Companies that understand what the MICE industry needs most inside convention halls and hotel ballrooms are best positioned to bring the benefits of tech advances to specialized audiences.
These are exciting times. The rate of technology change is accelerating with thousands of ideas, apps and innovations bubbling up to help meeting planners, exhibitors, venues and other meeting participants to do their jobs better.
This annual review covers many of the major events tech trends to watch for this coming year.
1. Crowdsourcing and a crowd sharing will be more widely used for events.
Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining services, ideas, answers or content from a large group of people (typically an online community) rather than from traditional suppliers. A range of crowdsourcing tools are emerging for sharing, funding, voting, and much more. Benefits include: lower costs, greater choice, and better input – all of which can be used in a variety of ways for events.
This will change the way meeting participants get sleeping rooms: airbnb.com and easynest.com; share travel: sunyride.com, airbaltic.satisfly.com; co-create event content: panelpicker.sxsw.com, allourideas.org, ideascale.com; stereopill.com; review events: yelp.com, hubb.it, event-rate.com; and fund/promote events: peoplefund.it, planana.com, picatic.com, tixelated.com to name a few. Additionally, mobile audience polling devices can be used during and event for insight capture, for market research, and real-time feedback to assist in making strategic decision making.
2. Wearable/ultra-portable computing will begin to work its way into events
Technology has developed in ten-year cycles: 1960s: mainframe computing, 1970s: mini-computing, 1980s: personal computing, 1990s: desktop internet computing, 2000s: mobile internet computing. This decade may turn out to be the decade of wearable/everywhere computing. Computers are popping up in our cars, our home appliances, and soon on our bodies. Google Glass (google.com/glass/start/), a wide range of smart watches (hen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartwatch) and bracelets in the works and more will assist us with navigation, networking, and augmented reality.
Although part of a larger societal trend, this will impact events and tradeshows in the next few years as attendees literally embody these devices to assist them at events. The opportunities are many as a mini-teleprompter for speakers, for note taking, polling, video-conferencing, virtual site inspections and much more. Face recognition could remind you of the name of a colleague. Way-finding through a facility or exhibition hall could be a possibility. Appointment reminders and more are all possibilities.
3. Conference event guide apps are becoming essential.
Two years ago I made the prediction that in two years’ time your participants will be expecting a conference guide app for your event. Today there nearly 100 conference event guide app providers (http://www.corbinball.com/bookmarks/#guide) with a very wide range of options from free to US$50,000; from a quick, simple do-it-yourself app to a highly branded experience; from HTML5 to native apps.
The above prediction has become a reality with these apps providing a much richer and better conference experience than a paper program guide could event do — including polling, customizable agendas, gaming, video, contact exchange, social media integration, analytics and much more. If you don’t have an app for your event, you are behind the times!
4. Multi-event app platforms will be used widely for larger corporations and associations.
In the early days of event app development (2 years ago), the only option was to have a unique, customized app built for each event. However there are many event hosts who run dozens, hundreds or even thousands of events each year. Building individual apps for dozens or more events each year is simply too costly, labor intensive and time consuming for most event hosts. Consequently, many app developers are starting to offer multi-event “enterprise” apps to meet this need.
Typically, these products are a platform. A master app template is built by the app developer with consistent branding. The event planner or host can then choose the desired app elements for the specific event and then easily upload the data allowing for very quick turn-around and instant easy updates. Not only is this option substantially less expensive than building individual apps, there is better and more consistent branding, better security/privacy, better budgeting, and more uniform analytics. Attendees have the benefit on only have to download and learn the app once to use it at multiple events from the same association or company. The following are among the companies offering multi-event apps platforms: QuickMobile.com, CrowdCompass.com, DoubleDutch.me, EventMobi.com, TripBuilderMedia.com, Certain.com, Core-Apps.com, GenieConnect.com, and Sherpa-solutions.com.
5. Mobile social event networking will blossom.
One good contact made at an event can often pay for the whole trip! Yet, until recently, the way most events managed this very important component did not get much thought. For decades, the name badge was the principal networking tool. By chance, attendees would notice a name badge, strike up a conversation, and make a contact. Although this works, there is much to be desired in this haphazard approach.
A number of stand-alone social media networking tools have become available, many for free (OleaPark, PeopleHunt.com, Qrious, Shhmooze) demonstrating the desire and need that people have to better connect at events. However, it is likely that the “Swiss-army knife” conference event guide apps with more robust social integration will become the most common way that participants will access the social channels onsite at and event.
6. Free open-source web content management systems will open the door for a wide range of inexpensive event software tools.
A big trend in web design is the emergence of open-source web content management systems. Free, community-developed products such as joomla.com and wordpress.org are used to build and manage some of the largest sites on the web such as ebay.com, nytimes.com, ge.com and thousands of others.
The beauty of these open-source products is that they have thousands of plug-ins (web “building blocks”) to accomplish nearly any web task. The process of constructing a site to perform specific tasks has become a much faster and simpler job of putting these blocks together rather than having to create customized code.
This is relevant for events as the web has become the standard method of meetings management software distribution from sourcing, to online registrations, to exhibition sales and most other aspect of event management.
These open-source products are opening the door to a wide range of meetings management plug-ins that offer web-based meetings management tasks at a fraction of the cost of traditional meeting web software. Here is just a sampling of what is available: eventespresso.com, wp-events-plugin.com, app.ohanah.com, eventsnova.com, redcomponent.com/redcomponent/redevent
7. The 4 screen revolution: responsive and adaptive web design will become mandatory for your web site.
We are entering into a post-PC world. There are 1 billion smart phones in use and this number will grow to two billion in two years. Tablets will overtake PC sales by late 2013. With this huge growth of alternate web view devices, your website will need to respond so that the content will be maximized regardless which of the four screens (TV, PC, tablet, phone) they will be using to view it.
This is where responsive web design (RWD) and adaptive web design (AWD) come in. Both allow websites to be view in various screen sizes and orientations. This is another reason to consider open-source web content tools such as joomla.com and wordpress.org which have free themes and plug-in using RWD and AWD. Open-source will help to future-proof your site for the next new thing that inevitably will come along.
For seven more meetings technology trends, read the full story at corbinball.com.
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent third-party 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 web site and followed on Twitter. Subscribe to Corbin’s free every-other-month high-content TechTalk Newsletter at www.corbinball.com/techtalk.
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Photo credit: A TEDX event in Vancouver. TEDx Vancouver / Flickr