BY ROB COTTER
Technological innovation in the meeting industry is moving faster than hungry delegates to a hosted dinner, and with the rising influence of Gen Y staying on top of tech trends has never been more important.
Turn on, tune in… tech up!
Thankfully, those at the vanguard of tomorrow’s technology are eager to share how their latest wares can improve the meeting experience. In this spirit of sharing, what better place to begin exploring emerging technology than with US-based bXb online’s BOBtv (Best of Business TV), winner of EIBTM’s 2012 Technology Watch Award with their online platform for sharing event content for remote attendees. Set for a 2013 launch, it is already gathering plaudits.
A resourceful screen-grab
“The platform that we’re building in concert with ASAE, PCMA and IAEE, will be the place you go to bring online content by industry category,” said Tony Lorenz, Founder and CEO of bXb online. “We’re aggregating content for the benefit of the business consumer.”
An industry first and scooping the EIBTM award for ‘the impact it will have on the industry over time’, this is really one to watch if your 2013 to-do list contains ‘going hybrid with a meeting’ and ‘reaching the widest possible audience within your business sector’.
“The audience will now have the ability to go to a more focussed place to get what they want, which is the true value of BOBtv,” explained Lorenz. “The category is still building: 87% of association executives plan on making their events hybrid, and yet only 30-40% do so right now.”
For meeting organisers wary that this might signal a nod away from the F2F experience towards hybrid or virtual, the developers see it acting more by way of grabbing the online attention of those considering attending the event.
“We are absolutely intent on first of all not replacing F2F, but building on it,” said Lorenz. “These online events, when done well, are strong marketing tools for greater awareness of the value of F2F events. However, the vast majority of prospective F2F event attendees don’t make it to these association events, for whatever reason. Yet they should be there in some way, shape or form, and this is what BOBtv is all about.”
The invisible show badge
Whilst BOBtv’s platform can help uplift attendance at your next F2F through heightened online awareness, other pipeline innovation is offering vast improvements to its end-to-end management. The growing use of near field communication (NFC) is a case in point, US-based ITN International being one of
“This summer, our company did a mobile communications show in Shanghai on behalf of an American show producer,” said Bob James, ITN International’s Vice President, Marketing. “They wanted to use NFC badges, but were concerned about cost, so we created a paper NFC badge that we were able to print and encode in both Chinese and English. The paper badges and multi-lingual information on them were industry firsts.”
Both cost-cutting and environmentally friendly, this tech solution has since been adopted by Consumer Electronics, North America’s biggest show. In the meantime, ITN have wasted no time in taking their technology to the next level, recently trialling the most environmentally friendly badging initiative yet that could soon be hitting event floors worldwide.
“We’re moving toward the day not too far in the future when there won’t be badges,” said James. “With our product we recently introduced an app for attendees’ telephones in Milan, Italy, that allowed them to exchange business card information without a badge – they bump the phones together and the business card information jumps from one to the other. We’ve taken the first steps towards the badgeless show, where your badge will be a digital one on your phone.”
Apps for all
The data transfer potential of this app reflects the impact apps are having throughout the industry, to the point where a dedicated event app has become a basic delegate expectation. But what if resources are squeezed and an app seems beyond budget?
Not any more. As part of their suite of products UK-based Shocklogic have developed a solution for everyone in the event industry to be able to engage app technology for content delivery and connecting people.
“We have created not just an app, but an app builder,” said John Martinez, CEO of Shocklogic. “Mobile technology is already the thing and we wanted to create a piece of software where organisers big and small would be able to create mobile apps themselves.”
“We’re pretty unique in the sense of providing an app builder that isn’t only for internal use,” he added. “Normally every app is created from beginning to end by a developer, but we think that every single event can have an app and we wanted to be the first ones doing it correctly. So our MOBAPPBuilder is designed for anybody to be able to log in and use this tool in order to build their own app.”
The intuitive logic of the MOBAPPBuilder software makes it easy for even the least technologically confident (I raise my hand!) to access existing app templates or previous event apps, adapt them for their own purposes and view the results in real time.
“Everybody is saying ‘I want a mobile app’, but not everyone is aware of what is involved,” said Martinez. “The mobile app market still hasn’t hit with full force. I see this happening throughout the next six months.”
2013 is looking like the year to really tech up, as the forces of Gen Y begin to bear down heavily on the industry. Those developing the technology have a simple piece of advice: ‘adopt it’. Then tune in, turn on and watch your meetings take off.