Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 19 2013

Challenges and Solutions at the PCMA Technology Think Tank

By Barbara Palmer

Late in the afternoon on the first day of PCMA’s Technology Think Tank, held last week at the Vancouver Convention Centre, participants lifted off from the bottle-green waters of Coal Harbor in a pair of float planes, and spent the next 30 minutes flying over the tops of the neighboring pine-covered mountains and glittering glass skyscrapers.

The tour offered a new perspective on the city — an outcome that wasn’t so different from the Think Tank’s sessions, where 17 meeting professionals from Canada and the United States shared their meeting-technology problems and most successful strategies and solutions.

Pain Points: Mobile and Monetization

Participants brought a long list of challenges. Some said they’re trying to lead by example, technology-wise, while others are just trying to keep up with their tech-savvy members and attendees. “Keeping up with technology,” one participant observed, “is like playing Whack-a-Mole. Things keep popping up.”

Sitting on easy chairs and sofas, under what moderator and event technology expert Michelle Bruno, CEM, CMP, of Bruno Group Signature Events, called a confidential “cone of silence,” they talked frankly with one another about their problems, including:

  • Finding revenue for investing in technology in already stretched budgets. Indeed, half of attendees said that lack of funds for technology innovation was their single biggest hurdle.
  • Implementing mobile and responsive design
  • Monetizing tech applications
  • Designing apps that go beyond glorified program agendas and build community engagement year round
  • Integrating meeting technology systems from different vendors into a seamless whole

The Way Forward: Five Apps and More

The conversation about technology, Think Tank participants agreed, has moved from the sidelines into the center of everything they do. “Our roles are changing dramatically — we can’t just hand this off to the IT department,” one attendee said. “We have to really understand the user experience.”

The conversation will continue beyond PCMA’s Technology Think Tank. “What I am looking to get from this Think Tank is a community,” an attendee said, “where we can share our problems and solutions and get through these obstacles and hurdles.”

Some takeaways to keep the conversation going:

  • Some tablet apps popular with Think Tank participants include Expensify (for uploading receipts and tracking expenses), Counters+ (for room counts), iBrainstorm (for creating and sharing ideas), Speedtest.net (for testing a room’s bandwidth), and GoodReaders (for converting CAD files to PDFs).
  • Ninety-one percent of attendees have a mobile device within reach at all times. Therefore, you should be delivering content on mobile.
  • Why don’t like-minded associations come together and fund the development of open-source software that everyone can use?

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