

9.  Can you share success stories?

Our success stories are evidenced by our customer testimonials and reference letters.  Please check out the following:

Jiffy Lube Testimonials: http://www.mingle360.com/video_Jiffy_Lube.html

TS2 Testimonials: http://www.mingle360.com/video_TS2_Testimonials.html

ABA Testimonials: http://www.mingle360.com/video_aba_testimonies.html
Northeast Regional Carwash Convention:  http://www.mingle360.com/video_NRCC.html

Reference Letters:  http://www.mingle360.com/references.html

 10.     What is your contact information? Your web address?

            Bradley Blinn
            VP, Marketing
            703-425-0402 x511        

            bblinn (at) mingle360.com

            http://www.mingle360.com is our company website.

            http://www.minglestick.com is our product website.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

If your company would like to be interviewed for ’10 Questions,’  please contact me at corbin@corbinball.com

Using Social Media for Meetings and Events

September 14, 2009

Social media (sometimes referred to as Web 2.0) are changing meetings marketing and management with numerous benefits for meeting planners, exhibitors and attendees. These are imprecise terms, however, covering a wide range of technologies that are part of a sweeping societal and business change.

This blog post will cover many of the key components of Web 2.0 with an emphasis on their impact to meetings and events. The heart of Web 2.0 revolves around “you” – user generated content is transforming the web from static web pages to the participatory web. Here are some of the ways that this is happening:

Wikis
Wikis are interactive websites. The most widely recognized wiki is Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), a free online encyclopedia with more than 12 million articles in more than one hundred languages. Online users have generated all of the content on this very useful site.

However, one wiki application with a direct use for meeting professionals is Google Docs (http://docs.google.com) providing online free word processing and spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are excellent project management tools with great applications for events. Using Google Docs, one can import an Excel spreadsheet or create an online spreadsheet. The creator can then invite others or view or to edit this document. If someone makes a change in a cell of the spreadsheet, everyone will see the change immediately  — everyone is on the same page electronically! You don’t have to worry about emailing updated versions of the spreadsheet.

If you are a meeting planner collaborating with a staff member in a different location or onsite, or dealing with a supplier, consider using this wiki, a helpful free Web 2.0 project management tool.

Blogs
Blogs (web logs) are online journals typically written by an individual or a group. Typically the entries are dated with the most recent on top, and there is usually an opportunity for readers to make comments. There are millions of blogs. Technorati – (www.technorati.com) – the “Google” of blogs – will allow you search on just about any term and you will find people blogging about it.

Blogs can be useful for promoting meetings. Many meeting industry associations such as PCMA, MPI and ASAE have set up blog channels around their events to create interest, to get feedback and to build community. My personal experience with this was with the eMERGE Technology Showcase for IAEE. The speakers for this first time event agreed to post blog postings (http://emerge.iaee.com/2008/) about the subjects they were to speak. After several posting, the traffic to the website picked up, promoting the successful event using free blogging tools.

If you are interested in starting your own blog, Blogger (www.blogger.com) is a good, free place to start.

Podcasts
Podcasts are on-demand radio/video “talk shows” that can be accessed directly via your computer or downloaded to your iPod or other MP3 player. They are cheap to make and can be distributed essentially free via iTunes, other podcast distributer and/or via your website.

Podcast are also great promotional tools for events. Meetings are content generators. For example, interviewing upcoming speakers about their subject matter to create podcasts is way one to promote meeting attendance. If done properly, podcast will bring traffic to your website, generate business, and attract attendance to meetings.

YouTube and video distribution channels
Videos are hot. One of the best-known video distribution sites is YouTube (www.youtube.com) where you can upload videos free with millions of them available for everyone to see.

The classic example of a “viral video” – one that grew to millions of views through people sharing it is Will It Blend. BlendTec (www.willitblend.com) sells a very expensive blender that can grind up nearly anything. The company’s CEO, in a flash of brilliance, began posting inexpensive videos showing the blender grinding up unlikely objects (golf balls, marbles, 2x4s, and, in the height of the iPhone rollout mania, the iPhone) to YouTube. The original BlendTec iPhone video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg1ckCkm8YI&feature=channel_page) has generated more than 6.5 million views as people shared this link with friends — all for a production cost of about $600.

Meeting planners can use these free video distribution channels to promote meetings. Consider having your speakers create brief videos before the event discussing their topics. Interview satisfied attendees at your event to post with a link to and on your website.   These videos links will be clicked. They can promote the event in exciting and engaging ways all at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.

Social software
Social sites are currently the most visible component of Web 2.0.  MySpace (www.myspace.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), Plaxo (www.plaxo.com), and Xing (www.xing.com) are among the many sites where people are connecting for social and business purposes. I-Meet (www.i-meet.com) is a social network developed specifically to meeting professionals. All provide the opportunity to post your profile, picture, and a means of connecting with friends and colleagues.

Some may dismiss some of these sites as a waste of time where teenagers a sharing personal information. However, if you search on “meeting planning” you will find activity in all of them. They afford ways for meeting professionals to connect, to share experiences in new ways.

For example, Facebook Connect allows you to put a Facebook “button” on your registration web page with the heading “Want a discount? Invite your FaceBook friends and they will get a discount too!” The attendee clicks on the button opening his/her personal Facebook page to choose the friends desired. Everyone gets the discount, and the meeting host increases meeting attendance using this simple and free Facebook application. You will start seeing this soon with several attendee management technology providers.

Associations are creating Facebook pages around events to generate community and excitement around the events as well.

Additionally, specialized meeting industry networking applications such as Pathable (www.pathable.com) CrowdVine (www.crowdvine.com) and IntroNetworks (www.intronetworks.com) are integrating these social media tools to create social sites specifically designed around meetings.

Twitter and other mobile phone applications
Think of Twitter as “text messaging meeting the chat room.”  Users send postings (known as “tweets”) which are short messages (140 characters or less) usually about what they are doing. In this very open application, people can choose to follow anyone on twitter – which means when tweets are posted, they will see the postings of those they are following when they access the application.  For example, my Twitter page is www.twitter.com/corbinball.

This is important to meetings because it is primarily a mobile application. People are tweeting at meetings about their impressions and using it to connect to people with like interests. For example, the recent MPI MeetDifferent conference in Atlanta, the Twitter hashtag (Twitter search phrase) was #meetdifferent (be sure to include the “#” sign). If you search on this at http://search.twitter.com you can see all the tweets at the event.

Other mobile application companies such as Poll Everywhere (www.polleverywhere.com), VisionTree (www.visiontree.com), Zuku (www.zukuweb.com), QuickMobile (www.quickmobile.com) and Snipp (www.snipp.com) provide a range of onsite mobile phone networking, audience polling and information applications for meetings, tradeshows and events.

User-generated review sites
Review sites may ultimately have one of the greatest impacts on meetings and events and society.

An excellent example of this is Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) one of the most widely used sites for researching hotels.  These reviews usually give a much better picture of the hotel than you can get directly from the hotel website. The unvarnished impressions from hotel clients, usually with some good and some bad reviews, aid greatly in making purchase decisions. These review sites are emerging for almost any goods or services – Yelp (www.yelp.com) is one of the several that is used for restaurant reviews and many other services.

Several user-review sites have recently emerged designed specifically with the meeting planner in mind. MeetingUniverse (www.meetinguniverse.com), Meetings Intelligence Exchange (www.meetingsintel.com), MeetingsCollaborative (http://meetingscollaborative.com), and Elite Meetings (www.elitemeetings.com) are review sites for meeting planners with planner reviews of meeting venues and hotels. One of these sites may become the next “Trip Advisor” for the meetings industry. One thing is certain, however. If you are providing a service or a product to meeting planners, they will be reviewed at user-review sites and these will become increasingly important tools for meeting planners to make buying decisions.

These are just a few of the ways that Web 2.0 is changing the meeting planning landscape. Thanks to these applications, the web has become interactive making steadily changes how meetings will be marketed and managed. They will not only affect our lives as meeting professionals, but they will increasingly impact society in general.

© 2009 Corbin Ball Associates

Welcome to TechTalk Meetings Technology Blog

August 22, 2009

Corbin's TechTalk Meetings Technology Blog

I am starting this blog after 11 years (66 issues) of publishing TechTalk News. TechTalk News will stay on its two-month publishing schedule at www.corbinball.com/techtalk. With this blog I hope to distribute shorter content more frequently and to receive comments and feedback as well.

TechTalk Meetings Technology Blog will focus on meeting technology innovation with a place to share new sites,  cool tools, and musings on where technology should go for the events, tradeshows, meetings and hospitality industries.

Hope you  find it useful. Your comments and postings are welcome and please tell your friends.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers