Technology Trends for Meetings and Events

by Jess McMullin
Peoria Civic Center

Physical engagement of your target audience is more important than ever in this high-tech world.

The rate of change in technology is accelerating each year, with new ideas, innovations and continuous updates. This can be both exciting and frustrating for event planners. One aspect is certain: technology is well-embedded in the meetings industry, enabling planners with numerous options for event organization, presentation and data collection.

It started decades ago with simple displays of talking points, but audiovisual capabilities have soared quickly in the digital age. Today’s presentations combine video automation with projections large enough to circle a room. Audiovisual technology embraces the principle that people use their senses to engage in activity and retain information. Presentations are brought to life through visuals, sound, lighting and interaction, allowing the audience to better connect with the brand or message.

Event Planning
Event technology starts long before the actual meeting date. Today’s software platforms allow event planners to automate many of the repetitive tasks that were once manual and time-intensive. Imagine booking venue space and hotel rooms, planning logistics, developing a website, managing social media, hosting registration, emailing updates and managing vendors—all from one platform. That type of software automation is here.

Products such as Cvent, Lanyon, Eventbrite, Etouches and EventGeek are combining all event tech needs into one unified source. When utilized from the start, these software solutions can simplify data collection, make sharing easier, automate tasks and enhance the user experience.

The key is allowing the tech tools to work for you—and not the other way around. Tech services are intended to make life easier for planners so their focus can be directed on event strategy and content.

Focus the Message
More important than ever before is having a clear objective for your event. The purpose must be more than an exchange of information. The rapid growth and availability of technology has created near-infinite communication channels in our digital, mobile and social world. But in recent years, the overdose of information has gradually waned people into a state of apathy.

So the questions become “How does my message break through the cloud of digital noise?” and “Why would today’s highly-distracted attendee engage with the content of our meeting?” There is no substitute for face-to-face education, motivation and networking. The challenge today is: how does an event planner integrate business and education with a memorable experience?

Create an Experience
Millennials, who are consumed with technology on a daily basis, have taught us that when you create a genuine experience, it leaves a lasting impression and the message carries far past the close of a meeting. The key is to engage participants in the message, encourage fun and interaction, and inspire connections with the brand and other attendees. Technology offers endless opportunities here.

Audiovisual is more important than ever. Event planners are competing with smartphones and other digital devices for attention, so audiovisual setups need to impress in order to hold attention. The latest trends include video mapping, holographic videos, wide-screen projections, blended screens and advanced laser projectors. Interactive displays that include virtual and augmented reality are the hottest concepts, but they also come with a price.

Speakers need to rethink their presentations to create two-way conversations with the audience. Interactive technology allows attendees to ask questions via a website, app or SMS, giving even the most introverted person a voice in the crowd. Planners should integrate social media to extend the message beyond the walls of the conference room. Social walls are also a fun way to engage participants—everyone likes to see their name and/or photo on a screen! Online chat rooms encourage further discussion of meeting topics and offer planners honest feedback. Streaming can create a “conference on demand” situation, giving planners the ability to share real-time content with audiences anywhere.

Most event planning software includes the option of an event app, which can do more than simply host registration and agendas. Event apps are proven to increase engagement, drive behavior and offer value to participants well beyond the date of a meeting. Apps can include a gamification factor where attendees score points for attending breakout sessions, connecting with others, posting on social media, completing surveys and other challenges as appropriate. All these activities create a meeting experience that engages participants.

Technology will continue to evolve and offer new options for the meetings industry, but one thing is clear: Physical engagement of your target audience is powerful, and more important than ever in this high-tech world. Event planners are faced with the challenge of determining which technologies will best integrate their educational needs with an entertaining experience to leave a lasting impression. Thinking differently, “outside the box,” has never been more important to hitting your message home. iBi

Jess McMullin is Director of Sales and Marketing at the Peoria Civic Center. For more information, visit peoriaciviccenter.com.

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