Keeping attendees connected and up-to-date at corporate meetings and events
Providing Internet services comes with challenges. How do you address the risk of an attendee using the conference WiFi to download a movie or other large file? Do you have the means to monitor usage and what will you do about it?
At conferences I worked on, the IT team monitored usage and tracked down individuals downloading large files. We would make a point of speaking to those individuals because it posed considerable risk of slowing down the entire network. Sometimes if you webcast your event, attendees are tempted to watch the live webcast while in the actual room. With multiple users doing that, it can pose a significant issue. Update the housekeeping speaking notes for the presenter to remind everyone present in the room not to view the live webcast at the same time and explain why. People will understand.
Everyone has access to video/audio recording devices. Do you try to control this at the event and disallow recording of the proceedings? How do you secure the privacy of the meeting? Conferences I worked on always have disclaimers in both registration materials as well as final program materials to say “attending this event you gives permission for the host to photograph and record you and use those images to promote the conference…” This protects the host organization to some degree so they can use the images later on.
People with disabilities
Technology is helping those with disabilities gain greater access, so be mindful of what tools you can offer at your event that will help this audience. It is important to monitor legal requirements to ensure compliance with legislation such as the AODA (Accessibility for Ontario with Disabilities Act). If you webcast your event, do you use closed caption and do you offer it in both official languages? Addressing the needs of people with disabilities can also increase the size of your audience. More importantly, it puts you in a voluntary compliance position before regulations will require you do so.
Have a backup
This is something easily overlooked. Do you have procedures mapped should the Internet go down? What if you have a power outage – how will you manage the loss of all technology? If you are running a meeting that requires voting and are using an electronic method to do this, consider how you will do this manually and ensure staff are prepped to handle such a situation. If Internet goes down, how will you continue with business when you are relying on Internet to convey the content of the meeting?
Developing a back-up plan is a good idea and one that should be discussed with both the suppliers who are impacted as well as senior management to ensure they are a) aware that a response process is in place and b) aware of what they are required to do to avoid any panic. As well, I was fortunate to have an IT Manager who every night did a full backup of the day’s activities from the conference computers, just to be safe. There was occasion when he did have to use it, so it is also important to consider doing this.
PCMA has invested in the Virtual Edge Institute to provide a centralized definitive authority for digital and hybrid meeting strategy and production. I’ve attended the Virtual Edge Summit and it is extremely informative, giving me first-hand experience of how to participate in a virtual conference. They offer a DES “Digital Event Strategist” certification which understandably requires recertification every two years (as opposed to CMP every four years) because of rapid advances in technologies.
I’ve attended a virtual conference where Kristi Casey Sanders, DES who was my “eyes and ears” as my virtual host @PYMLive. I felt a part of the meeting even though I was 2,000 km away! MPI Tech Day in Ottawa has been so valuable in summarizing technology trends and showing how to apply them. Get your local chapter of PCMA or MPI talking about this and setting up training sessions to help you better understand how networking and WiFi access works which underpins all technology at your conference.
Corbin Ball, James Spellos, Beth Ziesenis, Jeff Hurt are all speaking about event technology. I’m grateful for their insights and have learned so much from them. For example, check out Corbin Ball’s website (click on Corbin’s Bookmarks & Favourites). There is an excellent and comprehensive list of software and tools available with links to help explain what they do. I was amazed by the choices meeting planners have to manage everything from registration to audience polling to webinar delivery and evaluation. Meeting planners must find the time to sift through the options to choose the right tool at the right price for their event.
In my next article in this four-part series, we’ll talk about how to negotiate Internet pricing. For my previous article on conference technology requirements, click here.