Digital fluidity – the premise that our lifestyle landscape is being forever changed by the ongoing onslaught of disruptive digital capabilities – can no longer be ignored by the meeting planning and hospitality communities. It is time to catch up or be left behind. What does being left behind look like? It is your hotel or venue not being selected because you are not optimized for search engines – traditional leisure/tourist sites and sophisticated e-RFP and site selection sites – to find you.
A reliance on tried and true marketing methods may mean your meeting and event attendance will drop over time, as you lose traction with a market that is changing its consumption of information. If your digital marketing efforts have not been ramped up and designed to personalize the experience for your potential guests, you will lose the all-important “eyeballs” which lead to conversion – that click-through to more information and eventually a registration.
Some would argue the event website is going the way of the dodo bird, with one page sites optimized for mobile becoming the new reality. As we register for events we have the opportunity to feed this to our social networks, encouraging others to join us, creating word-of-mouth buzz, and as personal relationships become even more important in the digital age this critical intersection of humans and their technology needs to be understood.
The future of meetings
Is the future of meetings based on curating our audience based on extended social networks of people who share like-minded interests – personal or professional? Will we register for an event and then have sessions recommended to us based on our history of attendance or algorithms of influence we don’t even know we have left in our ongoing digital footprints? When we arrive to our hotel, our unique amenities are in our room, from fitness to pillow type, and when we arrive at the meeting we will have our badges waiting for us, and a message that advises us how our dietary requirements will be met each day.
Technology is now so embedded into our every day, and so personalized to our consumer needs, from PVRing our favorite shows ahead of time or on the fly, adjusting our heat and lights in homes and offices, ordering on Amazon with thoughtful suggestions for other products we may enjoy being spoon-fed to us – all from our mobile devices, and this mobility is rapidly becoming our new expectation. When we plan meetings and when we travel, where we used to pack binders full of information, we are now seeing a hybrid of paper, tablet, laptop and phone for the on-site fulfillment.
When participants arrive it is with these same tools, and we have an opportunity to alter our design to use these to our advantage. There is the obvious advantage of mobile apps allowing you to do less printing, but that is one small element. When you begin to think “inside the device” there is a whole range of content management that is in tune with the new personalized experience.
Building an event experience
Basic functionality includes building your own agenda for the participants, and for the planners the ability is inherent to update information on the fly as things (inevitably) change. It gets personal when you can feed information to participants. This could be by time, such as slides uploaded as a session starts or video as the presentation happens sent to a virtual audience and available later for all. Location based technology can be used to send exhibitor information to be uploaded as an attendee nears a booth they have tagged having an interest in, as an example.
We now have literally in our hands a myriad of ways to connect from contact exchange to in-app messaging and quick meeting set-up, extending the value of your time at an event. Social networking can use intranets or external feeds such as Twitter or LinkedIn to share your stories. This mobile use creates a whole new level of data being streamed to the planners, measurable, meaningful and timely. It is a whole new world.
It now becomes about balance, as you integrate the technology you have for your organization and update and upgrade, choosing from among the many options available:
- cloud-based management tools,
- CRM and social systems,
- floor plan and rendering software,
- online registration and reservation systems
- and the all-important analytics that come with these systems.
This is of course even before you get into the meat, the content of your meeting message and the technology available to deliver these, and the logistics – the mainstays of meeting planning as we used to know it. The reality is, we now need to become more fluent in this new language and embrace and engage with the tools available that will meet your evolving needs.
The technology we have to create unique experiences has also changed, but that is an article for another day!