Talk about an impossible mission. “Hot Technology” is indeed in the eye of the beholder (and the mobile device of the user). For some groups, using Facebook and QR codes may still be a real breakthrough for your conference. For others—well, go ask any teenager about whether Facebook is even cool anymore.
Yet hot tech is definitely more than basic social media and standard conference apps. This list is a mix of various tools—some specific products to use and some tech services you need, right now.
How many times have you been in a general session with Q&A? The audience microphone that is passed around often gets to people in the middle of their question (or in some cases, just as they’re finishing up their comments). A brand new tool, Crowd Mics (crowdmics.com), is hoping to fix that once and for all.
A freemium service, Crowd Mics turns everyone’s smart phone, both iOS and Android, into a wireless microphone. Both the presenter and attendees download the app. The presenter also needs to set up a unique meeting ID, and connect his or her mobile device into the house sound system via the headphone jack. And a wireless router for the room is required (although Internet connectivity is not). The presenter can control whose mic is active at any time or open them all for a room-wide conversation. Texting comments and session polling is also available on the app.
All new technologies need a friendly forum for early and non-early adopters to find out about what’s new and important. Techsytalk (techsytalk.com) from Liz King Events provides a multiplatform learning experience for planners and suppliers. The vibrant website is a portal into the latest technologies that are making an impact on the meetings industry.
Excellent white papers and an event tech-of-the-week blog are just the tip of the information iceberg at Techsytalk; check out its great social media presence, meet-ups and podcasts. In addition, techsytalk LIVE (formerly known as Plannertech) is a “must” meeting for planners who need to keep up with the latest tech. All in all, Techsytalk should be at the top of your list of great meeting tech-information sources.
APEX Event Bandwidth Estimator/Speed Test
Many planners and suppliers still don’t consider testing for venue and event bandwidth and connectivity speed an integral part of the meeting site selection process—until, of course, a lack of stable and adequate bandwidth undermines the goals of the meeting. Two free tools can help during the site selection phase:
One is the Event Bandwidth Estimator, created by the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (conventionindustry.org). This simple online tool allows planners to enter basic information about their meeting (number of users, type of bandwidth usage and type of devices), and the calculator estimates the bandwidth required. It’s a great preliminary tool.
Another tool is the free app/web service, Speed Test (speedtest.net). During the site visit, planners can quickly test the current wireless upload and download speeds; they should ask for the login to access areas of secure service. And planners can test the wired connectivity with their laptop.
The most talked about (and possibly hyped) tech of this year is the integration of Augmented Reality (AR) tools into all areas of our lives. Quickly defined, AR are computer-generated images superimposed onto our view of things—think Google Glass.
Meetings industry professionals should know about two of the biggest AR players, Layar (layar.com) and Aurasma (aurasma.com). Last year, Aurasma partnered with Omni Hotels to create one of the industry’s first AR print ads; readers used mobile device to hover over the ad, thereby unlocking a video and special offers.
Layar’s Creator tools allow everyone to simply and inexpensively create a “layer” of reality on top of a printed document. Imagine a traditional printed program with a video welcome from your CEO as another layer of that document; similar to Aurasma, readers hover their mobile device over the page, and the video appears. It’s sort of a QR code on steroids, but AR technology will potentially have an enormous impact on your meetings.
Bob.tv stands for Best of Business, and it curates content for businesses. The 2012 winner of the EIBTM’s meeting industry Tech Watch Award, its specific focus for our industry is The Events Network (events.bob.tv). This site is a rich video portal of recent content from industry events, from conversations about the hospitality industry’s rebound to educational information on social media and AV, for example. The YouTube-style page can become your group’s ultimate content resource.
PowerPoint isn’t dead, but that screen in the meeting room might be. Several tools are now available that help improve how we engage with content within the session room. One is Slide Klowd (slideklowd.com), a second-screen freemium app that lets presenters share their slides directly onto the mobile devices of audience members. The power of Slide Klowd doesn’t end with that, however. Presenters can take advantage of extensive analytics so, for example, they can see which slides drive the longest engagement. In-app tools include polling. Like most in-room tools, adequate connectivity is needed.
Most tech-savvy planners wouldn’t think of holding a conference today without a mobile app and at least a few social media services. One of the newer players on the app scene, Topi (topi.com) may be the most social of them all. Co-founded by an ex-Googler, Topi lets planners tap into attendees’ various—and multiple—social profiles, enhancing attendees’ ability to connect with the people around them before, during and after the event. With an excellent visual interface and search tools, the app also uses geo-fencing so attendees can connect with each other in the same venue, and features group conversations; private messaging; rich media sharing; broadcasts and surveys; real-time translations; and much more.
While many people may be familiar with the product-specific iBeacon from Apple, the inexpensive technology that are Beacons may revolutionize mobile payment and communications. Beacon tech uses Bluetooth technology to transmit messages and information to mobile devices by creating a signal around a specific location. Bluetooth helps alert customers/attendees whenever they are within the Beacon location.
For the meetings industry, not only can Beacons enhance the mobile payment component of registrations, but they also can enhance communication by providing location-appropriate information (such as notifications when attendees are near the registration area, so they can pick up badges and conference materials). The usage of Beacons is at a very preliminary stage, so stay tuned.
Computer Aided Design (CAD) room drawings have been part of the meetings industry for 30 years. The latest iteration of a useful CAD service is Social Tables (socialtables.com), which was a finalist for the EIBTM Technology Watch award in 2013. Instead of just a single-user tool, this product combines excellent room design and seating management tools with a wider range of event management options, including online collaboration. Like most good cloud-based tools, it supports mobile devices as well as the traditional PC interface. And onsite, planners can use Social Tables to manage their event check-in live.
This one is for the hoteliers, as Intelity’s (intelitycorp.com) Interactive Customer Experience (ICE) property solutions turn the guest room into an interactive experience for the guest. Room service, concierge services, local information and a lot more are now accessed through the guest’s mobile device (or in some cases, through the in-room tablet some hotels offer). This customer-centric approach to technology is changing forever the customer experience in the guest room and beyond.