If you are your associationís media expert, chances are your
organizationís meeting planner is coming to you for ideas on how to use
technology to boost the attendee experience. Here are some new technologies you
need to stay on top of for 2014.
By Corbin Ball
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 others do their jobs better. This
annual review covers many of the major event tech trends to watch for this
1. Crowdsourcing and 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 Ė all of which can be used in a variety of
ways for your events.
This will change the way meeting participants get sleeping
rooms, share travel, co-create event content (panelpicker.sxsw.com,
stereopill.com), review events, and fund/promote events. Additionally, mobile audience polling devices can be used
during an event for insight capture, market research, and real-time feedback to
assist in making strategic decision making or developing content.
2. Wearable/ultra-portable computing will work its way into
events. Technology has developed in 10-year cycles: The 1960 was mainframe
computing; 1970s was mini-computing; 1980s was personal computing; 1990s was
desktop internet computing; and the 2000s is 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
Google Glass has a wide range of smart watches 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 include 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, appointment reminders, and more are all
3. Conference event guide apps are becoming essential. Two
years ago, I made the prediction that in two years, participants will expect a
conference guide app for your event. Today, there nearly 100 conference event
guide app providers with a wide range of options from free to $50,000, from a quick, simple
do-it-yourself app to a highly branded experience, and from HTML5 to native apps.
These apps provide a richer conference experience, including polling,
customizable agendas, gaming, video, contact exchange, social media
integration, analytics, and more. If you donít 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 (two
years ago), the only option was to have a unique, customized app built for each
event. Now, there are many event hosts that 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, "enterpriseĒ 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 easily upload the data, allowing for 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 of only having to download and learn the app once to use it at
multiple events from the same association or company.
5. Mobile social event networking will blossom. One good
contact made at an event can pay for the whole trip, but 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, this haphazard approach leaves much to be
A number of stand-alone social media networking tools have
become available, many for free (OleaPark, PeopleHunt.com, Qrious, Shhmooze).
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.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 because
the web has become the standard method of meeting management software
distribution from sourcing, to online registrations, to exhibition sales, and
most other aspects of event management.These open-source products are
opening the door to a wide range of meeting management plug-ins that offer web-based
meeting management tasks at a fraction of the cost of traditional meeting web
7. The four-screen revolution: Responsive and adaptive web
design will become mandatory for your website. We are entering into a post-PC
world. There are 1 billion smartphones in use, and this number will grow to two
billion in two years (Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2013). Tablets will
overtake PC sales by late 2013 (BetChemy Ventures, May 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) users will be using to view it.
This is where responsive web design and adaptive web design come
in. Both allow websites to be view in various screen sizes and orientations. An
excellent article on the differences between RWD and AWD is techrepublic.com/blog/web-designer/what-is-the-difference-between-responsive-vs-adaptive-web-design/.This
is another reason to consider open-source web content tools; open-source will help to
future-proof your site for the next new thing that inevitably will come along.
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a
professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings and association
technology. Follow him on Twitter. Part two of this article, which includes seven additional technology trends,
will appear in the next issue of Final Proof.