Sunday, January 22, 2012

Talking Tech

Thank you to the MPI BC Chapter who invited me as the keynote to open the Technology Roundtable Education at this month's chapter meeting. It was a privilege to join the roundtable presenters Marc Smith from Amuse Consulting, Mike Granek of AI, Ciprian Bandu from PSAV, Romulus Tang from Vernon Technologies and Trevor Roald of QuickMobile to talk tech.

It was definitely daunting to consider how much technology is changing our (meeting and event) world, at a pace that it is difficult to keep up with and that determining not only where to focus our own organizations but also our clients', well it can make one's head spin! Deciding what to focus on in a maximum of 30 minutes was also a bit daunting, but knowing that if I was able to provide a solid overview, the participants who had the opportunity to attend three roundtable sessions and delve deep into the specific technologies would leave with more options in front of them made it less so.

While each individual will leave with their own takeaways based on the roundtables chosen, here is what I hope I was able to convey.
  1. A girl opened technology day! I know that in the industry there are a few female producers and leaders in the event technology space but it is not the norm, interesting in an industy that is otherwise heavily weighted to the female gender. My point - if how technology impacts your events interests you, then dig in, learn about it and have some fun!
  2. Start with Why. Technology can create WOW environments and support learning and connections. It can also be budget intensive so know why you are adding elements and how it will support messages and engage participants.
  3. Technology provides tools that can create efficiencies - web registration, marketing, iPads with or in place of binders, replacing paper information with electronic distribution, and so much more. Find the tools that suit your needs.
  4. Consider how a mobile app can fit into your overall event strategy and how it can benefit your community building efforts in particular.  With hundreds of thousands of apps in the world and millions of tablet users attending our meetings, this will become the new norm, an expectation of the participants.
  5. Social media is not going away, so if you are not already using social media to promote your events and build community, start experimenting. It was great to see that at least half the room was already using this to their advantage.
  6. Consider how a hybrid meeting can extend your reach, break down borders, allow for presenters and participants to both be included, and how it can be your best marketing tool to increase registration year to year as people see the great content, but still crave the human connections that come with face to face attendance.
  7. Gamification can be fun, enhance learning, create a collective goal and friendly competition, and add context and excitement to learning.  It boosts endorphins, and creates hope and optimism, all positive feelings that will then be connected to your organization / event.
  8. Make technology comfortable for people to use. Selling Vancouver at AIBTM and IMEX this year using the touchscreen presentation supported with the iPad app specific to selling the local hotels made it easy for people to access information in their own way, and they really, really liked it.
  9. QR codes and their variants are also here to stay for a while and are inexpensive (or free) and fun to include.
  10. FourSquare, NFC - near field communication and other location based software is not going away and it has many potential applications for conferences and events that connect people and could be worth exploring or promoting. 
  11. Find trusted partners, collaborate, be transparent in your needs, expectations and budget, and then go forth and create really cool stuff.
  12. Do not forget the human connection. If you are going to have a hybrid event, you need human hosts to embrace the remote audience and engage through the back channels. If you are going to create a game, you need creators and then you need players. If you have guests, the technology should enhance the experience, and add to the learning or connections.
  13. Create space and time for conversations. Understand that some of these may be face-to-face and some may now be via other mediums, and that all are important.
  14. Technology is a tool, not a strategy.
`The essential difference in service is not machines or things. The essential difference is hearts, minds, spirits and souls.`   Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

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