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14 Meeting Technology Trends to Watch for 2014 - Part One - 10/8/2013 -

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 coming year.

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, allourideas.org, ideascale.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 bodies.

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 possibilities.

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 desired.

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 software.

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.


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