Meet­ing So­cially

Mo­bile tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing ev­ery­thing about the cor­po­rate get-to­gether from be­gin­ning to end

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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

fig­ure out

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?

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