As I was walking into Costco the other day, kids in tow, I fumbled about at the door trying to find my membership card to show the red-vested employee who gets paid to punch a clicker for every patron, greet them as they enter, and explain to non-card-carrying folks that membership is a must.
Sort of a polite club bouncer.
I was surprised that a smoother entry process hasn’t yet found its way to the doors of the big-box store — one where members can enter without Roto-Rooting their wallets, pockets and purses; one in which radio waves are sent and you breeze through like you do in pre-paid toll roads across America. Only traditionalists and non-urbanites bother fishing for quarters to plunk into the toll hopper (then dare the gate not to raise just in time as they pull forward — assuming, of course, one of those quarters didn’t circle the hopper then pop out onto the road. Yeah, it’s happened to all of us).
I digress …
Point is, technology is changing and evolving so rapidly!
(I know, the profundity and insight offered by that last statement pegs a solid minus-1 on a 1-10 scale but I felt like I needed to lay that “duh” out to set up my next point.)
I sometimes feel frustrated, in my day-to-day activities, when tech opportunities haven’t been incorporated where they would fit quite nicely and make my life and everyone’s else’s life just a little easier. Airports (some, that is) and toll roads have done it. Uber takes the pain out of payment. And Amazon is testing it’s Amazon Go convenience-store concept in Seattle where no checkout is required. Once you have downloaded the free app and set up an account, you breeze into the C-store, snag your desired items, and go. No lines, no checkout, no snarly cashiers. A day or two later, your account is charged for the item(s) and an e-receipt is sent to you.
What are you doing with new and cool meeting and event technology?
For those of us in the meetings and events industry – especially those who are, ahem, a bit seasoned and maybe a little bored with the same ol’ same ol’ – it gets frustrating when cool new tech, digital, and gee-whiz offerings are out there begging to be used but, for whatever reason, aren’t incorporated.
Meetings and events aren’t unlike the evolution of the consumption of music. Things change and get better. And in time, cheaper.
Remember 8-track tapes which begot audio cassettes which begot CDs which begot the iPod then the iPhone? Seems the iPod was all new and cool just a few short years ago and now it occupies a distant corner in the bottom drawer of your desk or the drawer at home where you keep your seldom-worn socks. These days, if the tune you want can’t be downloaded on-the-fly — stored digitally and accessible on all your on-the-go devices – or streamed live on Spotify, it’s simply not worth having.
We’re spoiled, people. But that’s to be expected. Change, improvement and evolution made us that way.
It wasn’t too many years ago we meeting and event professionals shipped out for programs with a bulging, 10-pound, 3-ring binder under one arm and a carry-on bag stuffed with ¾” video tapes under the other. Then hoppin’ down the bunny trail came the jump drive that could hold not just all the contents of said 3-ring binder but probably three editions of World Book Encyclopedia, too. (Remember World Book Encyclopedia. Of course, you don’t. Wikipedia took care of that.)
Lo and behold, not long after jump/thumb/flash drives or dongles or whatever you care to call them, came cloud storage. Now we simply push all the stuff into “the cloud”, the mysterious, out-there-somewhere file cabinet that allows us to travel more lightly and access our files – speeches, video, audio, animation, etc. – once we arrive at our destination.
Here are five hot meeting and event-related technology offerings you should consider building into your next program to keep things lively and engaging:
Catchbox – No more mic wranglers hustling up and down the aisles during Q&A sessions. Catchbox is the world’s first tossable (yes, that’s a word, I just made it up) microphone. When a hand is raised, throw Catchbox to the person and they speak into it before throwing it to the person with the next question. It’s colorful, padded and fun. It breaks the ice and engages the audience. The quirkiness of it all can even settle the nerves of the person least likely to stand and pose a question or make a comment. And the audio quality is superb.
Crowd Mics – Also a Q&A enhancer, Crowd Mics is an app that connects audience members’ smartphones (iOS and Android) to the room’s audio system so every person has his or her own microphone. Presenters and audience members connect to the same wireless network. No internet connection is required because the app only uses the router to push data back and forth. You know your folks are all going to have their smartphones in hand so leverage that reality and engage them.
Beacon Technology – Just as a lighthouse emits light signals to inform mariners, beacon technology is used in trade shows, expos and events to deliver content. The beacon detects a device within a certain proximity and automatically pushes relevant content to that device. Since users must download an app on their smartphone or tablet to receive communication signals from the beacon, a pre-event communique announcing the availability of the app and promoting its benefits would be wise. You could also offer convention-goers a quick download of the app by scanning a QR code onsite. Beacon technology can be used to deliver product or service-related content, engage visitors, and enhance the in-booth experience (i.e., lead them on a treasure hunt within your footprint that takes them to all important info stations in your booth). It can also be used for show floor mapping, instant updates, special announcements, invitations to evening events, room monitoring/attendance collecting, and can facilitate networking of persons with similar interests, etc.
Friction-Free Check-In – Many of you have already had the opportunity to experience easier check-in at event registration via terminals such as Cvent OnArrival. For smaller events, there are guest check-in apps like Check In Easy that eliminate the antiquated process of crossing names off an alphabetized, hard-copy Excel spreadsheet then handing over a badge. QR codes on smart devices can now confirm pass scanning (Did ya hear that, Costco?) and you can even receive special notifications that a VIP has arrived or that Elvis has left the building.
Facial Recognition Technology – Yeah, this is a little James Bond-ish but it’s quickly becoming a great tool for collecting data in tradeshow, meeting and event settings without asking people to take a survey. For meeting and event professionals, facial recognition technology allows you to measure moods, demographics and even spontaneous reactions that indicate approval or displeasure at various stages of audience engagement. Gathering this data will help planners better understand what engages and stirs audiences and also what causes them to tune out and start checking emails or text messages.
With technology changing so rapidly, there are myriad ways to engage your audience more meaningfully and to make their whole meeting and event experience richer.
What great new tech offerings are you seeing out there in the world of meetings and events? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time …