Mobile technology is changing everything about the corporate get-together from beginning to end
There is perhaps no other single factor that has had a greater impact on corporate meetings and events than the lightninglike spread of social media. Not only have new and ever more rapidly evolving mobile capabilities improved the front end processes of meeting planning. They have also granted greater logistical control over the activities during the meeting and enhanced the after-action analysis to make future events more efficient and effective.
But above all, mobile apps have dramatically expanded the power to engage attendees in the moment in ways that make these events more meaningful.
“Mobile technology has enhanced the way in which we engage with our attendees and it allows us to do that on a whole different level,”says Kelley Butler, director of meetings and events at McDonald’s Corporation.“It allows us the opportunity to create experiences that engage our attendees before, during and after the meeting.”
What that gives meeting owners and planner, Butler says, are the tools to develop more effective meeting content. “Specifically, that means what our attendees want to hear about,”she says. “And that gives us the ability to tailor specific messaging that is most relevant to attendees. It helps perpetuate the dialog about that content. It also provides a vehicle for gathering analytics about the behavior patterns of specific attendees and using those analytics to make very targeted and specific decisions about how you spend money to develop meetings and trade shows in the future.”
With so much going for it, mobile technology and the social media it powers have turned into the centerpiece of many a meeting planner’s blueprint for success, says Charlene Rabideau, senior vice president, operations and account management at meeting management company BCD M&I.
“We are seeing more and more customers who are looking at mobile for their larger customer events or internal events where they want to promote attendee engagement, create additional dialog, generate new ideas or new business, or solicit instant feedback,” Rabideau says.“We are also now seeing clients who are undertaking initiatives to implement mobile apps across the full spectrum of their meeting programs. They are looking at flexible mobile packages that will be cost effective and can be rolled out to a broader group of meetings.”
However, Rabideau says, there’s more to it than just quick fielding any old mobile app for your meeting; it’s critical to start by determining which are the right meetings to be supported by an app,“because it’s certainly true that not every meeting needs to incorporate mobile apps, especially from a cost standpoint.”
The Media is Not the Message
Rabideau points out that among the host of benefits mobile technology delivers, the most meaningful is how well it engages attendees before, during and after the meeting. To begin with, when it comes to building awareness of and excitement about an upcoming meeting or event, no weapon in the promotional arsenal is more powerful than social media.
However regardless of the effectiveness of the communication tool, the first thing to consider is the audience and what’s important to them, rather than focusing on
Mobile apps have dramatically expanded the power to engage attendees in the moment
the interests of the meeting sponsor.
“Your message can’t just be ‘Register for the event,’”says Traci Browne, owner of Philadelphiabased Red Cedar Marketing and author of The Social Trade Show. “It has to be about creating something that will show that you as the event organizer are the source for the most up-to-date information in your industry.”
In other words, Browne says, when attendees consider coming to your meeting or event they need to understand the invitation in the larger context of“Why is this important? What’s in it for me?” The most effective information is always attendee-focused and not event-focused, Browne stresses.
The ability to connect attendees with each other and with the mission of a meeting is creating a new standard for how events are developed and delivered, agrees Patrick Payne, CEO of QuickMobile, a Vancouver-based provider of meetingrelated mobile technology.“It means that meeting hosts can now have new insights that they never had before in terms of what content attendees are responding to, what is most interesting to them, who the thought leaders and influencers are, simply because they now have access to the tools and data that will allow them to analyze and interpret those kinds of things.”
And since you can evaluate and tailor the event as it’s happening, of equal importance from the attendees’perspective is information regarding content can be updated instantly in the midst of the event, Rabideau says.“It’s also a way to assess what’s working and what’s not working at the meeting on-site,”she adds.“And it also allows you to do things like change schedules or make other modifications to a program on-site in real time.”
Yet another benefit of mobile technology, Payne says, is the availability of immediate, real-time feedback directly from participants. It’s a far cry from the traditional methods of post-meeting surveys that often took weeks after the event to harvest and evaluate.
“The question, of course, is if you have real time information, what advantage does that give you?”Payne says.“I would say that after Day One of a threeday conference, if you can say ‘This seems to be the hot topic out there, these are the things that people are most interested in,’you can actually make adjustments on Day Two, as opposed to in the past when your only real option was to review the whole meeting two or three weeks later when you’re trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t and what changes you want to make for next year’s meeting.”
Games People Play
In addition to on-the-fly customization, real-time participant feedback gives you huge amounts of data into what’s working and what isn’t. And from there it’s not much of a leap to
The most effective information is always attendeefocused and not eventfocused
which factors contribute to success and which won’t work for the next time.
“When you talk about a large organization that is using mobile apps and a full mobile platform across the entire enterprise, then you start to be able to roll up and aggregate that data in a way that gives you a much broader view of your meeting activity, as opposed to simply looking at any one meeting or event,”says Robin Jones, vice president of marketing at QuickMobile.
Adds Payne:“It means you can now consolidate information from many, many meetings and see trends. For example, you can say,‘This is the type of information that everyone seems to be most interested in. This is the content that everyone is downloading and talking about. These are the important issues that the organization is trying to resolve.’”
Among the new doors that mobile technology has opened up for meetings and events, perhaps the most buzz-worthy right now is“gamification.”Gamification refers to the application of game design to attendee participation to make it more fun and engaging, but always aimed at specific strategic goals. The idea is to motivate meeting-goers to achieve specific behavior, like being on-time for a specific session.
Game“winners”may be given prizes as a way of rewarding the desired behavior, but more often than not, it’s the game that counts; merely outscoring the other attendees is enough for most competitively-minded delegates.
“Any time you can create something that helps people participate more in your r meeting, that becomes a best practice,” Butler says, adding that gamification is particularly appealing to younger employees who are vitally important to the he future of the organization.
Getting to ROI
While pre-event and day-of communications are the most obvious pieces of the mobile technology puzzle for r meeting organizers, in the long run the most important factor for the event is answering the question:“Was it worth it?”
“One of the things we see over and over again now is that meeting organizers and company management are really trying to look at the he return on investment from their meeting activity,”says QuickMobile’s Payne.“They’re looking at how to quantify ROI and how to scale that across their entire organization. And these new mobile technologies are improving their ability to do that.”
It begins with effective planning of meeting elements such as content, Butler says. To demonstrate a meeting’s ROI is not only about visibility, she says.“It’s also about proactive planning for the future and witnessing how your attendees are engaging during the entire duration of a meeting or convention. And when you know those things, in the context of what was considered important about the meeting, you have an idea of the things that attendees are most interested in and want to know more about from upcoming meetings. So that helps you in the planning process for future meetings. It also allows you to identify and eliminate the things that did not work in the earlier meeting.”
In the long run Butler says, such focus allows meeting organizers to create a powerful argument, not only for the effectiveness of a particular event, but around the value of every meeting to achieve the company’s goals.
“The specific ROI story that you can tell when you sit at the table with your manager is that you can actually demonstrate what your attendees are learning, how they’re learning, how it’s affecting their behavior and how it strategically impacts the bottom-line performance of the business objective,” Butler says.“And now you can tie that to what you did using the analytics of technology. It’s a way of supporting your storytelling when you’re trying to make a case for why something should stay in your meeting cycle or whether it should come out. Or whether one meeting stays and another meeting goes.” BT
In the long run the most important factor for the event is answering the question: “Was it worth it?
Was it worth it?