Little-Known Ways to Use Technology to Plan Successful Meetings
By Andy Dolce Founder, Chairman & Managing Partner, Dolce International | February 20, 2010
Working in the meetings and conferences industry has given us insight into the essential role that technology plays in nearly every group event held today. Whether the company you are catering to is a Silicon Valley Fortune 500 or a smaller, independent business, properties that think big in terms of their technological ambitions while remaining detail-oriented in execution will maintain the upper-hand in booking and planning successful, smooth meetings that have the ability to literally bring attendees 'out of the box'. The following are some tips for ensuring and maximizing meeting success through the use of what I see as the most important technologies and technological services available today. Investing in a varying scope of technological upgrades is a prime way to simultaneously ensure happy clients and to add valuable amenity draws to your property.
1. Focus on the technology that is most vital to your clients
Often, planners see the words 'wireless Internet' and assume that their Internet access needs will be easily anticipated and accommodated by a hotel or event venue, but experience has shown us that not all groups have uniform technological needs. It is our responsibility to stay informed about client's unique online needs and to be upfront and honest about our capacity to handle them. Although many hotels and meetings properties can fulfill client's internet access needs using a standard T1 line, properties that host software companies and other technologically-advanced groups must always be prepared for large-scale presentations which necessitate downloading heavy files to every attendee's personal computer. When speed and capability is of the essence, it is bandwidth, not wireless, that counts the most. Planners should always speak with their IT specialist to ensure that their property can fulfill each visiting group's individual needs with ease.
Some meetings properties throughout the United States are now looking into and equipping themselves with T3 lines for this reason. A T3 line offers your visiting groups 45 Mbps of bandwidth, a tremendous capacity that ensures successful and speedy simultaneous downloading for up to hundreds of your valued meetings guests. Investing in a T3 line may also assist in property-wide marketing efforts aimed at bringing in new groups. Of course technologically-oriented companies will instantly recognize and appreciate your property's prioritization of bandwidth that is both fast and effective, but do a little outreach to raise awareness of this fact among lesser tech-savvy groups and you may see a broader scope of interest than you would expect. Details, details, details: preparing literature that provides information about what technological updates like a T3 line can do for your meetings guests can pique the interest of parties that might not otherwise know the difference, thereby increasing bookings in the process.
2. When It Comes To Meeting Spaces, Think Outside The Box
It is refreshing to see the increasing number of meetings that are breaking through the 'four wall mentality' and going al-fresco. There is a lot to be said for a pleasant atmosphere when planning an event, and what could be more pleasant for group members than a meeting or short session that takes place on the grass and under natural ambient light while still remaining technologically tied-in? Planning a successful outdoor meeting can be extremely easy to achieve, as long as property-wide Wi-Fi is available. All that is required of the group is a laptop for a successful presentation or brainstorm session, which can be made even more productive by a change of atmosphere. The installation of property wide, indoor-outdoor speaker systems are another great way to ensure outdoor meeting success and to keep group members in the loop regarding upcoming sessions, speeches, and more. By keeping group members connected through audio announcements, we avoid the potential communication gaps associated with of 'out of the box' breakout meetings and sessions. Of course, a planner should always have a back-up plan in place for outdoor meetings, especially if working in an area with an inconsistent climate.