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Dec 15, 2010

Cutting Edge Event Technology

I get calls and e-mails almost every day from sales people representing companies that provide products or services to meeting planners. They try to sell the Society everything from imprinted pens to pop-up exhibit booths. Once in a while they have a product or service that catches my attention. For example, technology that improves efficiency, impacts conference publicity, and builds community engagement.

Improving efficiency is focused on the SPS Conference Services Staff and our ability to provide professional, effective, and meaningful support to SPS conference organizers. In this regard we have recently started using a project management tool. We are building a basic planning timeline template for each SPS conference so that we can more efficiently and proactively track compliance and timeliness. We are also looking at online solutions for handling the enormous number of forms and files that we use to coordinate our services for conference organizers.

Conference publicity is becoming more important than ever and targeted, direct publicity will lead us to the correct audience for our message. The ability to analyze our data through web analytics technology would allow us to track, analyze, and optimize our conference publicity. This is just one of the many benefits of the COS tools.

Social Networking is the “hot” topic in meeting planning. Every meeting planning trade magazine has at least one article on Social Networking, the pros and cons, and how to make it work. Social Networks can promote networking among delegates and facilitate group collaboration. If done correctly, a social network can give delegates the ability to search for colleagues, discuss sessions and exhibitors, and schedule get-togethers before and during a conference. They could also, if the service permits, allow them to share group blogs, share group photos, or create private discussions boards.

First impressions say a lot – and that is never more true than at a conference. Without question, onsite performance is what matters. With the COS registration tools the onsite check-in and registration will be streamlined and gives delegates a more positive experience. COS (ActiveEvents) provides onsite check-in and badge printing systems robust enough to handle even the most demanding rush and work without an internet connection. No more preprinting materials only to have to reprint them onsite because a name is misspelled.

The tools can also be used to issue conference and session surveys. These surveys can be immediately delivered to a desktop or mobile device. Session surveys could be automatically delivered after each session to each person who attended that session; eliminating the paper forms some conferences use today. The same tool can be used for polling during a session via SMS messaging with the ability to display real-time results in a plenary or lecture session.

1D and 2D Bar Coding or RFID name badges allow the conference organizer to monitor activity. This name badge can be used to track the delegate attendance at a workshop or determine if delegates are finding their way to the exhibits. Imagine how valuable it would be to know more about the delegate experience -- from the sessions they attend to the exhibits they visit.

The Mobile Generation is here. This generation expects information to be delivered directly to their mobile device. Imagine having the ability to view the program agenda, manage session schedules, take surveys, and network with other delegates on your mobile device. COS (ActiveEvents), with this technology, eliminates the need for paper programs, maps, and mid-conference communication flyers posted on bulletin boards. If there is a room change, for example, the conference organizer would update the session schedule and, instantly, every delegate would be notified of the change. We are looking into a way to use this technology to assist Session Chairs in reporting the condition of the meeting rooms and to confirm the presentation of each author is a session.

All of this technology and more is available to SPS Conference Organizers today via the COS tools. We look forward to your message that you are ready to step into the new age of event management.

- Lisa Schwarzbek, Conference Services Manager, l.schwarzbek@ieee.org