Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 24 2014

An Insider’s Look into PCMA’s Convening Leaders, Part 2

By Carolyn Clark

Part 2: Technology in the Classroom

In our daily lives, the use of technology has become synonymous with efficiency, ease, and convenience. Can you imagine how much longer it would take to get through your “to do” list without email or your mobile device? And while the excitement of being an early adopter can sometimes be reason enough to try something new […how many of you are reading this from your new iPhone6?], more often we seek out new technology because of its power to make our lives even better.

This same rational reigns true for how technology is used and showcased during PCMA’s Convening Leaders. “Our most important objective is to demonstrate how to use technology to make the face to face experience more engaging and collaborative,” says Kelly Peacy, CMP, PCMA’s Senior Vice President, Education and Events. “Yes, we want to showcase new technologies in action, but ultimately, it boils down to how it makes our face to face experience better.”

And that’s why you’ll find technology infused throughout the conference – front and center, to create environments that are immersive without being distracting – and behind the scenes, to ensure learning environments are as user-friendly and comfortable as possible.

To determine which technologies will be used for each year’s conference and how to successfully integrate them, PCMA relies on the expertise of Freeman. “The key to successfully incorporating new technologies into events is to have a clear technology strategy,” says Freeman Vice President, Digital Services, Richard Reid. “It’s important to understand the audience, their comfort level with technology and their goals for participating in the event.” Armed with post-conference surveys and other organizational data, PCMA and Freeman define tangible goals that can ease the perceived risks of implementing new technologies.

Of course venue nuances also drive the design. In Boston last year, the facility included countless pillars in several of the event spaces like the lunch room and Learning Lounge. In the lunch room, images were projected on screens in between the pillars and throughout the room to help blend away obstructions. To maximize space for general session seating, the set was designed without a backstage area and featured a custom built widescreen.

“In Chicago, we’re excited to introduce some new technology including LED walls and custom projection screens,” says Manny Blancas, National Account Manager, Freeman AV. And Tech Central – Convening Leaders’ hub for showcasing what’s new in event technology – will be located within the Learning Lounge in 2015, offering even more hands-on demos, informal Q&A and peer-to-peer interaction for learning about new innovations.

SEE ALSO: An Insider's Look into PCMA’s Convening Leaders - Part 1 

Beyond the main stage “lights, camera, action” that attendees recognize most immediately, technology also plays an important role in keeping everyone up to date and informed. The presentation management system provided by Freeman helps attendees navigate the space by pushing out information to digital signage located throughout the convention center. This provides information on not only what session is in the room, but also what’s coming up next in the same space, and it even features conference videos.

And then there are the things most attendees don’t notice – the magic behind the scenes that creates a cohesive production. Freeman works with PCMA partners to provide the lighting, camera set-up and sound for rooms designed for virtual broadcast to ensure those engaging off-site enjoy the same high-quality experience.

About three years ago, PCMA also began experimenting with cameras and remote feed technology to accommodate attendees when room overflow issues occurred. “It’s been an extremely helpful practice when we have a session that is more popular than we originally intended,” says Peacy. Instead of turning away audience members, they’re directed to “a more comfortable space to watch the session live with speaker and slides.”

Thinking about what’s next for your conference? Surprisingly, the most impact right now isn’t coming from the latest app or piece of gear. It’s all about using technology to achieve your specific objectives – check out these two pro tips:

  1. Embrace the use of mobile devices to deepen attendee engagement. Instead of asking your audience to turn off their devices during the show, encourage them to get social by taking photos, engaging in social media, making connections and participating in polling via your conference app. “Mobile apps have evolved from basic schedule building to valuable networking and engagement tools,” says Blancas. Apps are also incorporating gamification that allows individuals or teams, both in-person and virtual, to participate by answering questions during a presentation. “This type of interaction also gives presenters real-time feedback to adjust their prepared presentation,” says Reid.”
  2. Incorporate technology that helps personalize the event experience. “Proximity-based tools such as Apple’s iBeacon provide “just in time” suggestions about educational sessions and exhibitors, and where to find them, as you navigate the event’s footprint,” says Reid. And Second screen technology allows attendees to have a much more interactive “viewing” experience that adds significant value.
For the second story in this five-part series, we explored how event technology impacts the attendee experience. Over the next few months, join us for an in-depth look at the unique partnership between PCMA and Freeman that’s fueling the strategic and creative development, innovative learning environments, and flawless general session production that make PCMA’s Convening Leaders the meeting for the meetings industry.

Intrigued by what you've read here? Come see PCMA's and Freeman's collaboration in action at January's Convening Leaders. Register here.

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