The evolution of conference technology

Technology that did not even exist a few years ago is revolutionising the way conferences, meetings and events happen today, says Phil Platt, Customer Account Director, Parrimark Technology

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Sophisticated software integrates every aspect of the procurement process from the budgeting and financial management to the abstract management, marketing, travel, accommodation, functions and partners programmes.

Every day we are exposed to a new virtual world where technology is speeding up the working day and making the world ever smaller and more accessible for both businesses and the consumers. The advent of WIFI technology in many conference rooms and business venues, airports and even pubs and coffee shops has produced a truly connected society with a growing trend towards a world where all business transactions are conducted from anywhere with an internet connection.

The meetings industry has shown a level of sophistication in the adoption of internet technologies, far beyond other industries. They have moved significantly past the traditional homepage or online brochure, with websites that tend to feature a great deal more information for buyers, now including venue availability, video walk-through technology and online marketing tools to name but a few, further opening up the reach of worldwide markets to the venue.

Video is being used increasingly to conduct team meetings, conferences and even for meetings between clients and suppliers. Statements attempting to explain why include: the rapid adoption of broadband; the need for increased staff productivity and decreased capital expenditure; issues relating to travel as a result of international terrorism and the need to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint. All of these are touted as the reason that companies see video conferencing as viable alternatives to regular meetings and conferences.

For the meetings organiser, time has become an ever more precious commodity and a whole raft of tools have sprung up to micro manage every nuance of it. The Personal Digital Assistant has become an essential companion to even the most techno phobic business executive and as a result the software manufacturers have responded with micro versions of all the favourite office based solutions.

Many of the venue booking and events management online products are even now compatible with the latest collection of PDA devices such as the iPhone and iTouch giving the ability for users to check live availability of services whilst on the move.

In an increasingly competitive environment, venue managers are continually seeking to increase sales of event space and need to optimise return on their assets. Effective management is a highly complex task, particularly for those of a unique nature but thankfully, venue management solutions are no exception to the mobile revolution.  Technology providers now allow users to offer true real time availability to their customers the world over and the provision of booking rooms and adding catering to their event, for example, 24 hours a day.

However, despite every effort and new update, striving to improve the users’ experience of technology that complements the conference industry proves to be a constant challenge. The infusion of new technology opportunities is definitely being held back by a lack of expert back-up support from providers and a lack of support in training for end users.

It’s apparent that people are apprehensive about technology and whilst the majority of users are professionals within their industry, even they find evaluating and choosing technology, from the vast selection that is available to them, an extremely daunting task. It is because of this that many will steer away from it. It is for this reason that it is vital that those offering IT packages are actually providing a solution to problems, not creating more through confusion.

There is a real opportunity for the future for IT suppliers to look at working closer together with other complementary products and services to play a proactive role in helping to educate their users in the various technologies available.

The fear of technology can only be overcome by providing a human face to front it. It is no good if users can do everything online except actually talk to someone when they need to. It’s not all about so many million lines of data and gigabytes but about sharing an understanding of the industry and this is the most important of many steps needed to be taken for business to comfortably be able to move forward into the next generation of innovative and exciting technology solutions for the MICE industry.