Tablets and iPads in Conferences: 10 things you should consider
Tablets are an increasingly popular option for conferences and events. With careful planning they can add a huge amount of value to your meeting. Here are some things you should consider if you are planning to use them at your next event.
Over the last couple of years we’ve been involved in many events that have used iPads or tablet computers. When used sensibly, they can involve and engage delegates in new and exciting ways. However, they can also be a source of distraction or worse still provide a means for the delegates to escape virtually from the conference.
So here is a list of things we feel are important. It’s in no way meant to be definitive but hopefully it’ll be useful for you in your planning.
1. Meetings are about people
It’s a simple one, but with technology we sometimes see clients getting too focussed on the method rather than the message. The technology you use at an event should be designed to fit the needs of the people who are going to use it and to facilitate the meeting’s goals. Don’t be afraid to tell your technology provider how their equipment has to work at your event. It should never be about how your event needs to adjust to their technology!
2. Not all wifi is the same
Your venues probably provide wifi. And sometimes it’s even free. But is it any good? The problem with most wifi access points is that they aren’t designed for a high density of devices. A lot of venues had their wifi installed when you might get 4 or 5 people connecting a laptop in a room. When planning your event using tablets you may suddenly want to have 300 devices working in the same room. Unfortunately a lot of venues will still say that will be fine, and you’ll only find out it doesn’t work when it’s too late. Some providers like us tend to prefer to set up our own closed wifi network instead and not rely on the venue at all. This involves using high-end professional access points and managing them ourselves.
If you are using the venue’s wifi and/or internet connection, you must talk to your venue and your technology provider and find out how it is going to work.
3. Internet access
Following on from the previous point, if you want your delegates to have wifi access on their own devices you may want to have a look at the link below. It’s a bit geeky but if you want to handle this aspect, you will need to get a bit technical.
4. Size does matter
There are 10″ tablets, 9.7″ ones, 8″ and 7″ too. So which one is right for your event? We are slightly biased of course as we have (as far as we know) the largest stock of Nexus 7 tablets in the world. (We also have a reasonable stock of the Nexus 10 too.) The 7″ device is about half the size of a 10″ device. This makes it far more versatile for individual use. Voting, messaging and viewing conference information are equally as good on a 7″ device as on a 10″ one. It is in our opinion much more suited for general conference use.
However, if you are wanting to stream slides (even after reading the next point!) then you will probably prefer to do that on the bigger display that a 9″ or 10″ tablet offers. If your event has a lot of table discussion where delegates are sharing a device, again it may be better to go with a larger device.
Also, if you are wanting to install information kiosks at your event, then again we would recommend the larger device.
So it’s really about you analysing how you think the technology is going to be used, and then choosing the right device to fit. If you can, involve your technology provider in these discussions.
5. What are you looking at?
One feature that can work well, but comes with a slight warning is that of streaming slides to tablets. It seems like a great idea: to send a copy of the slides as they happen on screen, straight to the tablets. And in principle, it is. In venues with limited visibility, or where slides are complex, it’s great to have a monitor for each individual. However, be warned that this can lead to a ‘heads down’ meeting, where no one is looking at the presenter or the main screen. This can be extremely disconcerting for the presenter, who might as well be in a different room, city or even country.
Our advice would be to think about where you want your delegates to be looking at each stage of the conference, and use the technology to help with that.
6. Here, there, everywhere
There are two different ways you can provide tablets to your delegates. As with voting keypads, you can just provide them inside the meeting room(s). In other words, the delegates leave them there when they leave. Alternatively, you can give them a tablet at registration that they can take around with them throughout the event. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, and the difference in cost between the two can be quite significant. So it’s probably a good idea to discuss with your client and with your technology provider as to which solution best fits your event.
7. Take note
If your tablets allow for taking notes, it’s worth looking into privacy and data protection rules. It’s one area we feel has been forgotten about. Can the end client access the delegates’ notes? Does the end client have the delegates’ permission to hand over their contact details to the technology provider so that they can send on the notes? What data security measures does your technology provider have in place?
8. There’s an app for that
The great thing about tablets is their versatility. You can use them for all manner of things.
The worst thing about tablets is their versatility. You can use them for all manner of things.
Hang on a minute! What’s going on here?
If you have lots of available things for delegates to ‘play with’, then play with them they will. And while they’re playing, they’re probably not listening.
So, do look at all the features you’re planning to have, and ask yourself how much each one actually adds to the meeting. Is it really a good idea to have instant private messaging between delegates during the presentations?
9. Getting creative
Do take advantage of the capabilities of the tablets. You shouldn’t have to be tied down to the standard ‘apps’ that the technology provider mentions. Ask them about creating custom apps for your conference. Some examples we have created:
- Interactive medical case studies
- Placing of items onto a picture in their correct rotation and size
- Cookie tasting involving identifying and pricing cookies on taste. Scores calculated and sent back in real time for display
- Display of delegate information including breakout sessions
- Interactive touch screen quizzes
10. Managing attendance
Tablets are powerful computers with a great interface. They can be linked together so they can update each other. So why not use them for managing attendance too? Some providers use iPads and scan barcodes or QR codes using the camera to take a picture. We prefer to use NFC badges that can be placed on an NFC-ready tablet. These can be in stylish stands or kiosks and provide a self-service event management solution. Interactive delegate management allows you to integrate some really powerful and useful tools into an event. See here for more information.
In conclusion, we hope you have found this list useful and thought-provoking. Perhaps the key point that surfaces from this is that we’d really recommend you involve your technology provider as early as possible when considering using tablets. Pick their brains and use their experience and expertise to help plan your event.