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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Meeting Technology: 5 Ways to Make Tech Work for Events

Technology has permanently and profoundly impacted the way that the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions industry does business. From advertising and marketing to social media and customer relationship management, virtually every spectrum of day-to-day business functions is being impacted by apps, online services, and the shift to mobile devices. Luckily, the power to leverage all to create more positive results for your business is just a single click or tap away. Following are among the key technology trends to keep in mind going forward as you plan, execute, and market your events–as well as ways into the power of all to more effectively connect with colleagues and clients.

Connected and Mobile Computing–Among today’s biggest high-tech themes: ‘Smart’ (Internet-connected) and mobile devices, all supporting on-demand downloads, apps, and options to create or share media amongst each other. With over 1.2 billion sales of smartphones and tablets expected in 2013 alone, event and venue websites shouldn’t just be optimized for these platforms (think smaller screens and more immediate user access), among attendees’ new primary research tools. Ongoing programs and promotional content – i.e. videos, podcasts, online learning libraries, etc. – should also be built that support corresponding display sizes and bandwidths, a higher frequency of delivery and viewing consumption patterns, and one-touch sharing capability. Often a first point of contact with customers, and key channel for ongoing communications efforts, more important than specific devices utilized – e.g. iPhone 5 or Sony Xperia Z – is how you’re reaching and engaging buyers who are growingly found upon them.

Hardware and Technology Performance Gains – Thanks to chipmakers like AMD, Qualcomm, Intel and NVIDIA, all growingly concentrating on such mobile solutions, set-top PC horsepower and graphics performance is also increasingly available from pocket-friendly devices in a variety of screen sizes, formats and price points. Combined with broadening access to cloud computing solutions including SlideShare, MightyMeeting and Prezi, this means pitching sponsors and strategic partners is suddenly easier than ever – assets and presentation materials can now be shared via portable screens. Nowadays, your desktop not only travels wherever you do, making doing business easier than ever. Whether focused on engaging end-users or B2B clients, it’s relatively painless to provide attendees with 3D floor plans or (via virtual or on-site video demos) offer advertisers a firsthand tour of featured venues without hopping an international flight. Added bonus: Using online storage, real-time collaboration and transfer solutions such as Dropbox, Google Drive or YouSendIt, there’s no more having to worry about accidentally packing outdated versions of your latest PowerPoint deck or seeing sales reps accidentally leave key files behind at the office either.

Video and Content Sharing Solutions – As an outgrowth of devices’ rising power and portability, a skyrocketing array of smartphones, tablets and low-cost HD camcorders now make it possible to quickly capture learning or announcements and create and share broadcast-quality video at little cost. Businesses and venues of every size can now assemble learning libraries, build evergreen promotional assets, or even live-stream convention content using apps like Qik or Livestream at-will at minimal cost. Best of all, such initiatives pay lasting dividends by letting you easily extend the value of events and campaigns far beyond actual day-of activities and attendance. Note that casual face-to-face and group videoconferencing solutions tailor-made for boosting client empathy are also readily available via apps such as FaceTime or Tango, and social network features like Google Plus’ Hangouts option.

Social Participation and Feedback – With social media now baked into so many gadgets and second-nature to consumers, and therefore paramount to any promotional strategy, it bears remembering: Today, corporate communications are a two-way street. Among 2013’s most effective marketing techniques– inviting audience participation using creative initiatives designed to drive fan engagement and group collaboration, which can help boost audience empathy and awareness while simultaneously slashing advertising costs. Case in point: When promoting events or destinations, consider asking observers to participate via Web, word-of-mouth, email or social channels by submitting questions, comments, video commentary or even new logos for consideration. (“Winners to be featured in our next national ad campaign!”) Not only do such techniques heighten engagement and potential pass-along. Submissions can also be used to shape event programming (e.g. when weighing trending topics for consideration as panel topics) or used in supporting materials – all fair game for posting on your website, sharing online, or incorporating into future takeaways and promotions.

The Content Marketing Boom – Another key recent development: Search engines have become the new initial frontline for customer interaction, causing sales funnels to shrink. And in a world where businesses are growingly defined by their online footprint, industry pros must realize – suddenly, today, we’re all in the publishing business. Given content’s growingly disposable nature, an outpouring of the Web’s explosive growth and the boom in mobile devices, content marketing efforts should be an ongoing part of every organization’s promotional efforts. Happily, not only is your own enterprise filled with subject matter experts who can serve as ambassadors via blogs, newsletters, podcasts or similar outreach channels. Events provide the perfect venue at which to tap experts, executives, and community leaders for learning, insights and advice which can be used to generate added value and help raise awareness all year long. As part of programs, workshops and events, ask all to share best practices, hints and tips, and offer support or inspiration. Quotes and commentary can then be incorporated back into newsletters, mailers, trailers and more, providing year-long benefit.

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