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Seven Event Insights from the Frozen Tundra

Last week, I was in the frozen tundra of Minneapolis talking with people about meeting design and event technology. The events people there are creative, innovative and energizing.

In the discussions, we pushed and pulled on the future of event technology in meetings and events. We talked about technology adoption, the future of face to face, the role of Social Media, the backchannel madness, increasing social network adoption, fears with virtual events and much more.

Here are some of the things that captured my attention from these conversations:

  1. Should you seriously consider a paperless event? The average age of people that prefer digital materials over paper based materials is now 50. It makes me wonder how long it will take before we start to see a major push to paperless events. Any ideas?
  2. Generational communication. An event organizer from Augsburg College told me that the college was sending event invitations to students through Facebook, because students are not using email. How are you communicating with the different generations attending your events?
  3. Many events are not using the Audience Response System (ARS) tools effectively. ARS is a powerful communication and engagement tool. However, I continue to hear that event organizers are not maximizing the potential of this powerful tool. I think that we need more people to share their ARS success stories. What do you think?
  4. There is still a strong fear about virtual events. Despite efforts to make event organizers feel comfortable that virtual events are complimentary to face-to-face events, many event organizers are either afraid of virtual events or think that it is a temporary thing.  It seems like there is still a lot of work to do here.
  5. Corporate events need your help to be more innovative.  Many corporate events are cookie cutter because marketers and corporate staff count on us to help them understand what’s new and possible.  We need to challenge ourselves to make sure that we are helping marketers see what is new and possible.
  6. Interactive Hybrid Meetings. By allowing virtual and face-to-face attendees to vote, ask questions or submit ideas regardless of their location, IML has a new service that helps event organizers build bridges between the virtual audience and the face-to-face audience in hybrid events (or regional telepresence events).  I think we are going to see more event tech solutions like this emerge on the marketplace – if they are not here already.
  7. Tradeshow lead capture still needs innovation. It has been awhile since I have been to a US tradeshow. The last time I attended one, I thought the lead capture process was out-of-date and in need of innovation.  The team at Living TradeShow have created a super-simple FOB that simplifies lead exchange, puts the power to exchange leads into the hand of the attendee, gives exhibitors better data and makes the whole process paperless.

Bottom Line

The world around us is creating new ways for us to communicate and collaborate. But it’s messy. There is a lot of trial and error. Best practices are still emerging.  When you solve one problem – two new problems can emerge.  For people that are used to control this can be scary stuff.

What do you make of these observations? Is there anything interesting that jumps out at you?

Note: This Blog Post was written and uploaded in draft form while I was on an airplane. Though the Wifi was terrible and I had to finish it after I landed.
Photo Credit: scelis
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good stuff here Sam.

    Regarding paperless events, I think we have a way to go until they are completely paperless.

    We moved to putting all of conference information online and distributed the conference presentations and handouts via USB flash drive awareness braceletts. Our attendees (audience primarily over 40) loved it.

    The challenge I’ve had with paperless events is that learning is tied to an attendee doing something with the information–restating their learnings outloud, typing notes and/or writing it on paper. I’ve always encouarged speakers to use interactive handouts to help the attendee learn and retain infromation, even at the expense of the paper. In the environmental world, there are tradeoffs for everything.

    Regarding generational communication, much to my surprise, a recent study found that more than 60% of the over-45 are likely to text as make a mobile phone call. Wow, that goes against what I would have thought. I think the over 45 crowd is adopting new Web 2.0 communication tools (like Facebook email and texting) faster than we give them credit.

    December 21, 2009
    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for your comment and perspective.

      The biggest objection that I have heard to going paperless is that the participants will not accept electronic documents. So, I am encouraged when I hear that more and more attendees are willing to accept digital documents/materials over paper.

      I have seen some events go paperless where the exhibitor guide, silent auction list, agenda, participant list, handouts, etc. are all digital. What is interesting to me about going paperless (or digital) is that attendees consume the information in a different way. They concentrate on what is easy to access and what is most valuable.

      In addition, if you go digital – it is much easier to personalize the experience. For example, if you have digital agendas (distributed via mobile devices), you can give attendees agendas at a glance that include the sessions that they want to attend. Then, let them click on the detailed agenda details to get the speaker bios, detailed description, downloadable documents, etc.

      Thanks for your comment (and all of your comments on this blog in 2009). Best Wishes for a great 2010!

      – Sam

      December 31, 2009
  2. Samuel, I cannot tell you how helpful you & this blog are!

    My biggest issues are with streaming video:
    1) Lag time on Ustream
    2) Multiple video streams & recording
    3) Bad VoIP

    I like Adobe Connect Pro for multiple video feeds in various locations – works the best I’ve seen. However, their VoIP is not reliable so we have to use a teleconference line for audio – which adds cost to either us or the participants depending if we want to give a toll-free number. Also nice if you are using slides.

    I like Ustream because it emebeds the live video feed into your website. Nice if you are not using slides but the lag time is almost un-workable. The co-host feature is also terrible, especially because the co-host video can’t be recorded.

    The solution I like right now for broadcasts with 50+ people is a live Ustream embed using the CoveritLive chat – for webinars without slides.

    I also like Adobe Connect if you don’t mind having a separate call-in number and you don’t need it embedded onto your website or blog.

    I work with clients producing their webinars and I’d like to see more interactive live video feeds like Adobe Connect but with better VoIP, and that you can embed into your website.

    Do you recommend different techniques or combinations of technology for different types of webinars/online events, or would you recommend one solution that is best?

    Thank you SO MUCH!


    December 22, 2009
    • Hi Roxy,

      Thank you for the nice compliment. By the sounds of things, you have a lot of great experience in developing webinars and webcasts.

      For large audience webinars & webcasts – I think that three things are important for the virtual audience: Video, Slides and chat. Most solutions don’t allow you to do all three at once. The Video is important because it adds non-verbal context to the material being presented. The Slides are important because they help emphasize the speaker’s points. The chat (backchannel type chat feature) is important because it gives the audience members a voice and helps them connect with each other as well as the content.

      I would much rather have a chat feature in the large webcast (over 50 people) than an audio feature. Chat allows people to ask questions when they think of them. Also, it allows anyone to make comments or ask questions when they think of them. In the audio based model – each participant has to wait their turn to ask a question.

      Recently, I was a participant in a horrible web meeting that had only a private chat and on-demand audio. It was frustrating because you felt isolated and couldn’t connect with the speaker, other participants or the content.

      Also, I think frustration increases when non-tech people have to install several different media players for the event. I didn’t like downloading Real Player or installing Firefox to participate in an On24 Webinar. I imagine that some people bailed out of the webinar – just because of the technology requirements.

      Now – of course the answers here could change depending on the objective of the webinar or webcast. If you were organizing a web meeting with fewer than 10 people – where the objective is collaboration & discussion – then audio for each person is a mandatory item.

      Hope that this helps as a starting point.


      December 31, 2009
  3. Hey Sam what are you doing hanging out on our turf…without swinging by for an intro that is?

    It sounds like you’ve had a productive trip. I think some of what you are experiencing is the degree of specialization that exists within many organizations in the states. Planners tend to be very tactical and are buried in logistics. They aren’t responsible for the education and see marketing as a due date.

    With things tightening up and technology moving fast, more planners are realizing that they need to be more well rounded to maximize their career and increase their value.

    There are so many new technologies coming out right now. Everyone thinks they have the next great mobile solution, the killer social media event app or the ultimate virtual solution. There are going to be a ton of companies exit as quickly as they were launched. Good thing there are people like you that can help increase the chances of a solution making it through the launch phase.

    We hope to see you hanging out at our industry conferences in the months ahead. It would be fun to meet you, Sam!

    Dave Lutz – @velchain

    December 22, 2009
    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the kind words and the scolding. The next time I am in the US, I will try to organize a trip to Ohio, too! Though, Cleveland gets a ton of lake effect snow this time of year. I will have to come in the summer or see you at an industry conference.

      I agree with you that we are going to see a lot of tech companies enter the market in the next few years. I think all of this innovation is good for the events industry. It kind of reminds me of the auto industry at the beginning of the 20th century or the internet craze from 10 years ago. There were many companies entering the market all at once. While many of the companies did not succeed in the long run (for various reasons) – we are all better off for their innovations and contributions.

      Thanks for your comment on this post (and other posts this past year)! Best wishes on a great 2010!

      – Sam

      December 31, 2009

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