By Claire Harrington
As technology makes the map smaller and flattens the world of hospitality, can the meetings and event industry of the 20th century rise to meet the demands of the 21st century attendee? Can your company? Can you?
The innovations available within the hospitality marketplace today have evolved beyond simple, one-service focused products to become pragmatic, sensible solutions for cost-conscious, productivity-oriented, data-hungry planners while simultaneously enhancing attendee engagement, communication, and satisfaction.
Event and meeting planners are currently experimenting with technology — but if we’re honest, many are only playing with event technology on the periphery. The application of digital innovation to the events world has the opportunity to completely transform how planners create their events and interact with their attendees.
A study by Frost and Sullivan found that mobile event apps increase attendee engagement by 33 per cent. In today’s world, attendees aren’t satisfied with good – they expect great. They could care less about wading through best practices – they want to be swimming in innovation.
They aren’t impressed by attendance — they want engagement.
The meetings industry is a delicate balance of innovators interested in technology and professionals who value face-to-face engagement. From creating mobile event registrations that include community forums to diagramming platforms that enhance face-to-face collaboration, startups worldwide are rising to the challenge of marrying the physical and online environments that the hospitality industry now finds itself playing in each day.
Last spring, Forrester Research found that 93 per cent of executives believe digital will disrupt their business in the next 12 months. According to Paul Hoskins, Executive Chairman of Precedent, the term ‘digitally transformational’ is the innovation of business, allowing you to understand what technology can allow you to do that you might not have been able to do before.
Today’s event and meeting technologies aren’t just shiny apps or fancy products. They are strategic operational tools that planners should – and soon will — feel naked without. Contrary to popular belief, (good) technology doesn’t just materialize from a garage in Silicon Valley as if by magic. No, the industry leading apps that you learn about are created after meticulous research and development, more A/B tests than you can imagine, and with significant guidance and buy-in from industry thought leaders. They aren’t successful unless there is a defined need in the marketplace for them, and those that pass that test have managed to progressively disrupt the traditionally minded hospitality industry in powerful ways.
The question of resources
One critical challenge for the hospitality industry is to understand the value added by these new technologies. The mere mention of the word “technology” sends dollar signs into the line of vision of even the most forward thinking of planners. But — and this sounds dramatic — I want you to consider it quite seriously: What is the cost of irrelevancy?
Surely the cost of a market-proven software that alleviates time, amplifies returns, and enhances communications is worth more than the fear of presenting it at a budgeting meeting? Worth more than the time it takes to sit down for a demo? Worth more than the upfront cost? Worth more than the moment your boss says to you, “Why don’t we have this – our competition has it and they are killing us with it.”
Better service. Bigger profits. Broader data. Find the app that does all of these things for you, then spend whatever is necessary to leverage its services for you. Of course, the investment pays off only if the tool is suited for the job at hand. Research, test, and familiarize yourself with all functionalities of these new technologies before you purchase, to ensure your needs are being met and that you understand the full power of your purchase.
Who to use for…
- Event app creation: QuickMobile’s MobileEvent – Vancouver-based QuickMobile was the fastest growing technology in Canada in 2013, according to Deloitte Canada. Scalable from 1 to 1,000 events and beyond, MobileEvent offers a wide range of configurable components that help you captivate, motivate and inspire your attendees. It also offers impressive analytics to help you measure your ROI.
- Diagramming and seating: Social Tables – Winner of the Favorite Event App from CanadianSpecialEvents.com, Social Tables is the industry leading provider of cloud-based hospitality software that positions venues to work more collaboratively and efficiently with their event and meeting customers. More than 30,000 unique users rely on the desktop and mobile product line, which includes Social Tables On-Site, an online sales and marketing solution; 2D and 3D room diagramming; business intelligence for hotels; and event attendee management. Users have planned over 175,000 events within the company’s Venue Library, home to over 220 million square feet of meeting space.
- Attendee-speaker communication: Catchbox – Catchbox is a professional wireless microphone that can literally be tossed from a speaker to an audience member to create a fun connection, rather than the traditional hand microphones being passed around. The device communicates with a receiver (included) that can be connected to any sound system. To avoid unwanted noises when being thrown around, internal electronics sense the motion of the cube and switch off the audio when it is caught, thrown, or dropped.
- Networking solution: Poken – Poken is a sleek device that enables you to digitally exchange your contact details with a touch, or collect digital content that’s stored in special stickers that we call “tags” just by touching them. Create a digital business card with all your social network profiles, and swap it with other people simply touching pokens. Collect digital content offline (such as videos, coupons, brochures, photos), and have it all organized and available online. Poken ignites conversations, makes networking simple and fun, and creates an engaging experience for people to collect promotional literature at events.
- Free: The Pocket Planner – The Pocket Planner is a free event and meeting calculator from Social Tables and the Convention Industry Council that uses CIC standards to recommend food, beverage, service and safety quantities for events based on attendance. Engage your clients and attendees in the planning process by handing them your phone to play with the number of guests to immediately see the amount of coffee, number of tables, or even required fire extinguishers they will need for their event. Empowering them from the early stages will yield a trusting relationship.
A final thought
As technology continues to proliferate within the events and meetings industry, the products that will be introduced will be the embodiment of futuristic. You will have a virtual tool in your hand, a pulse on your attendees through an app and a deeper connection to your programming on a mobile device.
There is a lot of ground to cover, and it needs to be done in a highly efficient and timely manner. What are your plans to keep up with the innovation permeating through the events and meetings industry? Comment below and let us know what you think!
About the author
Claire Harrington, CMP, is the Public Relations Manager for Social Tables, and has been active in the meetings and events industry for nearly a decade. Claire is responsible for spearheading overall content efforts, strategic thought leadership, branding and industry expansion. Prior to joining Social Tables, Claire directed national events for a premier U.S. lobbying firm. For more information, visit www.socialtables.com.