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Destination Management Companies

The rapid growth of the event industry over the past twenty years has led to specialization and segmentation in the industry on a grand scale. Rarely does a solo planner do it all today. As meetings and events grow in size, complexity, and sophistication planners are specializing in perhaps one or two of the many complex elements that are the building blocks of successful and memorable events. Meeting and event planners are now functioning as executive producers, hiring a veritable army of specialists to pull together complex event productions.

Design

For example, event design has become an entirely separate specialty within event planning, and Event Planners now hire Event Designers to dress venues and develop event themes that establish brands, sell products, motivate and educate employees, and cement relations with important clients.

Technology

As communication, presentation, organization, and entertainment technology has evolved to a level of sophistication that challenges even the newly-minted tech specialists, event planners have left the entire technology element to them. The “planner as producer” now simply elucidates communication goals to tech designers, and they source, deliver, set-up and break down their elaborate array of technology that often both surprises and delights both the planner and the audience.

Destination Management

Destination management companies were originally small, local planners who were called upon by national corporations to help their planner manage an event in the local planner’s hometown market. The local planner naturally knew all the ins and outs of local transportation options, off-site activities, reputable caterers, and even how to best deal with primary venues. As these local planners captured more assignments, they began to specialize in sub-contracting local arrangements for “planners as producers” who were serving large corporate clients. They became what is now known as Destination Management Companies (DMCs).

M&A

Destination management companies are now merging into large national organizations capable of marketing their services to a national audience while retaining the expertise of planners housed in local markets.

Companies like Helms Briscoe and others have emerged as specialists in bringing national brand and local hotel together in a new symbiotic relationship that enhances the impact of large, complex events.

National destination management companies utilize the local knowledge of merged entities to produce unique off-site activities, engage popular local entertainers, utilize renowned local chefs, and discover historic venues for specialized presentations. The combination of nation-wide marketing power with local execution expertise is a powerful business model.

Conclusion

This market expansion, merger mania, and continued specialization and segmentation in the meeting and event planning industry is good for everyone, and no one need be left behind. We are all the best at something in our local markets and provide a unique service to our clients. Continued market expansion is a sign of health in our industry. We will all benefit.

The Experience Economy

Event and meeting planners take note. A recent Eventbrite report found that three out of four U.S. Millennials prefer to spend their money on live experiences rather than material goods. They’re calling this the new “experience economy”.

Creative Challenge

What exactly is this “experience economy”? What exactly do millennials mean by “experiences”? What does this new “experience economy” portend for our industry? How must planners react to another new market impulse? What are event planners already doing to convert “meetings” and “events” into “experiences”?

Amazing Event Experiences

We looked around the industry to see what the “early implementers” were doing to convert traditional lectures, learning, and networking into interactive experiences. We found the following examples of traditional meeting formats being converted into powerful “experiences”. If you don’t already clearly understand the concept, I think you will find the following examples enlightening.

  1. Underground Lectures – Imagine a lecture on urban renewal held in an abandoned factory in suburban Detroit. This technique of infusing the lecture space into the learning module is a powerful way to convert two-dimensional lecture content into a three-dimensional learning “experience”.
  2. Participation Movies – Allow participants to dive into a world where they co-create the experience by interacting with on-screen characters. The venue is designed to match the film set creating an immersive three-dimensional experience.
  3. On Demand Q&A – To boost the delegates’ “learning “experience” at a recent event, Startup Grind set up a separate stage focused exclusively on Q&A. Following speaker presentations, delegates submitted their questions through Slido. The speakers then answered the questions during 30-minute interactive “Ask Me Anything” sessions.
  4. Participants Setting the Agenda – What better way to make your event an interactive “experience” than by giving attendees the full power to co-create the agenda at the start. As BarCamp co-founder Ryan King put it, usually “there is much more expertise in the audience than there possibly could be on stage.” In this interactive “experience” organizers enabled delegates to propose sessions they wanted to see through Slido’s live Q&A feature. The organizers then selected the sessions delegates wanted to see the most thereby converting lectures into personalized speaker presentation “experiences” .
  5. PechaKucha – PechaKucha is a simple presentation format where speakers talk along to automatically advancing images. Twenty images are presented, for 20 seconds each. These events usually involve a series of eight to fifteen short standup talks. It’s is an opportunity to see “elevator pitches” by the creatives, students, researchers, or startups that want to spread their ideas.
  6. Hackathons – These coding, brainstorming and editing marathons usually bring people from the same field together to collaborate on a specific project. They can last from one day to a whole week. Such events always have a tangible goal that they strive to achieve.

Summary

The examples above are by no means all-inclusive. I selected them to give you a taste of what The Experience Economy is all about. Over the next two or three years our creativity will be challenged as one generation gives way to the next. Planners must learn what will communicate with and motivate a new generation of audiences. We will do our best to pass creative developments along as soon as we become aware of them. The rest is up to you.

Amazing Innovation

Our meeting and event industry is a living, breathing organism constantly evolving and changing to respond to the needs of our audience. I find myself browsing the internet in an effort to keep up with the creativity of my colleagues across the country and the world. In this blog I’ve decided to let these creative meeting and event planners speak for themselves. I think you will find their innovations thought provoking.

C2 MONTREAL

“Our goal is to always challenge ourselves and to challenge our attendees to keep them from doing the same thing over and over again and to give them new ideas and insights they can apply to their business,” said Martin Enault, chief operating officer of C2 Montreal.
“We work with behavioral analysts and psychologists to understand the basis of human interaction…when you play with people’s senses you actually disrupt their sense of normalcy…for example, when you lock people in a room without light, it removes the titles, it removes the job descriptions, the nationality, the skin color, and everyone connects as humans, and they connect in a way that is different than when you put people in a ballroom and a traditional environment.”

Another simple, but effective innovation from C2 Montreal was designing the main keynote venue was a “big-top” style tent with 360-degree projection mapping on the ceiling. Despite being large, the space offered intimacy, with the farthest seating just 13 rows from the speaker on a central stage.

“That big top enabled us to change the format of traditional talks. Through every speaker and transition we were creating a feeling of immersiveness to bring the speakers and people watching closer together to the point that they felt like they were in a living room and not in a major keynote,” said Enault.

AIRBNB OPEN

Airbnb worked with Civic Entertainment Group to design an event that spanned four blocks of downtown Los Angeles for three days of programming in 17 venues. Keynotes, panel discussions and “fireside chats” involving 150 thought leaders like Frank Geary and Brian Grazer took place in five historic theaters lining Broadway. Local restaurants, coffee shops, and retail sites housed smaller workshops, and parking lots became networking and partner marketing spaces. “We wanted the event to reflect the wonder and awe and exploration of the soul of a city,” said Sarah Goodnow, global head of alternative marketing for Airbnb.05

GOOGLE I/O

In 2017, planners took a city-planning approach anchored by a “Main Street” that ran through the middle of an amphitheater’s parking lot, with four color-coded zones extending from it. They were creating an “home-town festival” environment.

“All the breakout sessions and sandboxes had their doors faced into Main Street,” Amanda Matuk, executive producer of Google I/O said. “It was the main drag, a shaded space we used not just for walking, but we had pop-up carts with food, picnic tables for people to relax, and we had Legos and games.”

ORACLE OPEN WORLD

At a 60,000-person event like Oracle’s Open World, how speakers deliver content was a crucial question. So, the tech giant tapped Harvard University’s Project Zero, which explores how people learn, along with its partner agency Mosaic to redesign its educational program.

“We’re creating this concept we call ‘collective learning’, which is taking the idea of the standard passive learning and making it active,” Paul Salinger, VP of Marketing at Oracle said.

New formats at Open World ranged from:

• Wayfinding sessions dubbed “homerooms” to “brain snacks,” sessions that have a format akin to speed-dating in which a facilitator guides two to three-minute dialogues between attendees.
• Instead of typical case studies that are delivered via lecture, participants are presented with the problem and have to work in teams to find a solution themselves.

“Where we’re going with this is a real interest in educating our audience in a different way to allow for deeper learning and networking,” Salinger said.

Food for Thought

It is amazing how creative our industry has become. It is vital that we all keep up and feel free to innovate.

Gen Z

What? Gen-Z? What happened to millennials? I thought millennials were the new generation who didn’t like to do things the old-fashioned way. Now, they’re old fashioned? Now we have Gen-Z? I’m not prepared to make adjustments for another younger generation. I haven’t even completed by millennial adjustment yet. Gen-Z? Really? I’m confused.

Who Am I?

I’ve lost my identity. I am not a “Baby-Boomer” planner. I rarely order limousines, presidential suites, caviar, 10-piece bands, or serve martinis “shaken not stirred” on the lanai in the moonlight.

I guess I think of myself more as a “Gen-Y” planner. I plan organic foods, speedy Wi-Fi, interactive breakout groups, nature hikes, and social media inclusion. However, nobody even talks about Gen-Y. A “Gen-Y” planner really isn’t anything.

So, I’ve been trying to gradually morph into a “Millennial” planner. I arrange Uber armadas, virtual meetings, circular interaction spaces, offsite history and social service adventures, Airbnb accommodations, and avoid “sage on the stage” like the plague. I’ve taught myself to order artisan Tequila every time even though it gives me a headache. Anything to complete my morph into – “Millennial” planner.

Gen-Z

I’m not near completing my millennial morph, but I’m told I’m too late. A new generation of attendees is entering the meeting planning market, and they are not millennials. The oldest members of this group are around 22 which means some are starting to leave school to apply for jobs and make money. They’re known as Gen-Z (aka – “iGen”), and they differ from their millennial forebears in many significant ways.

Continuing Medical Education – CME Standards of Excellence

Meeting planners have played a pivotal role in the evolution of continuing medical education. In the early years it was simply a matter of finding a venue with hotel rooms and conference space to accommodate a weekend seminar on the proper use of the x-ray. Now, more than 1,800 accredited CME providers annually offer close to 159,000 educational activities and execute more than 1 million hours of instruction interactions with 27 million healthcare professionals (Source: ACCME Data Report: Growth and Evolution in Continuing Medical Education).

More than any other, the medical profession has emphasized the continuing education of its practitioners. Along with medical equipment manufacturers, drug companies, hospitals, and universities medicine has developed a sophisticated and high-quality system of continuing education and continues to raise standards to this day.

ACCME/AMA

The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education and the American Medical Association are collaborating to simplify and align their expectations for accredited CME activities certified for AMAPRA Category 1 credit.

The ACCME states its mission as follows:

“The identification, development, and promotion of standards for quality continuing medical education utilized by physicians in their maintenance of competence and incorporation of new knowledge to improve quality medical care for patients and their communities.”

The ACCME fulfills its mission through a voluntary self-regulated system for accrediting CME providers and a peer-review process responsive to changes in medical education and the healthcare delivery system.

“Our goal is to encourage and reward accredited CME providers for implementing best practices in pedagogy, engagement, evaluation, and change management, and for focusing on generating meaningful outcomes.”

ELEVATED STANDARDS

This collaboration between the AMA and the ACCME has recently published a new menu of criteria for Accreditation with Commendation for CME providers who meet the following criteria.

The CME Provider:

1. Promotes Team-based Education
A. Engages students of health professions
B. Engages patients/public
C. Engages Inter-professional teams.
2. Addresses Public Health Priorities
A. Incorporates health/practice data
B. Addresses population health
C. Collaborates effectively

3. Enhances Skills
A. Optimizes learners’ communication skills
B. Optimizes learners’ technical/procedural skills
C. Creates individualized learning plans
D. Utilizes support strategies

4. Demonstrates Educational Leadership
A. Engages in research/scholarship
B. Supports CPD for CME team
C. Demonstrates creativity/innovation

5. Achieves Outcomes
A. Improves patient/community health
B. Improves healthcare quality

EVERYONE’S ON BOARD

CME providers tell us that this apparently benign list is a tall order to fill, but they welcome the challenge. Everyone involved in continuing medical education demands, and imposes on themselves, the highest standards of excellence. As new technologies and curriculum evolve in CME a collaboration of ACCME and certifying boards is needed to facilitate the integration of CME and Maintenance of Certification (MOC), enabling CME providers to use one unified system to register CME activities that count for MOC. That unified system is now emerging and providers are eagerly embracing it.

Caution… Swag Ahead! Use Caution

It’s no secret here in the office that swag gives me a pain in the neck. From keeping track of little plastic trinkets that attendees receive when they register, to the appalling excess of Hollywood swag bags, swag is not my favorite feature of event planning.

But despite my annoyance, swag, large and small, is an integral feature of most events and cannot be ignored. What’s more, a recent report from Shamini Peter, director of product safety and compliance at Axis, the branded promotional products firm, warns the industry that serious liability can be attached to otherwise innocent looking tee-shirts and lanyards that litter every event from Seattle to Miami. “More and more, the promotional industry started becoming the industry that the Consumer Product Safety Commission was paying attention to, and now we’re definitely in front of C.P.S.C.”

Peter reports having this exchange with planners across the country; “Nobody told me I had to put that special label and that special code on a kids’ T-shirt, and we tell them it’s because either the supplier doesn’t know or they don’t want to tell you about it because it costs a little bit extra money. But it is a law.”

What it is

Some surprising items—including lanyards and T-shirts—pose safety threats. Lanyards, for example, are inherently considered choking hazards, so many of Axis’s clients will only give out lanyards that have breakaway clasps.

Peter counts toys, cosmetics, and electronic items as high risk. “All electronic items need to meet certain regulations,” she says. “The mercury in the battery is one thing you have to think about, and there are state regulations as well.”

“Be especially careful when giving out products that even resemble toys,” she says. “If companies hand out products such as yo-yos or Nerf footballs to adults, it’s still a kids’ item,” she says. “The [event guests] are probably going to go home and give it to their kids, and the item is automatically considered a children’s product.”

Where it Comes From

And don’t count T-shirts out as risky. “If you’re buying a Fruit of the Loom or a brand-name T-shirt most of those T-shirts from massive retail businesses are meeting the federal guidelines at this point,” Peter says. “But if a client wants to screen print it, we have a select list of screen printers that we use because we have testing on the ink that they’re using.

“And importing from China is still a little bit like the Wild West,” Peter says. She points out that China has no safety regulations resembling ours and if you prioritize price over safety when deciding where to source your swag you could be putting yourself and your client in danger of a lawsuit.

Where It’s Going

We are advised to consider where our swag is going, as well. “The reason you ask that question is because some states, like Illinois and California, are very strict,” Peter says. For example: “Illinois has lead laws. So, if your product had lead content that’s more than the regulated amount, then you must put a warning label on the product prior to giving it out to the consumer,” Peter says. “Another example, under Proposition 65, California businesses have to place warnings on items that contain chemicals to let consumers know of any potential health risks.”

Pain in the Neck

You see? I was right. Swag is a “pain in the neck”. But, since it is not going away, it’s a pain planners should gladly welcome. We should see swag as just another detail in a mountain of detail that must be attended to by any serious professional planner. That’s why our services are in demand. Swag, as it turns out, is not a pain in the neck. It’s job security!

Home Sweet Home – Premier Meeting & Event Destination

Why are we always looking over the back fence to see what our neighbors are up to? After all, the Orlando/Central Florida market is perhaps the premier meeting and event destination area in the entire country. It’s time to turn our attention away from foreign lands and exotic far-away venues and take a look at what’s going on in our own backyard. What’s new in meetings and events for 2018 in Central Florida? Let’s take a look.

Orlando/Central Florida

In Orlando alone there are 255 hotels, 68, 543 sleeping rooms, and 2,100,ooo sq. ft. of convention space. Polk County situated between Orlando and Tampa boasts 900,000 sq. ft. of event space and more than 6,600 hotel rooms. Tampa Bay stands out with a 600,000-sq. ft. waterfront convention center, over 24,000 hotel rooms, 198 hotels, and 119 unique event venues. That all adds up to fully developed world-class meeting and event capacity. Can anything new be added? Is there anything local event planners do not know about? The answer is yes.

So, What’s New?

Even with that enormous capacity, the Central Florida region is not resting on its laurels. 2018 will see the opening of new hotels, restaurants, and activity parks. Be sure to include these new venues in your destination notes.

  1. The new Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach, opening in 2018, will add 200 hotel rooms and 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space to Central Florida’s meeting and event capacity. The Hard Rock’s lively, youthful, party-on vibe is carried throughout the property by the casual, modern décor, the “party-all-day” oceanfront pool bar, the hard rock fitness center, and the unique “Sound of Your Stay” music amenity program in each room. This is the perfect venue for youthful sales meetings and reward trips for millennials.
  2. On the other hand, Walt Disney World’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort offers the formal grace of a grand New England-style yacht club at its new lakeside hotel. The dignified hotel comes equipped with a 16,000-sq. ft. ballroom that can be divided into eight separate spaces. But don’t let the elegant feel of the décor dissuade your group from letting their hair down and getting out for some fun. You can rent a variety of water craft at the lakeside marina, dine around the resort campfire, and watch movies under the stars in the outdoor theater. This yacht and beach club uses the Florida climate and the lakeside setting to offer entertainment opportunities to groups of all sizes.
  3. The Aventura Hotel is slated to open in the Universal Orlando Resort in August, 2018. The sleek modern décor of its 600 guest rooms are 21st. century. This updated resort hotel will be popular with the tech industry and the film crowd where they can bring their young families to the annual get-together. The guest rooms boast a view of all the theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort.
  4. The Kimpton Hotel, opening in Tampa’s Westshore business district in 2018, will add 150 new rooms to the market and 4,000 sq. ft. of indoor event space. But here’s what you shouldn’t miss. The hotel will house a new restaurant by Michelin-starred Tuscan chef Silvia Baracchi from Relais II Falconiere & Spa. Seasonal, local, and fresh, Silvia Baracchi emphasizes the quality of ingredients she uses, explaining that Cortona provides the best in Tuscany. She is passionate about bringing from Tuscany this same dedication to quality and devotion to the finest local ingredients that Florida has to offer. A hotel room is a hotel room, but there is only one Silvia Barracchi.
  5. Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will be opening in the Disney Springs Town Center in 2018. Wolfgang has closed his old-style restaurant in Central Florida and will be replacing it with his Bar & Grill featuring a daily menu upgraded and refreshed with new versions of his signature dishes. In the spirit of Central Florida, Wolfgang is not resting on his laurels. Don’t miss his new offering.
  6. The Nona Adventure Park opening on Lake Nona in Orlando will be the newest high-tech team building adventure venue in the U.S. It will feature the first solar-powered water ski and wakeboard cable park in the world. The park will also include Central Florida’s first inflatable aqua park, a 60-foot climbing tower with a ropes course and climbing walls, a pro shop featuring equipment rentals and sales, and an upscale café. Meeting planners involved in team building should take a careful look.

In Central Florida, We Never Rest

Every time we mind our own business and take a look around our own backyard, we are surprised to find something we had not seen before. The Orlando/Central Florida meeting and event scene has never been more vibrant.

Back to the Future – Incentive Genealogy Travel

Incentive travel comes in many shapes and sizes. From ethnic food tutorials, to cooking school, to vigorous outdoor adventure, to ecology camp, to legendary golfing venues, to social work among the world’s disadvantaged, incentive travel rewards are being customized to fit almost every interest, taste, avocation and hobby. And why not? Studies reveal that the more personalized an incentive travel reward is, the more powerful its motivational component.

Genealogy Travel

Today, the fastest growing segment in incentive travel is genealogy travel. “It’s everywhere you turn,” says A.J. Jacobs, author of It’s All Relative. Also called Homeland or Legacy Travel, genealogy trips combine the search for a personal, emotional, or spiritual relationship to the past with a traditional vacation.

“There’s a desire to see firsthand where our ancestors walked and farmed and ate and lived and raised their kids,” says Dallen Timothy, a professor at Arizona State University and editor of The Journal of Heritage Tourism. “People are turning to their own familial past as a way to find grounding in a tumultuous world.”

The Family Tree

Like so many other recent trends, it all started with family tree websites on the internet. As the trend to find out where our ancestors came from picked up steam, the technology began to evolve. Documents such as birth certificates and immigration papers became easily accessible on the web and interest in genealogy exploded. Now, DNA testing kits can determine people’s familial origins and link them with living relatives. It’s estimated that $4.3 billion will be spent on those products and services globally this year.

Back to the Homeland

And thousands of would be genealogists jet off to ancestral homelands each year. Countries like Ireland, where an estimated 80 million people worldwide have roots, market themselves to those with ethnic connections. Northern Ireland counts up to 20,000 annual visitors from overseas who participate in genealogical activities during their trips.

Genealogy Travel is Rewarding

University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism professor Dr. Carla Santos says, “These travelers are not looking for a relaxing getaway, at least not in the traditional beaches and shopping sort of way. Instead, they’re tourists in search of their own stories…It starts at home, where they learn everything they can online,” she says. “Then they want to experience places the family comes from and get a sense of what their lives may have been like.” Dr. Santos sees ancestral homeland visits as the ultimate form of genealogy travel. “When people experience different things and places, they come back transformed,” she says. “Genealogy is so personal that I imagine the transformative power of a trip like this is really great. Exploring, redefining and confirming our identities are life-long projects. This kind of genealogical travel gives us a practical way to think about belonging, home, heritage and identity.”

Make a Template

If you have not already considered genealogy travel as part of your incentive travel program now is the time to start.

• Spend some time researching the most common countries of origin found in the U.S. like Ireland, England, Italy, Poland, Germany, or a selection of Middle Eastern and African countries.
• Find the travel companies in the countries you select that specialize in genealogy travel.
• Plan typical genealogy trips based on the input from these genealogy travel experts.
• Finalize incentive genealogy travel templates that corporate HR departments can use to customize rewards for deserving employees.

Planning effective genealogy travel incentives is an ongoing process but the old adage,

–PROPER PRIOR PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE –
still applies.

Solitude – A New Corporate Malaise

In the last three years our planners have been called upon with increasing frequency by HR departments across the country to create team building events that can help their workers overcome an emerging work-related injury:

Depression – caused by – S O L I T U D E

The “work-from-home” new normal that has been a financial boon to technology companies, banks, customer service vendors, and a myriad of other service-related industries has unfortunately been accompanied by some negative impacts. It seems that workers who were originally thrilled to forego commuting in traffic, being herded by hovering supervisors, and forced to attend endless meetings have discovered that working from home casts a deep sense of solitude across their lives. Here’s what some experienced “work-from-home” employees reported after working from home for a length of time.

A Lack of Normal Social Interaction

“So, after some time working remotely, I began to miss the coffee chats, previously felt as unproductive wastes of time. I felt detached from the team, especially when the teams I worked with were made of multiple people working in the same office/place, and seeming to have fun.”

Interruptions

“A part of the problem is that on a chat, people do not see you physically, so they cannot really estimate if you are at a good moment to be interrupted. So, you are interrupted a lot, and if you are a bit like me, you feel forced to answer quickly. And in case you do not know it, interruptions are loathed by programmers, since it is really bad for their productivity as it breaks their focus.”

Loneliness

“Working at home can mean a lot of loneliness. I really started to hate being alone most of the time and have felt it to be quite bad for my mental health and my mood.”

You Never Leave Work

“When you work remotely, you do not leave your working place at night. On top of that, if you work with people in different time zones, you might end up communicating a lot with people when your day is already over.”

Career Risk

“Working remotely makes you less visible in your company. On a more humorous note, you have to consider that working in your sweat pants for years, unshaved and without too much time constraints, might make you unfit to go back to work in an office. You might suffer from some degradation of your social skills.”

Team Building

Meeting and event planners to the rescue. “We need you to design an abbreviated but more frequent team building event for our “work-from-home” team members. They’re starting to lose touch and seem to get ill more frequently than our on-site team.”

Since 2015, our meeting planners are having this conversation with corporate managers and HR departments more frequently. In response, we have designed a myriad of custom, brief, and regularly scheduled team building events for smaller employee groups that need to be reassured that they still belong, and their company knows that they exist. These are the elements we always include when customizing these smaller team building events:

  • Always use a local venue.
  • Design social engagement rather than instruction sessions.
  • Personalize the event. This get-together is for the remote workers attending not for the corporation at large.
  • Keep the event brief but structured.
  • Design exercises that make “work-from-home” team members feel relaxed, connected, and valued.
  • Talk with not down-to remote team members.
  • No “corny” stuff. No little gifts. No greeting cards. No “school-marm” lectures. Show respect to highly intelligent employees who are asked to self-supervise their own production.
  • Give them a real-world problem to solve with their on-site colleagues attending the custom event. The duration of the team-building event serves as a deadline.

New Problem – New Solution

These smaller, brief, and more frequent team building events are exactly what the doctor ordered for the modern, work-from-home corporate landscape that has evolved over the past ten years. We predict that planners will be swamped with requests in 2018.

The Future is Now

In order to keep abreast of advances in meeting and event planning technology we find we have to publish a related blog about every ninety days. It’s truly amazing how changes in technology can alter the very nature and structure of events and the job of the meeting and event planner. Since our last technology update in November 2017, we have uncovered even more advanced technologies that planners can use to streamline events and make them more exciting.

Here are seven more new technologies that are changing the way we do business.

  1. Chat bot – We all know what a chat bot is but maybe we haven’t utilized it effectively in our event design. Sciensio’s Concierge Eventbot, for example, allows guests to ask the bot questions via text and receive an instant response based on content provided by the event host. Common content for an event bot would be agendas, speaker bios, venue and parking maps, and sponsor information. Instant information and communication at a large and complex event is very well received by attendees who are often swamped by activities, meetings, and networking opportunities.
  2. Artificial Intelligence – VNTANA and Satisfi Labs have developed an artificial intelligence hologram that can listen to guests’ questions and provide instant answers. Artificial intelligence capability is being woven into all information gathering apps and utilized to sort attendee metrics into a wide variety of categories useful to both hosts and exhibitors, not to mention planners themselves.
  3. Facial Recognition – Companies such as Zenus provide facial recognition check-in systems for events. Guests upload a photo during registration and then are automatically checked-in when they stand in front of a camera.
    Facial recognition can also be used to evaluate the attendee experience, potentially providing more authentic feedback than a traditional survey. Affectiva is one company that provides emotional analysis by tracking facial expressions and movement to determine if the subject is interested, confused or happy. This information can be utilized for marketing by individual exhibitors, future attendance strategies by event hosts, and event design by meeting and event planners.
  4. Augmented Reality – One AR application called Skrite uses augmented reality to leave content such as photos, product information, and more in the air above events. The content appears on the user’s device when they tilt it toward a designated spot in the sky with the Skrite app open. Exciting, fun, and useful.
  5. Beacons – This advanced blue-tooth-like technology has changed communication at events. Now planners, exhibitors, and sponsors can send information directly to an attendee’s smartphone throughout an event. Also, beacons are a two-way street that can be used to track attendee behavior, providing data on foot traffic, dwell time, and more.
  6. Social Listening – Combined with geofencing, social listening is one of the newest tools for gathering attendee feedback. Two companies, Amps and Ground Signal, provide services that monitor posts on social media from specific locations so brands and companies can understand what their audience is sharing.
  7. Handwriting Robots – The Bond company has just launched a service that makes it easy for planners to send hundreds, even thousands, of thank-you notes that look as if they were each written by hand. Instead, the work is done by Bond’s robots – the company has hundreds of them – that use real ink pens to write your message on white cardstock.

Keeping Up

The biggest challenge for meeting and event planners in the field of technology is just keeping up. Software engineers and app developers are constantly finding new uses for mobile devices that impact the event industry. Some of these innovations help us execute events more efficiently and some of them enhance our attendee’s experience. Either way, in order to remain current, planners must stay abreast of theses technological advances as they appear in the marketplace.