Growing Conference Technology Competency To Increase Your Value

The great growling engine of change - technology. Alvin Toffler

As a conference organizer, how would you rank your competency regarding conference technologies like registration, speaker management databases, exhibits, conference apps, wayfinding signage, email marketing, CRM data bases and social media?

Technology geek, technophobe or somewhere in between?

The most effective and valuable meeting professionals are squarely in the middle.

Why Two Tech Extremes Don’t Work

Most geeks seem to prefer the next tech shiny object. Rarely do they align their meeting technology decisions with the conference strategy.

On the other hand, meetings technophobes resist change. They defer their decisions to the IT department which usually lacks understanding or knowledge of the conference strategy.

Steps To Growing Your Conference Tech Savviness

As meeting professionals you need to grow your competency in technology strategy. Doing so will increase your value to your client or employer too.

Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Understand Switching Costs

This is the most overlooked area in event technology decisions. Implementing new technology can have huge labor costs including training, configuration, system integration, adoption and data imports. Anytime you’re considering a change, bake this into your decision making. It’s not uncommon for planners to select cheaper solutions and wipe away those savings with the switching costs.

2. Advocate In Favor Of The Attendee

“I love that my association tracks every move I make with those cool iBeacons,” said no attendee ever. Same goes for RFID, NFC and mandatory badge scanning at every session. Seriously, if the technology doesn’t improve or enhance the attendee experience, don’t do it. Attendees want ease of use, usefulness and pre-populated data fields after an initial purchase or relationship.

3. Use Caution When Considering Swiss-Army Knives

Tech vendors that claim that they can do registration, speaker management and exhibits scare the heck out of me. Equally, vendors who claim they can be your solution for small and large events, are usually steering you wrong. It’s very difficult to be a best in class at more than a couple things. System integration should always take a back seat to attendee experience.

4. New Tech Should Result In Process Improvement

IT departments love the term requirements and usually define them based on existing processes. Event tech companies worth their salt should be able to help you create and adopt new workflows that leverage the configurability (not customization) of their system. Lean on them heavily to guide you on this. Also, guard against process improvement initiatives that delegate your work to your stakeholders.

5. Inspect and Test

Technology can look and work differently in various browsers and devices. Before selecting a vendor or deploying a technology live, your organization should test the heck out of it. Conduct usability testing on Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Ensure the experience is optimized for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows tablet and phones. Switch phone or tablet settings to airplane mode to test attendee mobile apps. Solutions that leverage technologies like Flash or lack responsive design will be more apparent on mobile device operating systems.

Becoming More Tech Savvy

Getting savvy with tech is more about aligning with and accelerating desired business results. It’s also about asking good questions.

You don’t need to get geekie.

Just think more about benefits over features.

What tech areas do meeting professionals need to increase their competency? What happens when a meeting professional becomes enamored with every shiny tech object?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2014.

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