There’s always some new piece of technology on the block that we’re told will revolutionise the events industry. But one of the biggest developments in recent years was not designed with events management specifically in mind. Collaborative technology has come on leaps and bounds in the past couple of years and there are limitless possibilities when it comes to planning, marketing and then capitalising on your event. Here are just a few of the options and how they can enhance the event experience - both for you and your delegates.
For many people cloud computing is little more than a buzzword, but the ability to store information securely without having to keep it on any one user’s computer is already revolutionising the way some businesses work. Applications such as Google Drive make it simple for individuals at opposite sides of the world to work on the same document, spreadsheet or presentation at the same time and communicate with each other as they do so.
There are plenty of ways you can use this to your advantage while planning your event. For one, it makes remote working much easier since files can be accessed anywhere, allowing you to make the most of your time by working on the go. But think also about the quality of the event itself.
For example, if you have found a speaker you’ll need to make sure that his or her presentation fits your message and is relevant to the event’s theme - sharing documents this way makes it much easier to offer feedback and ensure that the speaker is as effective as possible.
Forums and online chat
Never underestimate the power of discussion and debate, and certainly not that of networking. There are endless ways people can start a dialogue through social media and even other forms of online communication. Forums and messageboards are a good place to start - especially if you have an effective event website, providing registrants with login details to start and respond to discussions can be a great way of keeping delegates engaged both before and after the event.
However, in many ways it is usually easier to talk to people through channels they already know and use. In these instances you can use facilities for group discussion such as Google Hangouts, which allows spontaneous discussion by instant message, audio or video at an arranged time. Alternatively, a LinkedIn group is a really useful way to enjoy all the benefits of an online forum - post a comment or question, allow people to reply and continue a dialogue from there - without expecting delegates to set up a new profile anywhere. Its convenience is likely to make this a hit.
A wide range of software and applications can help you to manage your time and stay on top of every stage of the planning process. Electronic calendars are a useful way of reminding yourself when certain arrangements need to be made, but they can also be sent to other members of your team as well as suppliers and venues so that everyone is clear on what is expected of them and when.
When you need to share large amounts of information, a knowledge management system is vital. For example, if your event registration system also offers debit and credit card or BACS payments, it is wise to make sure it allows for automatic generation of invoices and receipts that can then be sent out quickly and efficiently.
Sharing files and collaborating online can be very useful, but sometimes there is no substitute for a face-to-face conversation. When cost and time constraints mean travel is not viable (as they often do), videoconferencing is an excellent alternative that allows you to speak in person without leaving your office.
This may be beneficial when it comes to dealing with caterers and venues, though it is equally likely to come in handy as a contingency plan. Supposing your speaker or some of your delegates are suddenly unable to attend due to transport disruption. Giving them the opportunity to participate in this way minimises loss on both sides. It won’t be the same as having them there, but at least you'll have the benefit of their contributions.