said. “But Johnson’s voice is so relaxing that even when I didn’t fall asleep, I stopped worrying about it.”
Lastly, for planners who have young children and need help balancing work and home, well, there’s an app for that, too: Disney Junior (Free; iPhone/iPad). “I have two young daughters under two years old,” Paone said. “So [it’s] my go-to app when I need to get things done at home.”
Native or Not?
Just as U.S. drivers moved from trucks to cars as America became more urban, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs predicted that future consumers would transition from desktop and laptop computers to tablets. “PCs are going to be like trucks,” he said at AllThingsD’s D8 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., in 2010. “They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”
Forbes recently reported that PC shipments are expected to drop 9.7 percent this year, according to market research firm IDC, and so the debate still rages about whether the best apps are native — developed for use on a specific device, like an iPhone or tablet, and downloaded directly to that device — or web-based, using HTML5 coding and housed on the web, able to be accessed by a variety of devices.
While HTML5 is the next “language” of the Internet, web-based apps still face problems in terms of being optimized for a variety of browsers. It’s important for an app to provide the same experience across platforms, which is why native apps are often perceived as more user-friendly Additionally, said Meeting U founder James Spellos, “while the web-based app helps give the app a wider distribution of smart devices, it still hangs on the requirement of connectivity to make it work.”
For planners, this should be one of the bigger concerns when it comes to web-based apps for their meetings. “Too many hotels still aren’t providing adequate (and consistent) connectivity throughout their property, which is the Achilles heel of any web-based app,” Spellos said. “Hopefully in the near future this won’t be an issue, but right now it is, and is why I lean toward the native app.”
For more information about the future of mobile-app development, view a slide deck from BI Intelligence, a research and analysis company focused on mobile and Internet.
Hotels Get In On the App
Several years ago, Jon Summersfield, president and co-owner of The Global Event Team, found himself expressing his frustrations about the meeting-planning process with a group of convention-services and meeting-planner professionals.
So he came up with the idea for an app called getplanning, which is powered by hotel-marketing agency Cendyn — and now used in 60 Hilton properties in the Americas. “In this day and age, there’s no reason for us to be printing out reams of paper that then become redundant as soon as there’s a change made” to things like hotel contracts, Summersfield said. As an industry tool, getplanning has a number of document categories specific to the materials that are exchanged during the planning process — from contracts to BEOs to floor plans — where both the planner and hotel representatives can upload documents.
Planners can use the app as a repository for materials or to communicate with staff, whether the venue uses it or not, but “obviously it works best when it’s collaborative,” Summersfield said.
What about on site? How many times have you wished you could snap your fingers and make more coffee appear in a session room? With its Red Coat Direct app (channeling the red coats that Marriott staff members wear), it actually is that simple at hundreds of Marriott hotel properties in the United States. Using the app — which Marriott expects to have available in 500 properties worldwide by the end of 2014, and which is available for Internet-enabled iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, and laptops — planners can ask for any number of changes directly from the meeting room — more coffee, a temperature change, an extra few chairs, an earlier lunch time — and the request will be routed to the hotel’s on-site event manager.
“The turnaround time, from the time you made the request … literally within two minutes, somebody was in that [meeting] room taking care of it,” said Carrie White, senior meeting planner with AEGIS Insurance Services Inc., which held its 1,100-person Annual Policyholders’ Conference in early August at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.
The app has a built-in response system, so White knew whether a request was handled without ever having to go to the room to check. “[The request] goes right to staff, and they text back and say, ‘We’re on it,’ and then it will say, ‘Completed.’”
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