Following extensive research among the 355 members of the International Association of Conference Centres, the association released its Top 10 Meeting Tech Trends for 2015, which are influencing meeting planners and venue operators across the globe.
Mark Cooper, IACC’s CEO, commented, “Meeting Planners are seeing their role influenced more and more by technology, not just for the meeting itself, but in researching and booking venues, how planners interact onsite and how they communicate following the meeting. The balance between technology and in-person relationships is an interesting one, with a need to attain a balance of the two in order to plan and deliver successful meeting outcomes.”
- Look out, here comes Gen Y, the Millennials! More fluent in technology, this new generation is addicted to social media, is even more environmentally conscious than their predecessors – the Gen Xers, and has high expectations of connectivity, interactivity, and the ability to influence and engage in dialogue. They know how to seek out free Wi-Fi, and as they enter the workplace and start attending meetings, they expect Wi-Fi to always be free and fast!
- Think socializing rather than networking – Socializing at work used to be frowned upon, taking on somewhat negative connotations. But increasingly, socializing is seen as relationship-building, and for meetings, conference venues encourage relaxed socializing by providing multi-use spaces for conferees to gather together. It turns out that conferees actually do talk business in these welcoming environments!
- Switch up the mood! Meeting rooms have seen radical makeovers in terms of design, colour and creative seating options of late. New developments in technology have allowed venues and organizers to instantly change the look and feel of a meeting room with user controllable LED mood lighting, high-tech furniture groupings and more.
- Geofence your conference – Important advances in GPS-based app technology enable planners and venues to now personalize a conferee’s welcome and offer other location-based alert notifications upon arrival. For example, a badge is printed when the conferee enters the geofence (think venue), with notification sent via the app to the badge printing location. Providing useful location information and navigation assistance, the geofence can notify attendees where they are on a map and give guidance on where they wish to go.
- Conference networking and information exchange – Developments in app-based two-way communication means that with user permission, one’s smartphone can easily transmit contact information, social media profiles, specific meeting room access information, meal tracking, food preferences, and much more. Communication between attendees can be enhanced with notifications, pictures and other information about who is nearby. Consider the value of automated demonstrations (videos, etc.) for exhibitor products that meeting groups can offer their sponsors as a marketing enhancement. Instant and targeted contact is king today; new technologies and applications that help foster participant engagement and social interaction will grow in popularity and usage.
- The sky’s the limit… for now! We have seen a dramatic rise in the use of drones in extreme sports – and now conference organizers are using this affordable technology to capture creative event photos and map out the venue for GPS integrated conferences.
- The days of the cable are numbered – Just when venues think their under-counter box of chargers is current and complete, technology moves on and we get closer to a single standard for wireless charging technology, after years of competing standards. Currently pushing for a single standard, QI Consortium boasts wireless charging points in 3,000 hotels. With large scale furniture makers such as IKEA installing standardized wireless charging into tables and desks they sell, the writing is on the wall for meeting venues to incorporate wireless charging points into bar tops, meeting room tables and guestrooms. They better do so this year, as 2015 is sizing up to be the year the hospitality industry finally took standardizing wireless charging technology and its availability seriously!
- Meet your virtual colleague – There are times when it’s just not possible to get everybody in the same place at the same time. Conference venues understand this and are making the virtual attendee experience much better. How? Venues are developing meeting rooms with multiple ceiling-mounted microphones, high-bandwidth connectivity and advanced software solutions to provide seamless integration into the meeting for virtual attendees, faculty and guest speakers. Additionally, there is an increase in clients wanting to capture video to send to another physical location, where a second group of participants is gathered.
- Conference venues welcome Street View technology – The trend toward part-time meeting planners who are not full-time professional planners but may be an executive assistant, marketing coordinator, human resource professional or department head, is on the increase. Today’s meeting planner, therefore, expects and requires more from their venue partners, in terms of evaluating venues’ capabilities to support their meeting or event. When a planner cannot conduct an in-person venue inspection, technology is fast evolving using the Google Street View concept to provide valuable virtual venue tours, multiple room images showing different meeting layouts and even property video footage.
- Buying your meeting online – More and more clients are using the web as their primary tool for making purchasing decisions. One IACC venue recently reported 70 per cent of all new business comes via online search activities and they expect that number to grow. The venues that will be the most successful in capturing this business will have websites that serve not only as marketing brochures but as the primary tool for their clients to plan, book, purchase, and engage with them for their next meeting.