How to Get the Best Out of Tablets and “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) at Corporate Events: Part I
Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in the use of ‘smart’ devices in conferences and events. A large proportion of conference goers now own at least one device that can connect to the internet and has a reasonably large touch screen interface. However, as with any new use of technology there are success stories and also things that could be done better.
The Events Industry has seen several technological revolutions over the years and with the advent of the smart phone, mobile internet and social media, technology is no longer limited to within the meeting room. People have a far more refined notion as to what is acceptable in terms of functionality, speed and accessibility; in other words, the average delegate expects more.
There are new ways to interact inside and outside of meeting rooms, and new avenues of communication are available between delegates and organisers. Increased participation can bring greater engagement and improved results. Within reason, anything is possible now.
However, as in the book of the same title, this brave new world is not entirely what it seems.
Reality has a habit of being quite different to the plans and designs we carefully put together. Two things immediately come to mind that can really change the design, namely the budget and timescale. Often it seems we never have enough of either, but there are some things we can do to help in both of these areas. There is a third element that can help shape which technology or technologies we employ at a meeting, and one that is definitely worth keeping at the front of your mind throughout the planning process.
If there is only one thing that you remember from this article, it would be the next sentence. Never lose sight of the meeting objectives. Forgive me if you feel I am stating the obvious, but sometimes technology can impose its own structure on an event, and this can alter the results. Similarly, sometimes a particular solution can have a completely different effect to the one envisaged and planned for. So it makes complete sense never to lose sight of the original goals. I tend to ask myself and my clients four questions, namely:
- What are the reasons for the meeting?
Why are you meeting in the first place? Is it for fun, a regular meeting or one for a specific purpose?
- Who are the delegates?
Are they employees, clients or members of the public?
- What are the meeting messages?
What key information are you trying to get across? What are you expecting your attendees to learn at your event?
- And what outcomes are you expecting?
What are you expecting back from your attendees? Are they participating with voting or messaging? Is there lead retrieval for exhibitors?
The answers should shape the choice of what you can and want to put into a delegate’s hands. Keep these in mind and examine every aspect to ensure they fit in with the goals.
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start working out what technologies best fit those particular requirements. The key here is to involve your technology partner as early as possible. Technology is often now part of the fabric of an event and so it makes sense to use your technology supplier as a sounding board for your ideas. See them not as mere suppliers, but as consultants and you will soon not only discover whether you should be working with them at all, but also you will stand the best chance of getting the right technologies for your event.
Armed with your meeting design and ideas, ask them for recommendations. See if what they come up with actually fits in with the outcomes you are trying to achieve. If they just reel off the list of services from their website, then perhaps you need to look for a different partner. They should be willing to listen and to suggest suitable services that will deliver the goals you need.
At this stage, it is vital you make sure you understand everything they are suggesting. Seems obvious, but we’ve all been taken in by jargon at some point, haven’t we! The important thing here is that if you don’t understand how a particular piece of technology will work and add value to your event on a one-to-one basis directly with the provider, then how will your attendees understand it when the presenter tries their best to explain it at the start of the event?
No two meetings are the same, so demand flexibility. The solutions offered should adapt to your event, they shouldn’t expect your event to adapt to them. If you make significant changes to accommodate a particular system, then realise that the outcomes may change. Don’t fit your event around technology – if you do, the attendees will remember the technology and not the message!
Don’t assume attendees will automatically use your technology. You must give them a reason to want to use it. There must be a benefit for the delegate – make sure it is obvious or demonstrated as soon as you can. Icebreakers are great for showing how messaging systems work for example and clearly show to the attendees that the organisers are listening.
If you’re using RFID, the delegates need to see it makes their lives easier, for example to access data and see their personal itinerary. If they feel it is just being used to monitor their activities and attendance, you will have a rebellion on your hands.
An added benefit from involving your technology partner early in the process is that our two old friends “budget” and “timescale” can be dealt with effectively. Leaving things later can mean either there is no budget for what you need, or there is no time to implement what you can afford.
How to get the right technologies for your event and pitfalls to avoid will be covered in part II of this article.