A recent report on meetings technology reveals a gap between planner and delegate expectations.

With the continual evolution of wireless connectivity and the rapid uptake of mobile and tablet devices, business events are now hyper-connected. Emerging technologies are changing the meetings industry and technological innovation harnessed to increase engagement and generate a greater return on meetings investment.

A recent study conducted by American Express Meetings & Events, titled GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The Evolving Landscape of Technology in Meetings, assessed the implementation of hybrid meetings and the use of social media and event apps at meetings.

“Over the past decade, smartphones and wireless data have revolutionised the meeting and events experience for both planners and attendees, enabling the possibility of anywhere, anytime participation via virtual technologies and the integration of apps into meeting programs,” American Express Meetings & Events vice president and general manager, Issa Jouaneh, said.

“These technologies provide planners with greater opportunities to increase engagement and generate and capture real-time feedback, while attendees can gain a richer and more connected experience throughout the event life cycle.

However, after surveying 336 meeting planners and 161 delegates in 2014, the study revealed an ‘expectation gap’ between the technologies meeting planners believe should be incorporated into an event, and the digital solutions delegates expect.

While the use of social media at events has grown exponentially in recent years, with both planners and delegates using social tools to communicate and share feedback, 43 per cent of planners feel social media capabilities are very important, compared to only 35 per cent of delegates. And while creating social media buzz has become a significant part of the overall marketing strategy of meetings and events, having a meetings hashtag is more important to planners than it is to delegates.

Similarly, 50 per cent of planners feel that posting and reading commentary or reviews about a meeting or event is very important, compared to only 39 per cent of delegates. And if you’re considering gamification to better engage attendees, forget it. Participating in games and contests via social media ranked low among both groups.

Instead, meeting apps are leading the charge as the best way to engage delegates and are considered essential for scheduling meetings.

With the ability to deliver real-time information, 67 per cent of meeting planners and 55 per cent of delegates consider event apps important.

Communication and scheduling ranked among the most important features within an event app for both planners and delegates, as well as instant mobile Wi-Fi access.

Features that allow for scheduling and connecting with other attendees are expected to continue to grow in popularity and when planners ensure hassle-free Wi-Fi access, these apps can shed a light on what attendees value and provide guidance on how to increase attendee satisfaction within an event.

Virtually there

While the number of virtual meetings offered and attended continues to grow, meeting organisers and technology providers still need to work on the overall experience, as 47 per cent of delegates agree that it’s difficult to participate when attending virtually and 68 per cent of planners feel that virtual attendees are too easily distracted.

Nonetheless, the study showed that 63 per cent of meetings delegates are still looking for opportunities to attend meetings virtually if more user-friendly options were made available.

However, planners don’t seem to realise this appetite for virtual meeting exists as 48 per cent of the planners surveyed did not agree that delegates would attend more meetings and events virtually if the option were available.

Moreover, 45 per cent of attendees believed virtual attendance should be available for all meetings and events, while only 35 percent of planners agreed.

American Express Meetings & Events director JAPA, Danielle Puceta, said planning ahead is the key to successful hybrid meetings.

“Meeting planners need to understand who the virtual component of their event is targeted towards and then adapt the content with interactive features, like real-time polling questions, to keep the virtual attendees engaged.”

The report highlighted that no matter how advanced the technology, there is simply no substitute for face-to-face meetings.

There is strong agreement that in-person attendance still provides the best overall experience as 74 per cent of attendees and 85 per cent of planners feel that face-to-face meetings are more valuable because they allow more social interaction.

“There’s certainly lots of interest and excitement around the use of social media and virtual meetings as a way to augment – but not replace – face-to-face meetings,” Ms Puceta said.

“Understanding the expectations of meeting attendees is an important step in the meeting planning process.

“This is a time for meeting planners and owners to take their meetings to the next level by engaging their attendees with these tools, and using them to measure the value of the meeting experience and meeting investment.”

For more information, visit www.amexglobalbusinesstravel.com/meetings-and-events