Talking tech

MIME takes a look at what technology has to offer the meetings industry.

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By  Administrator Published  June 7, 2008

MIME takes a look at what technology has to offer the meetings industry.

From humble beginnings in the days of simple flip charts in poorly lit rooms to interactive digital screens in futuristic buildings, technology is clearly taking hold of the meetings industry.

The original question when talking tech used to be: would technology herald the end of the meetings industry?

This question has now been firmly answered, according to vice-president of global marketing for Ungerboeck Systems International, Steve Mackenzie.

Technology is changing the way all data used in managing meetings is processed.

"There was a fear a few years ago that technology would overtake the meetings industry and face-to-face meetings would become a thing of the past," he explains.

"But the fact of the matter is that technology has only increased the number of meetings taking place."

Mackenzie's view is backed up by, US-based author, speaker, columnist and consultant, Corbin Ball.

"Technology is changing the way in which all data used in managing meetings is processed. The business process is going from analogue (paper) to digital (computer and web)," he explains.

"This leads to increased efficiencies on every step of the way from sourcing, attendee management, exhibition management, logistics, speaker management, budget tracking, scheduling, networking, virtual meetings, communications/marketing and much, much more."

Advances

The cause of this technology boom is a combination of forward-looking meeting professionals who utilise technology and a growing awareness of the meetings industry by large technology focused companies, according to Ball.

"In terms of general technology advancement, it is the research universities and corporations leading the way; all of these innovations spill over into the meetings and event space," explains Ball.

The technology ‘spill-over' for the coming year will be mobile phone advancements according to Ball and Mackenzie.

"Many advances will be refinements of existing systems, but we will likely see substantial new products benefiting the meetings industry in the mobile arena, including tools for networking, lead retrieval, GPS-based ‘way-finding' and sales," says Ball.

Agendas accessible via PDAs and phones are another area to watch over the coming year, according to Mackenzie.

These advancements are aimed at allowing users to conduct a more interactive and coordinated event or meeting using only their mobile phone.

Ball and Mackenzie agree that the future of the meetings industry in the region looks positive: "I think there are great opportunities for the Middle East," says Ball.

"Some of the finest meeting spaces and support infrastructure (such as airlines) that money can buy are being built there. The sky is the limit in my view."

Mackenzie acknowledges that that the Middle East market is still in its infancy, but believes that with time, the future will be bright.

"As organisers and venues get more experience with providing world-class events in the region, naturally the use of technology will become more prevalent," he argues.

"And given the fast-paced growth we are seeing for everything in the Middle East region, I am sure that very quickly we will see the use of technology leap-frog other more established regions."

Green

But both Ball and Mackenzie agree that if the Middle East is to overtake more established areas as a meetings industry hub, it will have to set out its green credentials.

The ‘green issue' is a tough topic to tackle when considering the meetings industry, but technology is an area that can help raise the ‘eco' credentials of the industry, according to Mackenzie.

"It can reduce the paper trail and integrate systems - for example, event management and building management systems in venues can be integrated whereby the lights/heating/air-conditioning will be automatically turned on or off based on session start and end times," he explains.

Ball is also optimistic about the help that technology can provide in green terms.

"There is the reduction in paper (although we haven't quite achieved this yet); remote offices (reduced commuting needs); and virtual meetings replacing some inefficient meetings," he says.

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