Meeting planners and attendees alike are thirsty for technology that amplifies their event experience.
According to the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC), meeting planners are wanting and using tech trends more than ever, and not just in the meetings themselves. Tech also plays a big part in researching and booking venues, onsite interactions, and communication. Here are some of the hottest trends for 2016, which will impact where and how planners book their meetings.
Drones have become much more affordable and have moved beyond sporting events and real estate aerial photography. Expect them to become commonplace in mapping out conference venues for GPS integration and creatively photographing and filming events.
Part-time meeting planners who hold other positions within their companies are limited in the time they can devote to meeting planning. In a recent report, IACC stated, “Today’s meeting planner expects and requires more from their venue partners in terms of evaluating venues’ capabilities to support their meeting or event.” So, when planners can’t make it out to your property for a site visit, they’re going to rely more on technology like Google Street View to virtually “tour” the venue and view meeting layouts.
Forget about the need for multiple chargers and under-counter boxes with tangles of charging cables. Wireless Power Consortium is advancing the technology with wireless charging points in more than 3,000 hotels. Even IKEA is selling desks and tables with built-in wireless charging. Lesson? Simply pointing out your wall jacks is being lazy. Consider incorporating wireless charging points to meeting rooms, break-out space, restaurant tables, guest rooms, bar tops, and lobbies.
Beacons are hotter than ever. They offer attendees directions and relevant information based on their location in your venue. Want to know how long a line to get into a certain exhibit hall is, or where large numbers of attendees are congregated? Beacons can provide that information through smartphone or wearable technology apps. At Austin’s SXSW, more than 1,000 beacons were used across 265 venues, which when accessed through the app, gave attendees such benefits as location-based event messaging, push notifications, and even hyper-local networking. At conventions, beacon technology can also monitor how long attendees linger in front of particular booths, how the crowd is flowing, and aid in onsite data collection.
Sometimes it’s not feasible to get everyone in the room at the same time. Virtual attendance can include capturing video to send to an alternate location in real time, or attendees can participate by computer interface. Venues are improving this experience by upgrading meeting rooms with high-bandwith connectivity, microphones mounted on the ceiling, and software that integrates virtual attendees or guest speakers into the meeting.
Wearables, including smart name badges, wristbands, watches, and wearable beacons are becoming mainstream. Wearables streamline the attendee experience by subbing as admission tickets, transacting epayments, check-in, storing contact details for lead generation, sending conference messages and alerts, opening guestroom doors, and giving GPS directions. Smart name badges can be shared as virtual business cards, and they allow attendees to participate in polls, surveys, and track exhibitor booths.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
What’s the difference between virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)? In VR, users interact within a created virtual world that blurs the line between what’s real and what isn’t. To do this, users wear a VR helmet or goggles, such as the Oculus Rift system and have immersive experiences, for both attendees and planners alike. Use VR to give a more realistic and engaging hotel site inspection experience to planners, or planners can offer VR to people who can’t attend the event as a more realistic alternative to a webcast.
AR, on the other hand, blends VR and real life, helping users distinguish what is real and what isn’t as they interact with both virtual and real images. With the augmented reality tool, Hololens, immersive interaction and collaboration will be possible between users in different locations.
This year, we’ll see a whirlwind of tech innovations, apps, and ideas making their way into our meeting venues and the way we work. Are today’s newest tech tools helping you or hindering your efforts to increase group business? Which technology are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Junvi Ola.