Archive for the ‘Meeting planning tools’ Category

6 of 13 Meetings Technology Predictions for 2013

January 3, 2013

6.  Event Wi-Fi problems will get worse before getting better.

This demand for Wi-Fi at events is growing by high double-digit numbers each year. Tablet computers, on average, use 400% more bandwidth than other mobile devices and are becoming the fasted adopted technology hardware ever. Attendees have multiple mobile devices and expect the same broadband experience they receive at home and office – even though there may be thousands of people trying to access the Wi-Fi signal simultaneously. The recent Dreamforce Conference 2012 in San Francisco had over 10,000 simultaneous Wi-Fi users. The London Olympics logged more than 1 million Wi-Fi accesses on the BT network during the games. 5,000 attendees at the London Frieze Art Fair consumed more than t terabyte (1 thousand billion bytes of data).

The good news is that the technology exists to provide very high density delivery of Wi-Fi. Xirrus provides Wi-Fi arrays that can handle up to 1,792 simultaneous users from a single access point.
The bad news is that the equipment and bandwidth is expensive and many meeting venues are lagging far behind in the ability supply the increasing tsunami of demand. Both meeting planners and venue sales people need to educate themselves and, at times, each other on this very important, but technologically complex, issue. Two articles that can help are: Understanding the Internet Landscape at Hotels and Convention Centers — A Primer for Event Organizers and How to Discuss Your Event’s Wi-Fi Needs — A Primer for Event Organizers.


Meetings & Tradeshows– There’s A Mobile App for That!

December 30, 2012

In 2000, I made the following prediction at the CIC Forum in Washington DC:

“Mobile phones will morph into ‘widgets’ (wireless internet devices for geo-positioning, ecommerce and telecommunication).”

I went on to forecast that our phones will become web browsers, “Walkmen” (iPods were not invented yet), still/video cameras, GPS systems, email managers, calendar/contact managers, micropayment systems and more.

Here is the actual slide shown at the conference:

What fueled my interest was the potential that mobile applications held for meetings. Meetings are mobile and inherently in need of mobile technology to manage event data!

What a difference a decade makes! All these predictions have come true and mobile apps are now the hottest line of software development. There are hundreds of direct applications for events, tradeshows, associations and venues.  Here are several of the significant ones.

Multipurpose conference applications:

These “Swiss army knife” applications provide multiple tools bundled in one application:


Quick mobile was the mobile application for the MPI MeetingDifferent and will be for the MPI WEC. It also used at major film festivals including Sundance and Tribeca. Features include: full conference schedule, personal agenda building, area guide (with Frommer’s integration), search capabilities for attendees/speakers/exhibitors, integration with social media including Twitter/Facebook/Pathable and messaging. They build apps for the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android and mobile web providing greater ease of use than companies that provide only mobile web versions.

Follow Me

Follow Me was the mobile app for the 2010 Consumer Electronic Show, one of the largest shows in the tradeshow industry. Features include a full conference schedule, personal agenda builder, maps, exhibit hall way-finding (you are a dot on the map), course notes/literature pick-up, session alerts, Twitter integration, and sponsorship revenue sharing. They also build native apps for the major smart phones ( iPhone, Android, Blackberry) and mobile web for the rest.


Similar to QuickMobile and Follow Me, EventKaddy provide native apps for most  smart phones. Shows include the large 2010 Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, Features include full conference listings, customized attendee agenda building, attendee networking tools, interactive floor plans/maps, multimedia listings for exhibitors, digital coupons/brochures/course notes (in .pdf), conference alerts from show organizer to attendees, with extensive metrics.


EMA provides multiple-platform mobile web applications (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and mobile web) including conference agenda, exhibit directory, conference alerts, hotel information, local area resources, attendee messaging and social media integration.


Zerista is as an online networking/ business matchmaking tool, but as now put much of their emphasis on mobile networking apps. Their mobile community application Zerista Pro was used at the Mobile World Congress with more than 20,000 users. Features include mobile web meeting scheduler, attendee directory, personal profiles, attendee matching, social media integration (Twitter/Facebook), personal scheduler, full agenda, exhibitor directory, booth locator, virtual booths, floor plans, and local guides.  

Event Media Concept’s Mobile Concierge

Mobile web applications providing conference agenda, exhibit directory, conference alerts, hotel information with GPS mapping/star ratings, local area resources with GPS mapping, attendee messaging and social media integration.  Mobile web applications tend to be slower and not as user-friendly as native applications built for specific phones. On the plus side, nothing needs to be downloaded to have it work.


VisionTree is a service company focusing primarily on the pharmaceutical industry.  They provide mobile handsets similar to an audience polling service which can be supplemented by attendees mobile phones.  Features include audience polling, text Q&A, feedback forms, conference agenda, speaker bios.

A2ZInc’s ChirpE

A2ZInc has been a pioneer in web-based exhibit floor plan sales, mapping and management providing services for more than 600 shows per year. They are also developing a mobile application called ChirpE. This mobile web application includes a full conference agenda, event alerts, exhibit guide, exhibit floor plan, social media integration with LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter, and personalized agenda building.

A2Z has gone to great lengths to build a mobile platform that will work well with other mobile and web apps including strong matchmaking tools. They have also built some of the best social media integration and aggregation tools for mobile apps for the events industry.


This is another mobile web-based product with agenda, exhibitor information, basic surveys, searchable attendee list, basic city guide, and SMS alert sign-up.

Mission Software

Mission Software, based in the UK, has Mobile Phone Service providing a range of mobile web and on-demand text services for events including agendas, exhibit information, travel info, SMS messaging, and SMS voting.

Text messaging event information services:

Text messaging has some advantages. It is cheap, is accessible on virtually all mobile phones. Here are two similar products incorporating this technology:

SNIPP and XIPP www.xnip.comn

These two nearly identical products work like this: Identify everything of interest at an event (people, exhibit products, exhibit booths, course notes, articles, weblinks, etc.) with a unique ID code (e.g. A345B). Then text message this ID code to 76477 (S-N-I-P-P) for Snipp or 29292 (for Xnip). Then attendees can access the information collected anytime via a personal web page at the or websites. This provides inexpensive, paperless, and digital ways of accessing event information.

Audience polling and surveys:

Audience polling devices are a great way of stimulating attendee interaction and finding out what they are thinking. However, traditional keypads can be beyond the budget for many events (from $3-12/person/dar). Phone based polling/survey systems, although not as fast or capable as keypads, can be right for some events.

Traditional surveys methods are problematic. Paper surveys are inefficient in tallying and end in landfills. Web surveys often are captured days after the event when impressions are cold often resulting a low response rate. Alternatively, mobile survey tools are low-cost, low in environmental impact, efficient in data collection and capture the data while the impressions are fresh.

Here are several mobile survey products:

NearPod (
iPod and iPad applications for surveys, data collection, prize give aways, presentation tools, and metric tools with applications for meetings and trade shows.

Validar (

Validar is primarily an exhibitor lead management/intelligence company. Their SMS Survey product provides text messaging surveys at events. Ask attendees questions about the keynote speaker or solicit advice on which sessions met expectations and which fell short. Attendees can respond to surveys using any SMS-enabled device, such as a PDA, cell phone, or smart phone. This system has the capability to ask answer several questions with one text message, making it more convenient survey tool than those using a separate text message for every question.

Zuku (

Similar to Validar, Zuku provides low-cost text messaging (SMS) polling and Q&A. Responses can be projected live.

Plug and Poll (

Plug and Poll is a Dutch firm providing similar SMS polling services.

PollEverywhere (

PollEverywhere provides SMS polling and Q&A sessions. They also integrate with Twitter and mobile web responses, and, as with standard audience polling systems, results can be projected live. These polling questions can be integrated directly into a PowerPoint program making it easy for a speaker to use it. Try it for free for up to 30 responses.

Lead retrieval:

Traditional lead retrieval is one-way (from attendee to exhibitor), location bound (at the exhibit booth), and expensive for the exhibitor. Mobile lead exchange provides two-way, less expensive, digital ways to exchange contact information anywhere at the event.
DUB – Mobile Business Card Networking
This app was used at the South-By-Southwest 2010 (SXSW), the same Music and Media conference where Twitter debuted two years ago. This app works with iPhone and Blackberry (with Android, and Window Mobile Media coming) to exchange electronic business cards. It allows you to locate people near you at a conference or send your card via SMS or email. This automatically syncs with your phone address book and updates to contacts are updatee automatically. It also integrates with LinkedIn and Twitter.

Bartizan’s iLeads

Bartizan has been a traditional lead retrieval service for more than 30 years. Their new iPhone app is a tacit admission that the traditional lead retrieval model is on the way out. iLeads is an iPhone/iPad app giving each attendee at a tradeshow a unique 4-6 digit code printed in 16pt.font on their name badge. Those with access to the iLeads database (usually exhibitors) log into a specific event on their iPhone, type in attendee’s 4-6 digit code, and then can see (and record) the full contact information. There are built in qualifier questions, seven standard action codes and an area for notes. All leads are date/time stamped and, using the phone cam, a contact’s photo also can be attached.

Digital show guides:

A primary focus for these apps are on the exhibitor information and floor plan:

Taptopia (

Interactive maps, schedules, and exhibitor info for the iPhone and iTouch sold through the iTunes store.

Member management for associations:

Associations are moving to use mobile tools to provide member services. The major association management companies are expanding their product lines to include these options. Here is a stand-alone one:

VoracitySolutions: (
A range of membership and association mobile web management tools including member directory with full contact info, member photos, personal contacts, special interest groups, staff roster/contacts, and member alerts.

Attendee management:

This will likely be a hot development area where meeting planners will be able to access all online event registration and housing data through their mobile phones.

Ooto (

Otto is one such example. Veteran designers from the pioneer meetings technology company SeeUThere have built a revolutionary attendee management/online registration product. It has full mobile integration so planners can access all attendee/housing data from an iPhone. The registration product is free for the first month and then only $49/month thereafter with no transaction fees.

Venue and Location Concierges

These applications are designed for the venues to provide to attendees or hotel guests:

SwiftMoble (

This nicely designed iPhone application helps conference attendees at convention centers. The “myBCEC” app designed for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is a good example of what other venues could do.  The app contains a full, interactive venue map, local area restaurant/services information, the event calendar for the facility (with Twitter event hashtag links), transit information (including airport departures, traffic alerts, directions, parking information, subway alerts), a wide range of information about the venue (venue twitter feed, lost & found), and exhibitor information (utilities, AV, F&B, cleaning, etc.).

RunTriz (

RunTriz is a pocket concierge for hotels. Hotel guests can order room service, view the drink menu, contact housekeeping, receive messages from the hotel front desk, schedule a wake-up call, arrange transportation, and view local shopping, restaurants and nightlife. If you don’t have an iPhone, participating hotels will loan you an iTouch.

Geovative GeoTours (
Geovative provides destination marketing using multimedia GPS tours with mobile apps.

Micropayment Systems/Near Field Communication:

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range (about 4 in.) wireless communication standard used in Europe. Primarily designed for making quick payments, residents of Estonia, for example, can tap their phones on a parking meter or at a rapid-transit turnstile, making a immediate and easy transaction form the ‘e-wallet’ stored on their phone. Nokia and Samsung are among the phone manufacturers that currently offer NFC and there are rumors that the next generation of iPhone will have it as well. NFC provides great potential for meetings including lead exchange, electronic ticketing, and micropayments. If the new iPhone adopts this standard, NFC will become huge in the tradeshow arena.

ITN International (

ITN, a high-end registration company, is a pioneer in using NFC for events and tradeshows. They provide innovated capabilities for attendee tracking, lead data collection, event micropayment systems and more.

Consumer mobile apps with event applications:

Although this article focuses on event-specific mobile applications, there are few consumer app that bear a brief mention:

Foursquare and Gowalla

These location-aware mobile applications allow people to check-in at a location to network with others and to share with friends. Although originally used in restaurants, bars, etc. these are starting to be used for events.  Both were used at the 2010 South By Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin.


iPhone app to share contact information and photos.

WebEx Meeting Center

iPhone app to tap into schedule, attend and start WebEx online meetings


iPhone task management

Google Goggles

Built for Android phones, this product holds great promise for augmented reality applications. Simply point your phone cam at a restaurant or other object, and get a link to the website. Take a picture of a business card and it converts it to data in your mobile contacts… And much more!

These are just a few! There are likely hundreds more meeting-specific applications on the way and tens of thousands of consumer mobile apps that can help attendees, meeting planners, exhibitor and meeting suppliers at events and tradeshow.  Finally, these ‘widgets” have become a reality and much more will come.

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

The Paperless Conference Binder – Using Tablet Computers and iPads at Events

May 3, 2012

Meeting planners need to track a myriad of details at events (catering orders/guarantees, room/AV sets, staffing, exhibitor requirements, registration numbers, decorator details, entertainment, speaker requirements, transportation details, VIP requirements just to name a few). Meeting planners also spend much time at an event on their feet without easy access to computer files.

Consequently, meeting planners have commonly printed out key logistics documents including contracts, BEOs, and supplier arrangements to carry around in thick, heavy 3-ring binders – sometimes call “event bibles” containing all the event details. Planners regularly consult these “bibles” to make notations such as changes in meal guarantees, actual meal counts, schedule changes, etc. in order to keep a clear record of all activities, changes and problems occurring at an event.

As paper documents are heavy, difficult to search, difficult to back-up, difficult to share with multiple stakeholders, and require chopping down trees, there is a huge need to improve this process for planners.

Fortunately, with the advent of tablet computers such as the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android tablets and more than 100 other tablet computer providers, this problem is rapidly going away. Tablet computers have a large, high resolution screens that are perfect to view spreadsheets, event orders, and other event documents. The touchscreens are intuitive and easy to use. They are sleek, light (the iPad weighs about 1.4 pounds/.65Kg) making them easy to carry around and access at an event.

And the best news is that there are hundreds of thousands of apps available, many of them for low cost or free. Many of them can help planners transition from paper-based to digital document management at events. Listed below are some of my favorites

Low cost apps to replace the paper conference binder at events:


Originally developed for the iPhone, this app is much better suited for tablets with larger screens. With DocumentsToGo, tablet computers users can:

  • view, edit and create Microsoft Word, Excel PowerPoint files
  • view Adobe PDF files
  • view, edit and sync files stored in Google® Docs,, Dropbox, and cloud-based storage systems.
  • view and edit email attachments
  • use automated 2-way file synchronization with included desktop application with version revision history.

The downside is that this product requires an internet connection access the documents.

Price: US$9.99 for both iPad and Android OS.

iWork Pages
This streamlined word processor allows user to open, edit, save and email Microsoft Word files or convert them to RFT, PDF or .EPUB files. It also allows you to share your work on the web using cloud storage. Instead of printing out the Word document to carry around, Pages allows planners to access and edit them on the go using tablet computers.

Price: US$9.99 for iPad only.

iWork Numbers
Numbers does the same thing for Microsoft Excel spreadsheet as Pages does for Word allowing users to edit, save and email Microsoft Excel files or convert them to RFT, PDF or .EPUB files. Spreadsheets can be great project management tools to use at events. Numbers will allow planner immediate access to them at an event.


Price: US$9.99 iPad only.

PaperPort Notes for the iPad
PaperPort Notes is a very robust, free note taking tool for the iPad. Features allow users to:

  • take typed and/or free hand notes quickly and easily
  • use Dragon voice recognition to capture ideas and notes simply by speaking
  • use annotative tools to quickly markup documents
  • add audio page-by-page comments within the written notes
  • combine full documents, individual pages, content from the web and notes into a single document.
  • employ powerful search, copy/paste, reordering and bookmarking tools allow you to quickly navigate your notes while staying organized
  • access and share content using your favorite cloud storage services

This product is especially strong to annotate Adobe .PDF documents – the type of file that iPad natively handle well.

Price: Free, iPad only

This great note taking tool syncs seamlessly with your computer, phone, tablet computer and the web.  Features include the ability to:

  • sync all notes across the computers and devices you use
  • create and edit text notes, to-dos and task lists
  • save, sync and share files
  • record voice and audio notes
  • search for text inside images
  • organize notes by notebooks and tags
  • email notes and save tweets to your Evernote account
  • connect Evernote to other apps and products you use
  • share notes with friends and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter
  • take photos and link to these notes

This app is perfect for a site inspection, using the iPad to take photos of the meeting rooms with voice notes and text annotation and is very useful as a general note taking tool as well.
Price: Free for iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS

Designed for real estate appraisers and agents, this tool could be used by planners during a site inspection. It allows for very precise room dimension diagraming. You can take notes, attach photos, and use a free-hand drawing tool as well.

Price: Free for iPad, iPhone, Android, and Tablet PC

This file sharing and synching utility allows users to create a sync files connecting all of your devices. The 
free  version starts at 2.5GB of storage which can be increased by inviting your colleagues to use it as well.

To use, simply drag the files you wish to sync into the Dropbox folder (as you would any other file folder on your computer). Any file dropped in this folder will sync automatically with the Dropbox folders installed on your other devices.

You can allow others access selected components of this folder if desired, making it very easy to share large files or to collaborate on documents together.

All standard Word, Excel, PowerPoint and .PDF files in a Dropbox folder can be viewed (but not edited) using the iPad or several other mobile devices.

I personally drag my PowerPoint deck and videos for my presentations to Dropbox before I fly out as a simple, easy backup in case of lost or stolen computer problems as these files are also accessible via the Dropbox web portal.

Price: Free for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, Android, Blackberry systems

Task is a simple online, mobile project management tool with features including the ability for you and your teammates to:

  • track leads
  • maintain client information
  • manage projects
  • track tasks and time
  • establish and maintain employee timesheets

Project management tools are a natural for events that have lots of timeline and project elements. This is one many emerging tools to help with this.
Price: Free for first month, $10/month/user thereafter for iPad and iPhone

Dragon Dictation
Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to speak into the microphone of your mobile device instantly converting your voice to text content. This can be used for note taking at events, dictation and other options. The recognition accuracy rate is quite high if you speak clear, accent-free English in a relatively quiet environment.

Price: Free for iPad and iPhone

These are just a few of the many apps available to help meeting professionals. There are many, many more to come with increasingly specialized applications for event professionals emerging daily.  Already, there are companies such as Ootoweb ( and Active Network ( providing iPad apps to integrate with their online registration and attendee managements systems. Many more are coming! Increasingly, meeting planners are trading in their thick three-ring binders full of paper for tablets and are coming into this century in how to manage event data while running events.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent 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: and followed at:

7 out of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Near Field Communication (NFC) continues to move into the meetings arena

October 26, 2011

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

7.  Near Field Communication (NFC) continues to move into the meetings arena

NFC provides simplified wireless data exchange and transactions using mobile devices in close proximity to each other, usually no more a few centimeters apart. It is expected to become a widely used system for making payments by smartphone in the U.S.

The applications for events are significant allowing for very fast, secure and simplified means of:

  • Electronic ticketing
  • Electronic business card exchange
  • Credit card payment
  • Easy pick up of conference literature, exhibit brochures, course notes, and other digital documents

NFC has been used in Europe for the past few years (I have personally seen people paying for packing meters and tram rides in Estonia simply by tapping their phone to the transaction device).  ITN International ( has successfully used NFC at events for some time including contact exchange, e-ticketing, and micropayments.

There are also companies such as using NFC to provide many of these features with a small, inexpensive (US$18), NFC-enabled “pokenTAG” that is worn around the neck and glows green when information is exchanged. 

The game changer, however, will be when NFC becomes commonly available in mobile phones. Blackberry’s three new Curve models are NFC-enabled as are dozens of Android phones and many Nokia phones. The tipping point, however, may be if the soon-to-be-released iPhone5 will offer NFC.  Whether it is this year, or next, NFC will provide much better and faster data exchange, ticketing and micropayment options for events.


Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is an independent 3rd-party analyst focusing on meetings and tradeshow 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: and followed on

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 ( 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,  Freeman, OmniPress, PSAV Presentation Services, Sonic Foundry, Digitell and Soma Media

More information and details on the benefits for conference recording can be found at the following article:

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: Although there will likely be a shakeout similar to the 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:

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 and

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 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:; free exhibition floor plan/sales tools (; a wide range of social media tools for promoting events (FacebookTwitterLinkedInYouTubeWordPressFlickrSlideshare, etc); free HD video conference tools (Skype and Google Hangout); free collaboration tools ( and; 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.

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 and 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 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,,, 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. 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: and followed on Twitter:

The Case for Content Capture for Events

March 14, 2011

A large, multi-session event is like a 3-ring circus. You work furiously putting the thousands of pieces together before the event. You work long and intense hours carrying out these plans onsite. And then you fold-up your “tent” and move on.

However, unlike a circus, events are about more than just entertainment – they are about learning and information exchange. A key question should be asked by event professionals: how can I maximize the learning at my event?

Fortunately, advances in conference capture and distribution technology are enabling meeting professionals to extend the reach and the life of their events and to increase the learning exchange to more people.

What is event content  capture?

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, pictured below is the Roland Systems Group ( VR-5 incorporating a video switcher, audio mixer, video playback, recorder, preview monitors and output for web streaming. What previously would have required crates of equipment has been shrunk into a 9 pound (4.3kg).box greatly simplifying the production, recording and streaming of live events.

With these advances, many companies have emerged to provide content capture and video streaming services for events at reasonable costs. In fact, in some cases, these costs can be offset or eliminated through the resale of the meeting content to a large audience on the web.

Why use content capture?

Large multi-session conferences are great content generators. So much money and effort is made in arranging speakers, meeting space, AV, room set-up, and more. Speakers strive to develop and deliver their content. Content capture and distribution tools allow this content to go beyond just those that are sitting in a specific meeting room. This content generated there can be distributed to a much larger audience in real time and on demand after the event.


Benefits of content capture include:

  • The ability to deliver content to larger audience through streaming a live event in real time.
  • An ability to deliver content after the event on demand as a refresher for those who attended the session.
  • An opportunity for those who attended the event but could not make it to the specific session to access the content.
  • An opportunity for those unable to attend the meeting to receive the content.
  • A marketing opportunity to show future attendees samples of the excellent content they would receive by attending the next meeting
  • An opportunity to add fresh, compelling web-site content throughout the year in build up for next year’s meeting.
Content Capture Companies:
Listed below are some of the significant companies offering these services (by no means comprehensive):
Clever Zebra
Content Management
Essential Event
PSAV Presentation Services
Sonic Foundry
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is an independent 3rd-party analyst focusing on meetings and tradeshow 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: and followed on

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 ( 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 ( 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.


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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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: and followed on Twitter: