Friday, February 3, 2012

Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012

The rate of technology change is increasing. Meetings and tradeshow technology continues to advance with technology products becoming better, cheaper and easier to use. Innovation is bubbling with new options. Here are some of the major meetings and tradeshow technology trends to watch for this coming year.

1. More free or low cost apps for events and trade shows.

The cost for the technology is being cut in half every year. Web software development is much faster and easier than ever before. What used to take $100,000+ and a team of programmers weeks or months to do, can now almost be accomplished by a gifted teenager in his/her bedroom over the weekend.

2. Mobile technology crosses the chasm from the early adopter to the early majority for events.

Recent data from MPI”s FutureWatch 2011 Survey and others indicate that more than 80% of meeting professionals use smartphones and other mobile devices in their jobs. Yet, relatively few planners (9%) have used mobile applications yet for their own meetings. This is about to change.

3. Do it yourself (DIY) mobile event apps will proliferate.

One of the hottest areas of mobile development is in the low-cost DIY arena. It is possible to create a fully featured, cross-platform business app (iPhone, android, iPad and mobile web) with customized logos, colors and content using for as low as $39.95/month. This DIY site is very easy to use with video tutorials throughout.

4. Conference recording and distribution is becoming cheaper, faster and much more capable.

Conference recording has been around for decades starting in the days that audio-cassettes of the presentations were mass-produced onsite and sold in the foyer. Recent technology advances have made it possible to quickly and relatively inexpensively distribute speaker video, audio and visuals over the web in real-time and on demand afterwards.

5. Hybrid meetings will extend the reach and broaden the impact of face-to-face events.

A hybrid meeting is an event that combines both face-to-face and virtual experience for local and remote attendees. It will become commonplace for many events in the next few years. Meeting professionals are recognizing that it has become much easier to extend the impact of an event beyond the four walls of the meeting room.

6. Near Field Communication (NFC) will provide streamlined connectivity and services for events.

NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity standard to enable communication between devices when they're touched together. It is expected to become a widely used system for making payments by smartphone in the U.S.

The applications for events are significant allowing for very fast, secure and simplified means of:

• Electronic ticketing

• Electronic business card exchange

• Credit card payment

• Easy pick up of conference literature, exhibit brochures, course notes, and other digital documents

7. YouTube and other social publishing tools will be used increasingly to promote and manage meetings and to engage attendees.

Much has been written about the power of and the other social networking sites to engage potential attendees before an event to increase attendance and networking onsite.WeI believe the wide range of free social publishing tools will also be used increasingly for similar purposes:

8. Social gaming tools will be used to engage face-to-face and virtual attendees at events.

People spend more than 3 billion hours a week globally playing online games! Jane McGonigal in her noted TEDTalk speaks of how gaming can make a better world by deeply engaging people and by encouraging collaboration and cooperation. She proposes to harness gamer power to solve real-world problems.

Online gaming engages people. It can immerse in a different reality. It can be very fun! …And it will find its way increasingly into events.

9. iPads and tablets will provide a new medium for accessing data at events.

The iPad is the most recent of the long-running, game-changing innovations from Apple. This and other tablet devices represent new ways to access information. Light weight, highly mobile, highly intuitive. The larger screen allow for bigger fonts, easier readability and more real estate to display material in a page-like format. The navigation is intuitive (with your fingers instead of a keyboard and mouse).

10. Free, easy to access Wi-Fi is increasing expected by meeting planners.

Free basic Wi-Fi broadband internet access is expected by planner in the meeting room, guest rooms and the lobby. Although some luxury properties are clinging to internet fees as a profit center, internet access is viewed by attendees as a utility similar to lights and water. Planners are saying “do not nickel-and-dime us with add-on charges for basic internet access.” If “Motel 6” can provide free Wi-Fi, so should meeting hotels and venues.

However, this does not mean unlimited access. Internet bandwidth can be expensive and most venues cannot handle unexpected, very large demands. If 500 event attendees pulled out their iPads to access HD video simultaneously, there are few venues in the country that could handle this without making special arrangements. If a group needs dedicated bandwidth, a dedicated IP address or other internet services, it is reasonable to charge for these. But basic, throttled access (with a minimum of 500kb/second download -- fast enough to access email and limited video streaming) should be free.

Additionally, venues need to make logging onto the Wi-Fi network easier. Opening the browser and clicking “OK” is all that should be required.

11. “Indoor Positioning Systems” will greatly assist in event and trade show way-finding and navigation.

Standard GPS does not work indoors. Standard Wi-Fi triangulation only gets to about a 100 foot (30 meter) accuracy -- not good enough for precise tracking though an exhibit hall, venue or for person-to-person finding at an event.

New technology from at least two companies ( and promise to overcome these challenges to provide very precise positioning (as fine as 1 meter) by tracking Wi-Fi enabled smart phones, carried by an increasingly larger percentage of the population. These tools will be able to provide:

• precise positioning

• personal navigation through a venue/exhibit hall with optimized routing

• friend/contact finding and networking (with permission)

• location-based content delivery (exhibit discounts or video as examples)

• optimized exhibit hall viewing by product category

• exhibit hall “hot spot” and traffic flow analytics

• several other features will likely develop from this exciting technology.

In addition to venues and convention centers, this technology holds great promise for shopping centers, airports, hospitals and museums.

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