It may seem odd for a technology headline to use an ancient Latin phrase – ‘whither goest thou’. But as Ray Shaw believes, MICE industry technology has stalled.

By Ray shaw
ray@im.com.au

There have been no spectacular, jaw dropping, technology advancements in a very long time – just better MICE traps. It is time for some radical, disruptive, epoch making thinking.
We are here – same old, boring really

  • Registration – some movement to cloud based software. Some excellent software largely still replicating core manual functions instead of driving new ways to do things
  • Accommodation and travel – largely displaced by online booking engines
  • Program and speaker management – some movement to hybrid meetings but nothing about developing better meetings
  • Poor take-up of web-based video conferencing – proof positive that boring speakers on small, stuttering screens are no substitute for face to face interaction
  • Exhibition management, sales and virtualisation – high digitisation costs limit use
  • Smartphone apps – the four fragmented ecosystems – iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry – are preventing widespread adoption, usually just replacing print.
  • Thousands of largely ineffective apps for web site building, program scheduling, table allocation, purchasing, surveys, travel, and more. Until these become business grade and adopt industry standards, it is hard to replace current proven business processes.
  • Social media is not widely understood and not producing the best results

Where we need to be

In order to predict the future we must look outside the meetings industry to what the world is doing with internet and mobile technology. Consumer adoption of smart devices is now driving the agenda – it is the new window to the world, at least in the more well to do audiences that attend meetings and events. These are the hot technologies to exploit.
Social Media – creating communities: Imagine if Facebook had an app – I shall call it MICEBook© – allowing you as a member of a special interest community – to contribute to creating a better meeting or event, with as much gusto as reporting what you had for breakfast. One, where every person, association member or non-member, attendee or not, could contribute and feel some ownership in creating your own bespoke meeting.
To achieve this MICEBook© tools would move much of the decision making from event ‘owners’ to the event stakeholders – helping users to create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities. These tools would put meeting design back into the hands of those who consume it – attendees – not just a handful of well-meaning volunteers on an organising or program committee.

What about making everyone in your community an agent for change, giving them tools to influence, create, market, and utilise all their community networks? What about putting registration and accommodation packages on eBay or Gumtree allowing time based auctions – with suitable reserves of course?
Social media must become the platform to build, and engage with, a greater community that relies on it for news, views, jobs, creative input, and much more – not just as a vehicle to promote attendance at the main activity each year.
Group collaboration – many hands make light work. MICEBook© events need to share the work and harness collective expertise to produce a better paper, program, conference, leverage contacts, and spread the word. A simple example is document collaboration via the cloud to allow simultaneous, real-time collaboration in the form of co-authoring, commenting and more.

As crowd funding is the new ‘black’ to bring innovations to market, what about crowd sourcing sponsorship or exhibitors – get your community to convince their suppliers to support the event – and let them make a few dollars sales commission as well. Ask them to help ‘kick-start’ the project.

At a MICEBook© event, real and virtual attendees would use Facebook ‘secret data’ to set up special interest networks, socialising opportunities, and identifying common interests.
Structured ideation and problem solving has proven to be a strong and purposeful way to encourage full community participation – asking everyone to offer their ideas via an easy-to-use platform can lead to more focused outcomes and successful problem-solving.

Mobile access – communities blur the boundaries between work and leisure – connected at all times. Why not move all stakeholder communication to Skype, or Facebook pages or whatever.

System integration – adding the social layer to more transactional environments such as registration, client relationship management, and work processes, presents significant opportunity. Software developers need to forget legacy views, and start from the premise of what would they do today for example, if MICEBook© and its technology were the prime interface. Whoever does that first will be able to unlock significant value from social software.

In researching this article, I noticed some wise words from Corbin Ball and I wanted to contrast his perhaps more realistic vision with mine. He writes that future technology (paraphrased):

  • Eliminates paper at your office and your events
  • Eliminates email: use instead Wikis and new tools such as Google Wave
  • Mandates APEX standards to allow for interoperability – software developers take note
  • Uses social media to engage attendees and improve event content
  • Moves websites to Web 2.0 – interact with your stakeholders, when, and how, they want it
  • Embraces mobile technology: used for everything from registration, micropayments, lead exchange, way finding, surveys, ticketing, networking, audience polling, and more

Corbin and I have similar messages – mine is that rather than piecemeal evolve existing systems it is time for the MICEBook© revolution – create the science fiction of what we want technology to do for meetings and events – then figure out how to go where no man has gone before. m

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