CChhaapptteerr TThhiirrtteeeenn
Meetings and Event
Technology
MEETINGS IN CYBERSPACE
As in all other professions, technology has revolutionized the PCO’s way of
doing business. Meeting organizers who had trouble programming their
home VCRs are venturing into cyber-meetings, streaming video, satellite
downlinks and fiber-optics. Today’s technology has required the event
meeting professional to gain a general understanding of wireless communi-
cations, archival technologies and in document preparation for a burgeoning
handheld computing format. While technology has certainly helped auto-
mate processes, today there are many more document formatting options
available. Each of these call for careful consideration based on user needs
and abilities.
A little more than a decade ago paper forms still ruled the registration
process, paper tickets were the only way to book travel, and paper literature
was the sole resource for researching venues. Although these elements still
have a place in event management, they have been largely supplanted by
on-line registration, e-tickets, and venue web sites. Meeting organizers
today work with a variety of data formats that are used to gather site, regis-
tration and ticketing information. Due to the varying range of technology
access and know-how, organizers need to plan for phone call-in, fax backed
forms, electronic processing via the Internet and in wireless transfers of
registrant information.
Similarly, the way content is presented has undergone a metamorphosis.
The 35 mm slide presentation of decades past – which required weeks of
lead time for production – has yielded to the ubiquitous and far more
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flexible PowerPoint presentation. Digital media – videography, digital pho-
tography, complex animation – and real time point to point transmission
have helped make communication more engaging, and therefore more
effective. And because presentation content is largely digital to begin with,
it can be easily distributed over the Internet or on CDs, reaching much
wider audiences than ever before. Digital media also provides meeting
organizers with opportunities for creating a greater revenue channels for
their organization. Archival technology allows for the reuse of meeting pre-
sentations for either resale to delegates not able to attend or for post meet-
ing reference.
Even the meeting venue itself is reflecting that transmutation. Although
videoconferencing technology has not lived up to early predictions that it
would be the doom of face-to-face meetings, it has found an important and
practical role in the meetings industry. But the real revolution is, once
again, in the digital realm of web conferencing and webcasts. From the
comfort of their own desks, in the office or at home, “virtual attendees” can
observe and even participate in events taking place half way around the
world. Today virtual meeting use can be either an active or passive experi-
ence. Depending of the level of technology deployed, participants can mon-
itor or engage in real time interaction via electronic messaging or white
boarding functions. In addition, real time surveying and polling can be
incorporated.
For instance, in 2001 IBM hosted an experimental cyber event called
WorldJam in which all 320,000 of its employees around the globe were
invited to participate. More than 52,000 people took part in the three day
on-line event dedicated to brainstorming and sharing ideas for best prac-
tices. Using interactive elements like electronic bulletin boards, moderated
chats, and online polls, WorldJam generated over 6,000 proposals and
comments. Although the cost is thought to have been in the millions of dol-
lars – IBM didn’t release that information – it was certainly a less expensive
option than transporting all 52,600 participants to a single site for three
days.
This chapter will look at the technology that is revolutionizing the meet-
ings industry.
PC/CMP: COMPUTERS AND MEETING PROFESSIONALS
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the need for improved computerization
in the meeting industry brought about by the explosion of the Internet
attracted numerous outside investors. Millions of dollars were invested in
the hopes of defining an electronic standard for the meeting industry. New
vendors and newly merged technology companies resulted in flooding the
market with many new applications for meeting professionals to consider.
However, with the slowing economy in 2001, technology investments
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