How did you get into the industry?
Through the hotel industry supply side. I went through catering college, to operational roles and then sales.
What do you like about the meetings industry?
The variety of events and clients we get to deal with as specialist providers and the importance of events to both those who attend and organise them. It’s relatively young as a discipline; event graduates are still a recently new phenomenon, so we have all been part of shaping an industry.
How do you think wearable technology will influence the meetings industry?
Wrist-based smartphones will be just another step in the presence of delegates’ own technology coming in to the larger meeting environment. I can see Google Glass and their ilk having a bigger impact on face-to-face style meetings; their impact on travel is likely to be greater than on events in their own right.
Virtual and hybrid events have been around for a while and wearable technology will certainly add a new dimension. It becomes a more powerful and exciting prospect when it allows people to carry out new and useful activities, or existing ones more simply.
Do you think delegates of the future will expect conference programmes to work with their technology?
Yes, definitely. Delegates don’t want to abandon their smartphones to use a one off device provided at an event. They want to bring some of their own technology and networking tools with them. The quality of apps we choose in our own lives drives an expectation of the efficiency and quality we expect when we go to an event.
Do you think technology hinders the point of a conference: to meet, discuss and learn? Or enhances it?
It can do both. When iPads were new I saw organisers shoe-horn their use into events, just to appear technologically smart. There was little or no thought to the quality of apps then available, their size or what they would contribute. After reading about Sony’s patent application for the ‘SmartWig’, I had nightmares of organisers handing these to delegates instead of traditional mobile event apps. In reality, when we focus on what technology can do to enhance event networking, or to bring a new dimension to learning, it is phenomenal. It can extend the life and usefulness of an event way beyond the day itself.
In your role with the EIBTM judging panel, how innovative do you think the meetings industry is?
Extraordinary. We are an industry of passionate people, innovating and changing and always ready to adopt and try new things. Suppliers are continually rising to the challenge and I’m impressed by the diversity of solutions for the wide variety of events.
What technology trends are you seeing?
There are a lot of niche solutions coming in to help with age old headaches such as table planning. But as there are a few suppliers pulling ahead of the pack they are careful to make sure they have levels of compatibility with other players. In the exhibition world we are seeing ever more refined products to help track exhibitor patterns and visitor behaviours and preferences. This is leading to enhancement of ROI for exhibitors and a better experience for visitors too. No more lugging a great carrier bag of brochures, for instance, as we can get a virtual bag now.
Gamification has been a buzzword for a while. But look out in the next year for increased use of this element in apps to hold audiences and enhance the engagement and learning element of events.
Are there other industries you think the industry should learn from technology-wise?
Not so much industries but the quality of domestic apps is so good and intuitive that our leaders need to keep moving continually to meet user expectations.
Has technology changed how you conduct your business?
When I first set up an agency we had one email address between three of us, registration was via phone and the RFP process involved a lot of faxes. The whole research process for venues, speakers and ideas is the biggest change and it has almost gone unnoticed. We now take it for granted that a speaker can arrive on the day of an event with their slides on a memory stick… of course the embedded video may still glitch.
Time-saving tip for organisers?
Get online delegate registration properly sorted. Not just for time-saving efficiency but for increased delegate interaction and return on the time they spend at an event.
Prediction for the future?
Look five years back and you would not have imagined what we are accomplishing now. Over the next few years I expect competition to drive innovation, and devices and applications will be refined to overcome many of the current technology limitations. Growing adoption and acceptance of technology within the consumer space will inevitably ease the introduction into the corporate world.
This was first published in the February issue of CN. Any comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org