Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 28 2016

How One Organization Is Aiming To Unite All Its Tech Vendors

David McMillin
Dahlia

Your registration system, your membership database, your exhibitor information, your housing reservations — a lengthy list of data makes up your meeting’s footprint. Unfortunately, that footprint isn’t as simple as planting your meeting’s shoe in the sand. It involves getting a wide range of vendor services to talk to each other so you can synchronize your data.

At the PCMA Education Conference, a group of meeting professionals and suppliers discussed how difficult that process can be due to a lack of standardization across vendors. It’s leading to a clunky user experience for attendees and serious data management problems for meeting professionals like Bobby Hoffman, Event Technology Manager for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. When Hoffman assumed his role in 2015, he wanted to simplify the data for AEM’s events, which include the CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show, the biggest construction exhibition in the Western hemisphere. To do that, he recognized that he needed his vendors to turn to the same page in the same playbook. “We need everyone to cooperate and be part of a team,” Hoffman said.

The Face-To-Face Summit For Success

Creating that team isn’t going to happen by carbon copying email messages or arranging conference calls, though. To instill a true sense of collaboration across the entire network of AEM’s technology partners, Hoffman scheduled the organization’s first-ever tech summit. The summit required three representatives from each of the vendors involved in the trade show’s data — the mobile app provider, the registration company and the online directory provider — to travel to AEM’s headquarters in Milwaukee for a seven-hour program. The conversation covered a range of key topics including guidelines around data security, designating a unique identifier for each attendee, timelines for the project and more. “This is all about creating partnerships with our vendors,” Hoffman said of the tech summit. “It forces everyone to want to work smarter and better.”

In a very competitive market, Hoffman’s ability to unite these companies is no small feat. After all, event technology vendors may offer some of the same solutions. And no matter the industry, putting a range of different egos in the same room can create tension. However, Hoffman said the inaugural summit was a success. In fact, two of the vendors met in-person for the first time after working together for nearly 10 years.

The Road Ahead Is Paved With Data — And Big Questions About Data Security

Dahlia El Gazzar, founder of DAHLIA+ Inc. and moderator of the session, told the Education Conference audience that this type of tech summit can be instrumental in ensuring the success of conferences, and participants in the room echoed the need for meeting professionals to push their vendors to work together to address API (Application Programming Interface) issues. However, this isn’t as simple as embracing the spirit of collaboration. Some of the suppliers in the room reminded the audience that the industry will need to adopt a set of standards to help vendors feel comfortable with sharing sensitive information. “We’re dealing with a lot of private information here, so there is nervousness around the topic,” one supplier said. “What happens when there is a data breach?”

Do you have any tips for creating a sense of unity among your vendors? Could a tech summit be in your organization’s future? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on data integration and click here for some best practices to protect your data.

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