Brett S. Hyams is a senior solution sales executive with SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals with over 25 years of event industry experience. He works with exhibit and event companies, associations, show organizers and event owners and has extensive knowledge of the event industry’s technology and logistical needs.

While meeting planners’ budgets are increasing, they are not without their challenges, fiscal and otherwise. Meeting planners have a host of new expectations to meet, set by themselves and others. These higher expectations have the effect of driving up expenses. Their events must have a “wow” factor and leave a strong, lasting impression to start building participation for subsequent events.

For many conventions, trade shows and annual meetings, meeting planners are expected to create events with relevancy for attendees across multiple generations who have different styles of learning, communicating and even eating. Have you noticed that vegetarian fare being offered at more events to accommodate the growing number of vegans?

The increased number of events, all competing for many of the same high-appeal venues, is introducing another challenge for meeting planners both from price negotiation and scheduling standpoints. CWT Meetings & Events forecast a 5 to 10 percent increase in demand for meetings and events and a corresponding hotel rate hike of 3.7 percent. To meet these and other expectations and related cost impacts, many meeting planners have turned to event technologies, which have been proven to create great value. Leveraging these technologies to help meet expectations and contain costs is a discipline meeting planners should master.

Meeting Planners’ Greatest Challenges Today

Clearly, the bar has been set higher for today’s meeting planners. Standard formula agendas, venues, activities and complimentary services simply won’t suffice in 2019. Meeting planners are now expected to create events that look more like a Hollywood production than an industry conference, and here is the hitch: Engaging multigenerational attendees with a high-energy, high-impact event, while at the same time streamlining administrative processes, capturing data for marketing intelligence, and demonstrating a return on investment to justify costs is challenging even for the most experienced meeting planners.

Creating an engaging event that will appeal to millennials, Generation X and Y, as well as baby boomers requires the right, universally appealing theme conveyed in a way that resonates with all ages. Applying the latest in event technologies, from LED, 4K video walls and touch-screen displays to interactive kiosks and charging stations, along with sophisticated audiovisual technologies, meeting planners can create a highly-engaging, movie-like experience.

To meet strategic meeting management goals, streamlining processes such as attendee registration and event marketing demand is essential. This too can be supported by technology that is both effective in accomplishing the task, and user friendly. For example, event management software facilitates more efficient time-, labor- and cost-savings event registration, check-in and badge printing, lead retrieval and e-literature processes. Convenient online registration processes help boost event attendance and potential profitability. Event management software solutions, beacon technology and mobile apps further introduce smart, more effective ways for meeting planners to manage their events.

The use of mobile apps and other interactive, attendee engagement technologies also give meeting planners a way to both convey information to their constituents and capture meaningful feedback from attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. Mobile apps, for example, can be used to drive traffic to a keynote address or an exhibitor’s scheduled product demonstration. A survey on a kiosk can solicit feedback on how attendees responded to a certain breakout session or other components of an event. The data captured through this and other interactive event technology can be used both during the show in real-time to enhance the event experience, as well as in post-event benchmarking with metrics applied to make improvements in various aspects of future events and fiscal management.

Unfortunately, many meeting planners have had the experience of unreliable or inadequate Wi-Fi to accommodate their event’s participants. Besides generating negative energy at an event when attendees and exhibitors are unable to get Wi-Fi service, poor Wi-Fi can also result in costly troubleshooting expenses. This challenge can be addressed when the right Wi-Fi solution is provided and managed properly by a solution specialist. This professional will conduct a thorough needs assessment to determine the optimum Wi-Fi solution needed for the event based on multiple factors such as the number of participants expected, indoor or outdoor venue, the venue’s existing service, etc. Very often, a venue’s Wi-Fi is inadequate and expensive, with meeting planners expected to incur internet connection and other costly infrastructure charges. Using a third-party resource with expertise in designing and configuring a solution using advanced Wi-Fi technologies tailored to a specific event’s requirements is much more cost-effective.

Another challenge facing today’s meeting planners is reducing their events’ carbon footprint. According to data from Repurpose America, the estimated 1.8 million meetings, trade shows and conventions held annually in the United States generate approximately 600,000 tons of trash. To drill down further, the average three-day trade show with 1,000 attendees produces approximately 584 tons of global-warming CO2 emissions. By using event technologies that promote paperless communications and tasks, meeting planners can significantly reduce their event’s negative impact on the environment while reducing labor and material costs. Web-based event registration, which enables online registration and email confirmation; onsite self-registration using kiosks; digital signs vs. paper signage; e-literature libraries; and beacon technology for seamless tracking for CEU’s, attendee engagement, branding, sponsorship opportunities, real-time alerts and booth traffic data-feeds also are all environmentally sound and cost-saving technologies.

Boosting social media engagement has become another charge for meeting planners. They are expected to utilize their organizations’ social media platforms to spread the word and market their events, and there is an expectation that social media be used to help minimize expenses associated with direct mail and trade advertising. Using event technologies such as mobile apps, charging stations, digital touch screen kiosks and even social media interactive video walls, meeting planners can boost their events’ social media engagement significantly. Through follow-up analytics, they can demonstrate their event’s impact on key social media metrics such as likes, shares and followers.

Event Technology — A Budget Line Item Driving Cost-Savings and Increased ROI

As these examples illustrate, event technologies can effectively help meeting planners address some of their major challenges, while also driving cost savings and other high-value benefits. According to the American Express 2018 Global Meetings and Event Forecast, there was a 16 percent increase in meetings technology investments. This comes at the same time that 63 percent of meeting planners surveyed in the Amex study reported more challenging hotel and other venue contract negotiations which, in many instances, increased their event space costs. Meeting planners have an opportunity to strategically use event technologies to better manage many aspects of their events and promote an overall higher return on their event investment. AC&F