Innovation is moving forward and technology products are becoming better, cheaper and easier for all of us to use. The web is providing software for nearly every aspect of the meeting planning process, with affordable and user-friendly applications. Here are just a few trends to look for in 2011 in the face to face marketing arena.
Nothing’s hotter than mobile apps right now…there are hundreds of new mobile phone apps benefiting meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors. Just take a look at the Trade Show Industry iPhone Apps available now (http://www.conventions.net/trade_show_iphone_apps/ ). You no longer need to scour the web to find the best applications for your next Trade Show, everything from A to Z is there at your fingertips. Current options include networking, lead exchange, electronic ticketing, audience polling, surveys, pocket programs & exhibit guides, course notes, and literature collection, much more to come in the future!
The iPad is blazing another trail, leading the way for touch-sensitive, tablet-like PCs in a wide range of formats. These very portable, easy-to-use-and-input-while-standing tools will be a must-have for: meetings, surveys, lead qualifications, interactive displays at booths, meeting planners to access specification data, attendees to view streaming event video, distribution (and annotation) of session handouts for attendees, and a larger-version of the hundreds of mobile apps currently being developed for meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors.
Video conferencing is becoming a hot commodity. Skype’s newest 5.0 beta version provides 760p high definition video conferencing at no charge, with the ability for four simultaneous callers. This avenue opens the way for hybrid meetings and speakers presenting remotely at events. Now everyone can be on the same page no matter where you’re at or how many locations you need to manage.
An area gaining momentum in mobile development is location-based or geo-position based applications. In the context of meetings, attendees are business travelers who need way-finding information as well as location-based networking. There are many applications that can help with meetings, identifying landmarks, restaurants and other places of business using photo recognition and augmented reality (a layering of web information over a phone cam image based on GPS and compass data). Only problem, you’ll never have an excuse for being late ever again. J
Online collaboration tools will begin to shine as a primary project management tool for events. Just a few of the available programs are GroupTweet for those that want to communicate and collaborate privately, Vyew is new for webinars, online conferences, and real-time learning and instruction, or Wridea that organizes and categorizes ideas, provides storage and allows users to comment on topics and ideas. Email was invented forty years ago and is not efficient any longer. It is difficult to manage a stream of multiple conversations, and people are often not on the same page with document versions.
Social media: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the 3 Giants. Meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors are strategizing on how to integrate a social media strategy into their marketing mix now. This coming year will see even more usage of the 3 Giants – for event marketing with efforts to increase attendee engagement before, during and after events.
Remember, despite these amazing technologies allowing virtual meetings and social networking, tradeshows can still provide the best value for education, networking, and sales. For an exhibitor, it is often the best way to meet so many qualified buyers in such a short time, to build relationships, to brainstorm, to network. For buyers, it is a great chance to meet vendors of interest – all together in one location, categorized and mapped for your choosing. So make sure to use technology wisely to enhance the results of your face to face marketing strategies, to build committed strong lifelong customer relationships.