Developing a technology guide for meetings is like trying to wrap your arms around the Internet. Even defining “event technology” is complex: Does it include software used in preparation for a meeting, organization tools for planners, gadgets, the hardware used on-site, and social media? We’ve highlighted some of the hardware, software, apps, and web-based technology you need to know about now or very soon to help you plan better meetings. Still, you’ll have to pick up the April/May issue of Collaborate magazine to see the complete guide. Need the magazine?
An event is only well-organized if the person behind it is. The following tools keep planners on track by helping with travel, accounting, scheduling, and planning.
Only some people can have a personal assistant to track emails and tasks. Contactually is a relationship management tool that connects directly to an email inbox and takes note of who the messages are from and how frequently and quickly the user responds to certain emails. The system prioritizes contacts and helps keep track of follow-ups. Reminder emails from Contactually keep meaningful relationships top of mind. The web-based platform is compatible with Gmail, Outlook, and most email programs online and on all mobile devices. It also syncs with most CRMs. contactually.com | Plans range from $15-$150/month
Are you faxing a sign-up sheet around to colleagues? Sending reply-all emails to a group? Try the online meeting scheduler Doodle, which easily coordinates schedules with polls that sync with Google, Outlook, Exchange, and iCal to help pick the best dates and locations for everyone involved. doodle.com | Free or premium plans $39-$479/year
Bring along the ultimate powerstrip; the PowerSquid, which fits in a briefcase, has a flat profile plug to squeeze behind furniture, two glowing outlets, surge protection, and a bevy of octopus-like extensions for multiple electronics. powersquid.com | $12.95-$59.95
Please keep track of varied interests in one place with this custom magazine app that learns users’ interests and curates articles and news according to what they read. Now a news/motorcycle/meeting planning/cooking magazine can exist. zite.com | Free | iPhone, iPad
TIP | Use tweetchat.com to join Twitter chats. Sign in on the website using your Twitter account and type in a designated hashtag. The system filters the relevant tweets into a chat room, making it easy to message the group. Smart pausing prevents new tweets from being added to the top of the user scrolls down to read earlier posts until scrolling back up. No prep work is required for the organizer, either. Make sure followers know when to join and what hashtag to follow, and it’s all set.
From marketing and registration leading up to an event to on-site gadgets and post-event follow-up, event technology enhances connection, engagement, and participation throughout the experience.
Citywide Attendee Credential System
ITN International’s BCARD badges take interactive name tags one step further. Embedded with Near Field Communications technology, the identification cards double as a way to track attendees within the conference (think: education credits) and as a free pass to public transit and tourist attractions throughout a host city. The host CVB can provide discounts around town or tickets to a convention-wide event at an area attraction. in-international.com | Pricing structures depend on the size of the event and sponsorship opportunities
Anyone who’s ever gotten stuck at the crazy cousin’s table at a wedding knows the importance of a good seating chart. When there are assigned seats, drama and unhappy guests can follow. Social Tables give attendees the power to help with the seating chart without the chaos a planner would expect from crowdsourcing this aspect of planning. The collaborative program allows multiple organizers at different locations to determine the seat. The organizers’ purest intention is to allow guests to pick their seats. Planners can put guests into categories giving them specific options of where to sit, and guests can interact beforehand and select their seats, ideally with new contacts. socialtables.com | Free
The best way to take payment on-site, this tiny device attaches to a smartphone, accepts all major credit cards, and charge merchants a 2.75 percent rate. It makes registration a breeze, and direct-deposit payments are in the bank the next day. square.com | iPhone, iPad, Android
Events are social. We plan gatherings to initiate connection and interaction among colleagues. Social media gives that interaction a year-round platform that encourages face-to-face relationships and potentially elevates events to a new level. New players in this field add excitement to what planners can achieve through social networks.
The hottest trend in social media, Pinterest, beat YouTube, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace for a percentage of total referral traffic in January and is fast on Twitter’s heels. The social networking site is an online pinboard where users share things they love on the Internet. It’s perfect for the visually stimulating world of events. Planners can go in several directions with it. A planner might create a board that markets an event, pinning educational articles and images along with the theme, speaker videos, and host city information. Or, the planner might create a personal idea board with centerpiece possibilities, great food, beverage presentations, or cool audiovisual. And, if the site seems geared too much toward the female set, it’s the manly (unrelated) counterpart, gentlemint.com, which has a rougher exterior. pinterest.com | Free | iPhone, iPad, HTML5
Technology has increased engagement at face-to-face events and extended lifespans online. One of the pioneers in this area is Pathable, a custom online community for events, which had a makeover at the end of last year that made it even better. More than simply a custom social networking site, the platform was designed with events in mind. It integrates with registration systems, giving attendees a virtual presence and allowing them to network with one another, create custom agendas and download session handouts. Attendees, speakers, and suppliers dialogue in forums, and a virtual trade show floor gives suppliers additional exposure and connection opportunities. What are the benefits of 2.0? Allows that engagement year-round, making it all mobile and browser-based (i.e., faster). pathable.com | $3,900-$27,200/year | iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows phone
Today, many meeting planners have to mobilize their content to mobilize attendees. Making the event website mobile, having an on-site mobile app, and using a personal mobile device as a tool is necessary.
Competition fuels engagement, and gaming—the No. 1 most popular mobile activity—turns attendees into active participants. EventMobi has created GamifyApp, a customizable gaming app for events. Attendees earn badges by checking into exhibitor booths, answering questions about education sessions, or participating in an event-specific scavenger hunt. Organizers receive data about who checked into locations, which they can share with exhibitors or use for feedback. gamifyapp.com | $2,500 or combined with EventMobi packages starting at $799 | iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry
This is different from your average tripod. The Swivel base holds a smartphone and automatically follows a presenter wearing a Swivel sensor. The speaker is free to move around and stays in the camera’s view. swivl.com | $159 | iPhone
It is possible to connect with the non-tech savvy. This app from LinkedIn converts a picture of a business card into a digital contact and finds the new contact on LinkedIn. cardmunch.com | Free | iPhone