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

Jobs

Perhaps a more controversial area that technology brushes against is employment.

While Mackenzie is firm in his belief that technology will help create jobs in the meetings industry Ball sees gains and losses in terms of employment.

"Technology eradicates the inefficient, data-crunching, mind-numbing work and it opens up lots of new possibilities," he explains.

"In general, however, it will take fewer people to do the same amount of work due to efficiencies accrued.

But with so many companies launching technological products, it is not only people that may be made redundant, according to Mackenzie: "With such a proliferation of products for so many different processes and tasks within the industry and the ever-changing technologies, there will always be some that are redundant before they hit the market," he says.

Ball has a more philosophical view on the abundance of technologies hitting the meetings industry market: "The meeting industry represents a large economic pie," he says.

"There is room for lots of competing products. It boils down to choice and features. One person's redundant may be exactly what another is looking for.

The future

The future of technology in the meetings industry is certainly something to be excited about, according to Ball.

"Meetings technology is constantly exciting - it is always evolving and there are always new things bubbling up," he says.

"I am especially excited about the potential for rich mobile web browsers (such as the iPhone and its clones) and new GPS systems and other mobile technology that I believe will have a significant impact on the meetings industry.

Mackenzie believes that the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) - an initiative introduced by the Convention Industry Council - will benefit the industry when it adopts its set of best practices and industry standards: "Data can be exchanged electronically instead of manually making integration far easier," he says.

The attention-grabbing technology at the moment is holographic speakers and Ball views it as an area to watch.

"Telepresence, although not true holography, will be very big. Cisco and other major players are investing substantially in this," he adds.

Mackenzie views it as a novelty for now, but does see a future when the technology improves: "I am sure it will become a far more useful option to reduce time and travel costs for guest speakers, therefore adding value to the conference," he says.

Sectors

Technology enthusiasts have identified specific areas where technology is adding value to the meetings industry.

According to Sam Smith, marketing manager for Switzerland-based Spotme, there are a number of areas where technology is making its mark: "Primarily there are audience response systems - hand held tools whereby participants can respond to questions which are then represented graphically on a screen," he says.

"This allows participants to feel engaged in a session. It allows people to feel they have a voice, which can only help in reinforcing learning and listening.

The next area is collaboration systems, which have seen growing popularity in the corporate market, according to Smith.

"This technology allows participants to talk back, whereby their opinions can be projected onto the screen after a question has been posed by the facilitator," he says.

Many ideas can be displayed on-screen at the same time, which can then be categorised to promote discussions.

In other areas, networking technology is being developed in name badges whereby buzzers go off if you walk past a delegate you wanted to meet.

"In a meeting of 500 to 1000 people, you can select who you want to meet and the technology will alert you when you are next to them," Smith explains.

Website technology is allowing the meetings and conference experience to start earlier and end later, he adds.

"People can log in before an event and create their profile. They can then search relevant contacts who they would like to meet at the conference and arrange meetings or continue discussions after the event," he says.

It would appear that technology is exploring new ways to add value to the meetings industry, whether it is its green credentials or its interactivity.

But client demand will ultimately fashion the progress of technology, which can only be seen as a plus for the industry as a whole - unless you are put out of a job.

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