American Express Global Business Travel director of technology and platforms, Alejandro Contreras, reflects on IMEX 2014 and the technologies and trends to look out for.

The use of social media at IMEX was a great demonstration of how these channels should be utilised at events. The organisers created LinkedIn event groups, and through the IMEX Twitter account and hashtag they ensured a high level of attendee engagement. At the event, the IMEX social media team walked the floor taking photos, which were then posted on high-definition screens at the event. Attendees were kept up-to-date on Twitter about when and where the latest presentation and networking activities were taking place, ensuring nothing was missed!

New technologies

This year’s IMEX event highlighted two interesting technology innovations in particular. Firstly, iBeacon allows mobile applications to pinpoint a user’s location with a high degree of accuracy and trigger an action on smartphones and tablets. This technology enables event organisers to push out notifications to attendees, which can include location-based adverts, event information and allow automatic event check-in.

Secondly, Google Glass is also gaining interest and there was much discussion as to how the technology could impact our industry. Google Glass could have a positive effect on live and hybrid/virtual events, by allowing the speaker to achieve a new level of interaction with audiences. Google Glass could live stream the speaker’s view, allowing virtual attendees to see audience reactions in near-real-time. Other practical functions could include real-time language translation of presentations. However, Google Glass is still a very new technology and there are still questions to be answered around practical issues such as privacy.

Future opportunities and trends

It is clear there are very few mobile app companies designing their products with meeting planners in mind. While some event management mobile apps are beginning to include features specific to meeting planners, there appears to be a gap in the market and there is an opportunity for mobile apps to help planners become more efficient when arranging an event.

Meeting planners are clearly catching on to the opportunities social media and digital engagement offer the industry. Mobile and social networking apps are providing more opportunities for attendees and planners to interact, turning attendees into participants at an event. Planners also recognise key challenges around designing and managing a digital strategy for large events, such as the effort involved in managing social channels, as well as having the correct corporate digital and social media policies in place for M&E.

The concept of extending the ‘life’ of an event is going beyond immediately before and after a conference or meeting. Now, the creation of event social communities enables year-round engagement, where attendees, exhibitors and influencers can continue communicating and collaborating.

M&E executives should look at further adopting digital solutions to boost the ROI of their events. Technology companies are heavily investing in their analytics capabilities to provide information that links attendee engagement and behaviours with tangible business outcomes. Attendees and meeting planners are more comfortable with technology, such as in hybrid events, and have a better understanding of how and when to use these technologies to maximise the value of the event.

Technology is fast-moving and ever-changing, so meetings planners need to be aware of the need for continuous education and engagement with tech industry leaders to understand best practices and the best way to utilise the right technologies to improve ROI and drive client satisfaction.