Technology often dominates the world of events today. Beyond standard audio/visual installations, there is often a social media feed being used or a mobile application for the event. In some cases there is an interactive game or the use of an audience response system. In today’s world, technology tends to make its way into events one way or another.
However, we, as an industry, have a lot of discussions about the value of face-to-face meetings and the importance of connecting and having conversations with others. Then we introduce technology that reduces the amount of conversations and often moves them online. When you look at it that way, you get the feeling that technology detracts and distracts from the goals of many event organizers. Do you end up connecting more people or less people with tech?
In order to effectively implement technology, you must start with a plan.
What are your goals?
1. Why are you using the technology? Do you have a goal? Could the goal be achieved more easily with non-digital tools? Starting with goals and figuring out what you want to achieve can help keep you focused. It can also help you make smarter decisions when choosing platforms. Keep in mind that attendees sometimes do the choosing for you (which is often the case with social media) and you have to be ready and willing to adapt.
What are the benefits?
2. What benefit does the technology provide? What is the downside? Understand what you are getting out of a tool and what the cons are. Mobile apps, for example can reduce waste and simplify agendas and scheduling. This would be viewed as a solid benefit. Social media might help spread the word to a greater audience and help attendees converse better. On the flipside they may miss opportunities to have deeper conversations at a networking event because they are buried in their smartphone. Audience response systems are great because they provide quick responses and can be anonymous. However, hearing people’s voice and opinions can lead to great discussions in what could otherwise be a simple lecture. Doing an accurate and detailed analysis of pros and cons can make a difference in meeting goals.
Who is the leader?
3. Who will own the process and help attendees best use the technology? Having a leader can impact in how people use technology and how they connect. Will you schedule sessions that are specifically designed to get people interacting and talking? Will you use “old-school” gaming techniques that rely on in-person participation or will you have activities that include selfies and instagram, requiring people to use technology to accomplish them.
Technology has a definite and valuable role in events. It expands communications. It reduces waste. It allows for mass participation. It can do a lot of good. Technology, however, should never be the focus of the meeting (unless you are hosting a technology event). The focus should always remain on your goals. Learning. Connecting. Sharing. If technology is the best way to accomplish the goal, great. If there are better ways to get people to participate, don’t be afraid to use what’s best, not what’s trendy.
Jessica Levin, CMP, president & chief connector at Seven Degrees Communications is a speaker and marketing consultant who focuses on helping people connect through technology and strategic networking. Learn more about Seven Degrees Communications at www.sevendegreescommunications.com.