Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 03 2012

Why the Cloud is a Planner's Best Friend

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

If you're a planner, you've probably seen this introductory line quite a few times. In fact, you may have already seen it today.

As your internal team works to calculate expenses and prepare for your next big meeting, keeping those spreadsheets updated might seem like the most direct path to success.

At last week's PCMA Technology Think Tank, attendees took a closer look at how all those document versions are creating a road full of inefficiencies. Rather than relying on everyone within your team to save those "working" documents, new event technologies give planners the power to organize and analyze all of their data in a convenient and cost-effective way.

Look Up
It starts in the cloud. If you're unfamiliar with this above-the-earth technology, the cloud is revolutionizing the way people listen to music, watch movies and now, it's changing the meeting planning game. Cloud-based project management tools replace the need to be at your specific computer with the ability to access, edit and save documents via any computer with Internet connectivity.

Rather than storing all of those floor plans, PPT decks and expense lists on your server or in your email, the cloud puts every piece of your project in one easy-to-use online log. Tom Brandt, Founder and President, Etech Events, gave attendees a view of Etech's Summit client portal. Summit delivers valuable tools such as the ability to give different users access to specific files and real-time project updates that keep your entire team current with changes.

How Much Does It Cost to Send An Email?
In the first session of the day, Brandt posed this question to attendees, highlighting just how expensive it can be to send and receive emails. Brandt operates on what he calls "The $10 Rule." While your email service may be free, Brandt's perspective is that electronic mail can be a very costly interruption.

"CCing emails is a great example," Brandt says. "With too many people involved, there can just be too many distractions. Once someone receives an email, it can take a long time to refocus their attention to whatever they were doing first."

Rather than continue to crowd inboxes with more bolded messages, a cloud-based system makes that next update immediately visible without having to carbon copy your entire group. By eliminating some of those interruptions, Brandt says that your team members can stop wasting time answering emails to perform administrative tasks and start focusing on more productive work.

Be On Top of Your Budget
Instead of entering that unexpected F & B expense in a spreadsheet, renaming it "Annual Meeting Meals Version 7.xlsx" and saving it in the correct folder, cloud-based budget management lets you track your spending in real time. You'll know exactly where you stand with your spending - anytime, anywhere.

"Forget reconciling your budget all the time," Brandt says. "Managing your expenses in the cloud can save valuable time so that you always know where you stand with your expenses."

Change Is Challenging
Integrating new technology sounds appealing, but putting new tools to work isn't that simple. In any organization, there are plenty of obstacles to motivating change among your internal team members.

"Some people may not be able to see the immediate benefits of converting to new technology," Brandt says.

You may have to force them to recognize those benefits. Keith Johnston, publisher, PlannerWire, says that he's had to tell colleagues and clients that he cannot accept their documents via email.

"The hardest part is to shift people away from sending those documents via email," Johnston says.

Johnston adds that that shift can take a long time, because many people may be uncomfortable with new approaches to project management. While some people may be resistant to change, it's crucial to your future. Here are three reasons why:

1)      Enhanced accountability. Cloud-based project management systems can help everyone see who is responsible for making edits to documents. By putting work under the microscope, your new system can help make your team members increase their sense of personal responsibility.

2)      Employee burnout. Crunching all of those numbers and dealing with email overload can drag your team members down. By simplifying the planning process, you can take a big step toward increasing employee happiness - - and employee retention.

3)      Vendor communication. From catering to AV providers to show floor exhibitors, a wide range of companies impact your meeting's success. By streamlining your communications, you'll reduce the chance for errors.

Be sure to check back next week for more coverage of what you missed at the PCMA Technology Think Tank.

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