By Alejandro Contreras
The evolution of the internet and connectivity, along with the popularity of mobile and tablet devices, has altered the way individuals communicate, transact, and manage their lives. Digital-savvy individuals have come to expect the same level of connectivity in their professional lives as they enjoy during their personal time. As technology continues to change the way we work, it is increasingly important for meeting planners to implement new solutions as part of their meetings program.
Digital meeting solutions offer significant benefits to both planners and attendees – from improving the quality and scope of content delivered to attendees to enhancing the overall event experience. Below are four ways meeting planners can use digital solutions to improve their next meeting or event.
1. Managing attendees
Registration can immediately impact an attendee’s experience as it sets a first impression for the entire event. To ensure seamless communication between the event and attendee from the beginning, meeting planners should implement technology that consolidates registration and event information into an easy-to-use single web platform.
Using a web platform to manage attendees helps meeting planners enhance a participant’s experience. Web platforms offer targeted solutions and customized promotional materials based on personal information and needs collected prior to the event. The website, as well as check-in using QR codes, e-badges or a mobile event application, allows event organizers to collect real-time data on attendees and consolidate event reporting.
Meeting apps have become very common at large association and industry conferences and large meetings in general, and are useful and important by both attendees and meeting planners. An increasing number of smartphone owners use their devices for business purposes, so much so that event attendees now expect a “heads-down” mobile experience.
Meeting apps present the opportunity to get the most valuable and timely information to attendees’ fingertips, allowing them to connect with other attendees while simultaneously planning their next sessions, asking questions, sharing comments and answering polling questions from their mobile device.
Mobile applications also provide meeting planners an opportunity to extend the lifetime of a physical event by encouraging engagement and interaction between attendees both online and offline.
In order to successfully integrate mobile applications into meetings and events, planners should identify which aspects of their event the mobile application will improve and promote the new technology on a variety of channels at least a month before the event.
3. Social media
There is no question that social media is here to stay and it is evolving to address business challenges and create new opportunities. Social media is a growing phenomenon in meetings and events. Organizers use social media for everything from event promotion to real-time feedback on individual sessions, to tracking the overarching sentiment of attendees during the event. Social media is also helpful for attendees, providing a space for interacting, learning from and creating relationships with other attendees online.
Before implementing social media channels at an event, event organizers should analyze the needs of their attendees and decide on the most relevant social media channel for their audience. There are a variety of ways meeting planners can use social media to help their events thrive. For example, using an “activity feed” or a running commentary on an internal social network, specific to that meeting or event, engages attendees in a social media exchange, while ensuring relevancy to the audience. Additionally, monitoring social channels during the event will help meeting planners respond in real time to attendee needs.
Many attendees are conscious of posting only content that is relevant to the majority of their followers on social media. Therefore, creating networks that are specific to the meeting itself ensures attendees are only sharing with those in the same experience as them.
4. Hybrid Meetings
Hybrid solutions can enhance and expand the value of in-person meetings by connecting with new audiences online, and giving them a taste of what the on-site event is like. Organizations can complement their face-to-face, on-site, physical meeting with simultaneous online viewing over the web and on-demand post-event.
Hybrid meetings add value by increasing interaction, reaching a broader audience with the event content and boosting event exposure. High bandwidth internet availability in venues, at the office or on-the-go and the added benefit of incorporating remote presenters is boosting adoption rates as organizations strive to extend their reach and capture a larger global meetings audience.
When coordinating a hybrid event, strive to create an online experience similar to a face-to-face event. For example, run an in-studio event with a live audience, but incorporate Q&A from both live and remote attendees.
Post-event, meeting planners should execute an email campaign to reach anyone who was unable to attend in person or unable to watch live from their computer, and provide access to the archived webcast on-demand.
Meeting planners are constantly looking for ways to generate value and create a meaningful experience with both immediate and lasting impact for their attendees. Technology presents a real opportunity to enhance meetings and events through one or more of these digital solutions. The best results come from effectively integrating the most appropriate solutions into overall event plans from the planning and execution to the reporting stages. Successful integration comes from taking the time to understand your audience and learning how event technology can best enhance and amplify current offerings.
About the author
Alejandro Contreras is Director of Technology and Platforms at American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel. American Express Meetings & Events offers longstanding experience, expertise and leading capabilities spanning program implementation to budget optimization to deliver powerful meetings and events experiences for clients.