PCMA or the Professional Convention Management Association completed their annual Convening Leaders meeting in Orlando this past January 13-16. Tahira Endean of Cantrav Services Inc in Vancouver Canada gives you a peek at what was going on in the meeting and event technology space. Tahira talks to different types of attendees, vendors and speakers interested in the event technology. The proliferation of mobile devices is changing the way events are thinking about content and communities and how they can be involved before, during and after meetings and events. Guests include Bob Vaez, Jordan Schwartz, Corbin Ball, Michelle Bruno and Steve Short.
Mike McAllen: Welcome back to the Meetings Podcast. This is Mike McAllen from Grass Shack Events & Media. Welcome, welcome, welcome! If you’re a first time listener, welcome! In today’s show we have Tahira Endean. She is from Cantrav Services. She went out to PCMA, which is out in Orlando for their annual meeting, the Convening Leaders conference. She concentrated on Event Technology for this podcast. She interviewed a lot of people all about Event Technology. About how mobile is changing the way we are thinking about doing events. I think you might find this podcast pretty interesting in the thinking around how you’re getting your content and communities for your events before, during and after your meetings all year round. It’s a quite interesting podcast and I hope you enjoy it. Please give us any feedback. I’d love to hear from you and I know you would love to hear from me too. So let’s get on with it!
Tahira Endean: Meetings Podcast. Tahira Endean, roving reporter. I’m here with Bob Vaez from EventMobi out of Toronto. We are at the PCMA Canada reception. Very exciting. We’re going to talk a little bit about technologies. Bob is, as you know, one of the leaders in mobile technology. So what’s going on in the world of mobile technology? What’s exciting and what’s new? What are people looking for?
Bob Vaez: So the most exciting part of mobile technology right now is that it’s becoming more affordable and it’s becoming a lot easier for event planners to actually build these mobile platforms. So they don’t need a pretty massive team, they can control the amount of time they spend and they can get a really good ROI on actually building a mobile event app for the conference.
Tahira Endean: Alright, Bob. So you were saying that it’s more affordable, which is great, because I think that was definitely one of the barriers to entry with our people not wanting to try mobile apps, but obviously they’re so ubiquitous in our world that it’s going to be something that people really need to start, if they’re not already using it.
Bob Vaez: So not only it’s more affordable, I think the value proposition has increased because more people, as you just said, actually have these devices. So we are actually seeing a trend that a lot of event planners are completely stopping to print any material for their conference, which wasn’t really feasible just two years ago or about a year ago when you had only 50%, 60% adoption. So now we are actually crossing that 70%, 80% adoption for mobile event apps and it is feasible and realistic to actually stop printing. I think as soon as you cross that point, then you can easily offset the value they get from all apps versus their cost, and also they’re becoming a lot easier to develop and a lot easier to use by attendees so you don’t normally need an on-site rep to teach people how to use these apps so there is no cost from that end. And the fact that more people are using it and it’s easier for event planners to do it, it makes it all around better.
Tahira Endean: Well, I think there are some really great features. Like this particular mobile app that they’re using at PCMA where you can message people easily. I think that that will make it really great.
Bob Vaez: That’s fantastic.
Tahira Endean: I know one of the barriers that you’ve run into in the past is the platforms. So are you finding that people are still wanting to build obviously for multiple platform and how are you finding it? Is that easier for people now?
Bob Vaez: It is. So what we actually focused on is a new technology called HTML5. The beauty of HTML5 is that it actually allows you to build a cross-platform. So that barrier for a lot of vendors that they had to put a lot of resources to build multiple apps and multiple platforms, and actually for event planners to test it out when they get these apps back, has gone away. Not only that, it actually takes less than five minutes to actually generate one of these apps. So you could literally have an event tomorrow and start tonight. You could have an app and you could deploy it tonight and send an email out and everybody could use it. It’s really as simple as the online registration these days.
So that HTML5 technology actually bridges that gap and it also allows the application to work offline, which is Internet connectivity is still an issue. So it reduces that fear from an event planner point of view that Internet connectivity might actually hinder the performance of these apps. So it’s not a perfect solution yet, but it does bridge that gap between a web-based application and native applications. So it’s a good solution for majority of the event, but not for every event.
Tahira Endean: That is great information, Bob. Thank you so much. Is there anything you’d like to leave us with before we sign off from our Meetings Podcast?
Bob Vaez: I’m so excited for PCMA.
Tahira Endean: [Laughs] Excellent! Me too. Thanks.[Music]
Tahira Endean: Hello. It’s Meetings Podcast roving reporter, Tahira Endean. I’m here with Steve Short. Steve is with PSAV Interactive Services and he just did a fantastic session here at PCMA Convening Leaders on how to use iPads more smartly for events. So I’ve nabbed him. We’re going to sit down and talk about how you can do that. So maybe Steve you could just give us a bit of background on PSAV and how you guys started and how you became so great in this space.
Steve Short: Yes. Absolutely. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do this. It was an exciting presentation. So I was talking today really about using the iPad as a presentation tool. So PSAV really has a full mobile solutions-oriented team which supports our events through a centralized team which supports our entire organization. So really globally, we provide the iPads and iPod Touches. We’d provide the devices in support of events and we also provide mobile apps. The mobile apps have obviously been exploding and a tremendous number of events that we’re involved with have been enriched and kind of made “smarter,” to use your great term for it.
So it’s the blend of the devices and the applications to enhance events, but it’s also really – like the presentation today was all about is how can presenters leverage the iPad because it really is a phenomenal tool. Everything from creating presentations directly on the iPad or using the iPad as a remote control device to drive content on their computer, and in doing so, also have access to their speaker notes in a device that’s right there in their hand, and also be able to see their presentation without having to look over their shoulder or glance the other way. So it’s a very comfortable and intuitive device, and all of it really made very elegant and very seamless by Apple. It’s built right into the products and really just purchasing a couple of very reasonable applications can allow people to really enhance their events and enhance their experience as a presenter and provide just a more comfortable presenting experience.
Tahira Endean: Yes. I thought it was actually really good, what you were talking about some of the applications were really interesting, and I love that as both a presenter and then someone who plans meetings, what we’re certainly seeing on one side is a lot of how can you use it to download all your documents and go paperless. That’s great. I think that that’s one really great tool because that just makes it easier as a planner, but I think that when we start to get into now you’re planning your event, how are you actually enhancing the end user experience. A lot of the end user experience comes from presentations. If you can make presenters, as you said, more comfortable and not that awkwardness of oh, I don’t have my notes because some people have great information, but aren’t as comfortable presenting. So if you can give them a tool to do that and make it really simple for them, that makes so much sense to me.
Steve Short: Yes.
Tahira Endean: Maybe you can just tell us about a couple of the tools that you were talking about in your session?
Steve Short: Sure. Absolutely. I certainly talk about Keynote as an application. Keynote being Apple’s equivalent to PowerPoint. Keynote has been around for a very long time on Apple computers as that Powerpoint equivalent, and really very early after the iPad was rolled out, Keynote on the iPad became available. So now, people that don’t even have an Apple computer but have an iPad can author presentations in Keynote. They can actually import PowerPoint presentations and just through some very easy steps – say tap on the PowerPoint file and say open in Keynote, and Keynote literally just converts that file and creates a native Keynote file at that point, which can be manipulated. I run into people all the time that have been doing what, quite honestly, even I was doing early on, is taking their PowerPoint, converting it all to PDFs, putting the PDFs onto their iPad, and then just scrolling through. You lose any animation potential, you lose the ability to make a change.
Tahira Endean: And they’re not in the same order anymore.
Steve Short: They’re not in the same order. Yes. Generally, it’s not even easy to take out one of the pages, right? Because you’ve created this 14-page PDF document. So by literally just opening PowerPoint in Keynote, which is like a $15 app available on the App Store, you then have a file which you can manipulate, you can change, you can share with people, you can email it directly out from there. So that’s one solution which is fantastic. Also, as I mentioned, there’s another app called Keynote Remote. Keynote Remote allows you to use the iPad to drive a Keynote presentation on your computer, which in the live event environment, that’s really the solution that I use on a regular basis because of that sort of peace of mind index, if you will, right?
People can be unnerved about having their entire presentation rely on high speed. PSAV is in the high speed provider business as well, but I know that that can be unnerving and it can also be expensive. If you use Keynote Remote, you can, using a simple device like a MiFi device, create a wireless connection between your iPad and your computer, but your computer is connected via a wire to the display, either the flat screen or the projector. So if you have a problem with that connection between the iPad and the computer, the computer is still what’s driving the presentation. You can always walk over, tap the spacebar and you’re good to go. So it has kind of a built in backup to it.
It is also the case that I find, that a computer, an Apple computer, is just a more robust machine to be driving that presentation. So depending on your animations and so forth. So those are a couple of nice ones. There are also the ability to use your iPad as a remote to drive PowerPoint applications on a PC. A couple of those apps that I particularly like are Doceri and there’s actually one called NiceMeeting, which is actually fairly new and we’ve actually just been utilizing that a little bit. That’s interesting because it does utilize the web, but there are some ways of utilizing it in a local cast environment. So you can just create a wireless network in the building that doesn’t need the Internet itself. That actually can be also a really nice experience, depending on people’s sensitivity around security or…
Tahira Endean: Right. Yes. It’s going to depend on your meeting, like anything.
Steve Short: Exactly.
Tahira Endean: It’s great that there are so many options now because for a very long time, it was very much like you showed up with your one presentation and you had one way of doing it and you had to operate, “The next slide, please.”
Steve Short: Right.
Tahira Endean: Yes, you might forget your notes or if you’re not seeing your notes page, it’s easy to, when you finish your presentation and you’re like, “Oh, there is that one thing I wanted to say!” So when you can start to take out some of those elements just through something that so many people now have.
Steve Short: Right. And then it’s built right in. I mean that’s what’s so fantastic, is about this sort of airplay which streams the content from an iPad, or an iPhone, for that matter, to a display that’s built right in. The Keynote Remote, being an Apple product, and connecting to Keynote, which is an Apple product. It’s just so buttoned up, as you would imagine. It provides a great experience. To your point, I always enable the speaker notes and it makes me feel better that I have them. I don’t use them, right?
Tahira Endean: No. But it is just that peace of mind.
Steve Short: Exactly. What I have found is that when I used to literally have a pad with notes, I referred to it and I fell into the trap of reading it, but because on the iPad, I’ve got my notes and the image of what’s onscreen, I’m glancing down at it and I have that peace of mind, but I’m not really ever reading it. Some people would maybe feel differently about just putting the keywords that need to prompt them and what have you. It depends on if you’re more of a literal or…
Tahira Endean: But that’s I think because you’re building your own, right?
Steve Short: Exactly.
Tahira Endean: So you can make it as robust as you need to make it for yourself.
Steve Short: It’s your presentation.
Tahira Endean: Well those are great tips, Steve. Thank you very much.
Steve Short: Absolutely. My pleasure.
Tahira Endean: So that’s Steve Short, PSAV, for Meetings Podcast. Thank you. We appreciate it.
Steve Short: Absolutely. My pleasure.
Tahira Endean: Hey! It’s Tahira Endean, roving reporter with Meetings Podcast. I’m here with Jordan Schwartz of Pathable. Pathable is a very interesting event community platform. So we’re going to talk a little bit about community engagement and how Pathable can support this. So welcome, Jordan.
Jordan Schwartz: Thank you, Tahira.
Tahira Endean: So tell us a little bit about Pathable.
Jordan Schwartz: So Pathable provides communities, online communities for events. The idea is that people are going to events to network and meet each other. If all I wanted out of an event was the educational material, I can go online. Especially today with the Internet and online learning becoming so prevalent. But I’m going because having face-to-face conversations with people is important to me. That’s where the real value of the meetings for so many people come from and it’s just really hard today.
Tahira Endean: That is true and I think it’s interesting. We’re here at PCMA. PCMA has 3,800 to 4,000 – there are a lot of people here at Convening Leaders. So first of all, it’s difficult to find people, but one of the ways that we’re starting to find people is by finding people that we’re already connected to and on our social platforms, whatever the variety of that social platforms is, and then now we already have a little bit of a build-in community here. So we’ll see some of that say at the [tune up] tonight, but what I love about Pathable is that particularly for the smaller groups, is that you can create a community that starts before the event so that when people arrive, they feel already connected and not walking into a room of 150 strangers. So how are you using that sort of philosophy to get people engaged in Pathable and to get people really understanding the power of that?
Jordan Schwartz: Yes. Yes, exactly. So we’re recognizing that people want to be connected at these events and they want to find out who they know and who they should know. So we do a few things to make sure that everybody is included, including the newcomers. It’s funny, when I talk to event planners, I’ll often hear them say, “We don’t need this because everybody at my event already knows each other.” And of course, if you’re in charge, you know everybody.
Tahira Endean: Right. I was going to say that never happens, but okay [Laughs]. Yes.
Jordan Schwartz: But I hear it. That’s their mindset. I know everybody so I assume that everybody else knows everybody. Of course it’s the newcomers who lose out on this. So we tie in to registration systems to make sure that if you’re registered for the event, you can have a profile in the community by default. So we make it very simple. We also tie in to Facebook, to LinkedIn…
Tahira Endean: Well, I’m going to go back to that a little bit because one of the things that I loved when Pathable worked with us on EventCamp Vancouver, was that I actually didn’t have to do anything other than say we were working with [each other] for registration, and all of that was taken care of. That was, to me, the most beautiful thing because if I would have had to actually figure out technologically what that meant – and I think most meeting planners feel that way. It’s like we don’t want to have a community because it sounds like it’s going to be one more thing that we have to do, without actually understanding just how easy you’ve made the process by using the technology that already exists, which I think is really interesting.
Jordan Schwartz: Yes.
Tahira Endean: But you can go back to what you were saying… [Laughs]
Jordan Schwartz: No. Well, that’s worth a point because what has been found online is that as people get access to more information more quickly, they become really lazy and intolerant and impatient. I know Google did some famous studies where they found that if a page took three-and-a-half seconds to load instead of two seconds to load, they were losing 30% of their visitors who just they weren’t willing to wait that second-and-a-half extra. And so for us, what that means is if we’re able to tie in to the registration system, so right when you register for the event, you’re in the community and you’re engaging with it, we’re accessing people when we still have their attention.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Jordan Schwartz: That’s a big difference from sending them an email, telling them, “Oh, when you get a chance, go sign up for the Facebook page.”
Tahira Endean: Well, and that is the challenge. Somebody made the comment that because PCMA Convening Leaders has a great app that they’re running, but there’s no photos. And so somebody said yesterday wouldn’t it have been great if you could have just linked with a LinkedIn picture or a Gravatar picture, or something on that backend that would have just made it so simple to be able to visually recognize the people that – I got lucky this morning. I happen to be sitting across the table from somebody that I’ve never met and I’m co-presenting with tomorrow. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have known what she looked like ahead of time with actually no effort on my part? I think that’s what makes Pathable so interesting, is that the amount of effort versus the benefit is really high. So how do we get that message out there?
Jordan Schwartz: Right. Well, it’s interesting. Just a quick point on the photos, it is so, so critical. Humans, for millions of years, have evolved to place a lot of emotional value on photos. In terms of the evolution of social networking, there were social networks for decades. I mean back in the 1980s, I ran an online bulletin board out of my house on two 2600 broad modems, right? I mean this technology has been around for a while. Friendster was the first big breakout social network, and the thing that it did that no social network had done before was include photos.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Jordan Schwartz: The human mind is tuned to react to that.
Tahira Endean: That’s true. We’re not tuned to look for people’s feed, but for a notebook, we are. We want to see the faces of the people, for sure.
Jordan Schwartz: Yes. It gives meaning and it gives emotional connection to the network.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Jordan Schwartz: So we make sure that we make it very easy for people. After they’ve registered, they’re right in the network, they’re uploading their photos. We place those strategically throughout the network because it creates that emotional engagement and attachment, and then we tie in to the other social networks. So Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can go onto a Pathable community and say, “Who do I know that’s attending?” We’ll go out to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. We’ll compare it to who you know and we’ll tell you, “Here are the people you know that will be there.” That, for me, is so fantastic. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in an event and I haven’t realized till I was in a cab back to the airport that there was someone that I knew who I wanted to connect with.
Tahira Endean: Yes. That is exceptionally true. And especially, the bigger the meeting grows, the more that that is true. So 100 people in a room, you can probably find who you’re looking for, but when that absolutely starts to get to 500 to 1,000 people – and you’re probably exactly the same – I have five people that we’ve tweeted and we know we’re here. It’s going to be a little while till we see each other, but at least we know we’re here. So we’ve already made that first start. It is just about just really this next step. I also think one of the other great things about what you’re doing is making it scalable. So small versus big.
Jordan Schwartz: Right.
Tahira Endean: So it’s great.
Jordan Schwartz: Yes. So that’s one of the things that we’re changing right now, is up to this point, we’ve really been focused on the 800 person meeting, the 2,000 person meeting, the 5,000 person meeting.
Tahira Endean: Jordan, I think it’s great, the whole – and how you are changing where you were focused on larger meetings, and now you offer your community capabilities to smaller meetings on a totally different basis than when you get into the larger meetings. I think that’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for people. I know it’s something Mike is going to follow up with you on, which will be great. We are now heading to the PCMA Convening Leaders lunch where we’re going to go find some of those people that we’ve talked about. So thank you very much, Jordan. I really appreciate it. Jordan Schwartz of Pathable. Tahira Endean, roving reporter, signing off…
Tahira Endean: Tahira Endean, roving reporter, live from PCMA Convening Leaders. Mike McAllen, you said you want great content and you want things like technology and meetings and event design, and guess who I found? Corbin Ball. He needs no introduction. And what we’re going to talk about today is the impact that mobile is going to have on our meetings and events coming up. Corbin, thank you for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
Corbin Ball: My pleasure. I’m happy to be here today. I’ve been an analyst for the last 15 years, looking at meetings technology fulltime, and I’ve never seen a more exciting time than right now in terms of what’s developing. I think things are going to change in events more in the next five years than they have in the last 20 years due to the impact primarily of mobile technology. It’s really changing events, but it’s just changing society in general.
Tahira Endean: Absolutely. You’re right when you say from 20 years ago. I remember those carousel slides. You turn them upside down and backwards, and that wasn’t really that long ago.
Corbin Ball: No, it wasn’t. No.
Tahira Endean: And fax machines and registering people by hand, basically.
Corbin Ball: It’s so last century.
Tahira Endean: It’s seems like so last century. Especially, we see so much in mobile and everybody’s walking around here with their tablets and their smartphones and I would say just starting to tap into some of the potential. So where do you see it going?
Corbin Ball: Oh, I think so. I think we’re just starting to do that. We’re at the point now that if you don’t have an app for your event, people are asking why you’re behind the times. It’s becoming expected. But the next step is the really exciting step, is that you take it from just a mere conversion of a paper program into a digital form of the same thing into a very interactive tool that can manage it. You can use it for lead exchange, you can use it for [WiFi needs], for audience polling and for survey capabilities, to be able to pick up conference literature and course notes. The list goes on and on and on. It can be a much richer experience with interactive videos and full feeds and the social media links in that it’s a completely different animal than what we used to have. And not only we’re not cutting down trees to make it and it goes out unprinted the instant it’s been printed…
Tahira Endean: And you don’t have to store it. Like where do you keep all of that paper?
Corbin Ball: Yes. And then what about the changes that happen? There are always changes. So those are the things. The ability just for an app that does all these things I think has great potential.
Tahira Endean: I would say that even just talking to some of our app providers that are onsite here in the last couple of days, that technology is there, the ability to do what you’re talking about is there, but we just haven’t actually – the organizations aren’t just tying it altogether. They’re really seeing an app still as this separate entity to we have our program, we have our website, we have our content on our website, and then we have this app that’s, like you said…
Corbin Ball: A standalone, kind of. Yes.
Tahira Endean: A standalone and it really is just an electronic brochure.
Corbin Ball: That’s right. First of all, I think the associations are going to be doing this well, and the other corporations, establish a 24/7, 365 presence with it. It’s not just about the event. You’re running multiple events. It’s not just about the contacts at that event. It’s about all the members. It’s about distributing this content to all your members in a way that’s really exciting and engaging.
Tahira Endean: And maybe starting some dialogue between the members and really building the community that is backed behind that so that people can – you’ve got that content. Now, let’s talk about it and start to get some innovation.
Corbin Ball: And market next year’s meeting as well.
Tahira Endean: And market next year’s meeting.
Corbin Ball: What they found is that your concerns about virtual meetings and hybrid meetings cannibalized in existing meetings. Well, the statistics indicate that that’s not. They’re doing research on it and it’s not. In fact, in more cases than not, it…
Tahira Endean: It’s building attendance.
Corbin Ball: It’s building attendance because people see how great it is and they want to come next year.
Tahira Endean: I had that conversation this morning in the session where two people with associations who still felt that there would be cannibalization and were quite scared of it still. And so we talked around those things. So they’re still quite a ways away from having a mobile app. So they’re sharing their content with their association members, but they’re doing that through their website, whether it’s some audio or some video. But for them to get to even that hybrid stage, they were just like, “Oh, that’s a bit scary.” And so I said like, “Look at some of the research that PCMA has been doing in particular because they too were scared of it two years ago.” Like we need to try it, but what if it doesn’t work? You’re right. I’m the perfect example. I attended virtually twice. And now here I am, wishing this app was just a little bit more robust, but a year ago, I wouldn’t even have expected an app.
Corbin Ball: The sky’s the limit here. I’m really excited. I did a session this morning and we were talking about office technology. I asked how many people are carrying around a smartphone and virtually everybody in the room, business travelers and people going to meetings. Then I asked how many people are carrying around a tablet computer of some sort. About half the audience.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Corbin Ball: That number is just exploding and that opens up a whole new area that you can really do document management when you’re on the fly. I used to call meetings the black hole of event-catered management because you had computers before and after, but you’re flying blind during the event. Now, you have access to all these information and all the people’s activity and every click on a mobile app is trackable, for example, and there are all these different things that you can really have a precise measure of what’s working and what’s not and what you want to do to improve it.
Tahira Endean: I think that’s the other sort of interesting side of it, is so now as a planner, we have these apps and we’re completely underutilizing that backend data. So I think that there might also become sort of an emerging market for the data analysis, and people who are really specializing in tracking that data and being able to give a contextual report back to an association about here’s what you can do now. I think that is kind of the next step.
Corbin Ball: Oh, I completely agree. I mean that’s why these times are so exciting, because it’s all so new. I mean the iPhone is only five years old. The iPad is only two-and-a-half years old.
Tahira Endean: And we’re on version what? 17 of that now?
Corbin Ball: Yes. Right. And people are walking around saying, how did we ever get along without these stuff?
Tahira Endean: That’s true.
Corbin Ball: It’s like we’ve never always had it, but what the big step that’s happening now is we’re just trying to figure out all these backend stuff. We’re figuring out. We’re trying to make the shift over from just thinking in paper into a really full content multimedia. So there’s just a lot of learning that we have to do, both just at development, but the medium design is going to be changed by this as well. So it’s really exciting, I think.
Tahira Endean: Yes. For me, that’s what really excites me. What a concept that we actually are creating meetings for the people to leave the meetings actually feeling connected and feeling innovative and creative, and it’s just now they’ve sparked it. They just haven’t heard of ideas, but they’ve had the opportunity to make them relevant and to spark ideas, and now to connect instantly to people that if you didn’t get their business card, who cares? I’ve got their information and I know about them. So I think it’s really fascinating.
I thank you so much for sharing your insights. I don’t know if you have any sort of final words you’d like to share about the future of where you see it going?
Corbin Ball: Well, I would end with one of my favorite quotes because what we did on this change – actually, it’s my favorite quote. It’s from Charles Darwin on this. He said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the one that’s most adaptable to change.” I think that’s what we need to do now, is we need to embrace that mode of change. But the good news is it’s getting easier and cheaper to do all the time. I’d add on to Charles Darwin’s quote with digital Darwinism is alive and well. If you don’t adapt to technology change, you’ll lose business to those that do. So [it involves] all of us to be excited about this and to think about how we can use this new technology to improve events.
Tahira Endean: I love that! Digital Darwinism. Thank you so much, Corbin Ball. I really appreciate it. This is Tahira Endean, roving reporter, signing off for Meetings Podcast.
Tahira Endean: Tahira Endean, roving reporter for Meetings Podcast. I’m here with Michelle Bruno. She’s kind of famous. I’m not sure she needs much more introduction than that.
Corbin Ball: [Laughs]
Tahira Endean: So Michelle did a fantastic session here at PCMA Convening Leaders on digital disruption, but we’re going to talk today about disruption of all kinds and how that’s impacting our meetings industry. So should we start with digital disruption and talk a little bit about how we see that impacting the meetings community?
Michelle Bruno: Yes. So that’s a good starting point. It was the panel that I moderated. So there were six panelists, mostly from trade associations. There was one person from an agency, and then there was the final person from a platform developer company. So we tried to get perspectives across the board of digital disruption. When we defined it, it was really what we were talking about was virtual technologies, virtual events, but also mobile, and even to a certain extent, social media. So it was pretty interesting, the responses to different questions. For example, defining digital disruption. It seemed like they felt most of the disruption had already occurred, and in my mind I’m thinking, are you kidding me? This is like a fluid, dynamic thing. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much that’s already happened, but there’s also far more that’s yet to come.
Tahira Endean: I agree with that.
Michelle Bruno: My concern really is whether we’re prepared for it or not. So that was one aspect of disruption.
Tahira Endean: So my sense would be that, if we just continue on the digital, is that no, we are barely starting to see the disruption that’s going to happen and we’re starting to see how world events have been impacted by the hyper-connectivity of the world and social media and really big world events, but we’re not really taking any of that into our meetings and translating it down to how that’s going to impact what we’re doing.
Michelle Bruno: Yes. I think in the face-to-face meetings industry – I know it’s true in the tradeshow sector – we’re mistaking digital technologies for new marketing channels or new advertising channels. We’re not really understanding their importance in the flow of information and the actual engagement using these channels. They just think, oh, if I read a blog, I’m going to really write about everything that’s happening at my event. So it’s like the same thing that they’re going to put out in their newsletter or online, all the different details about their event. What they’re missing is the ability to use digital channels to really create knowledge and information that’s actually insightful and causes people to want to participate more and actually attend the meetings and things like that. So that’s one sort of area that I think we’re at fault, a misunderstanding of that with digital.
Tahira Endean: I think if we look at – and I’ll use the mobile app as an example because we have a mobile app for this. Let’s just use this meeting just as an example. So we have a mobile app, but really it’s only targeted to what’s happening here. So you could go in ahead of time and you could populate your schedule, and then your schedule would appear on the app. But other than that, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to really figure out how to create a community around that or even to distribute information through that. So it’s just really a printed brochure on a different platform.
Michelle Bruno: Right.
Tahira Endean: Which is that’s great. It is a good start, but it’s not taking advantage of that technology at all. But that is a disruptive technology. It’s that we have these mobile apps and they have all of this capability. It tells you where you are and we tie it to our Instagram and it says, “Here you are in Orlando taking a picture of something,” but we’re not…
Michelle Bruno: Yes. Mobile is a good example because we’ve done a really good job in this industry of using mobile, as you said, to sort of nail down the behavior at the event. But nobody’s cracked the nut, let’s just say, about how do you then take that same mobile platform and use it year round.
Tahira Endean: I don’t understand that, even though I’m someone who’s creating events and creating conferences. So then people say, “Well, we need to have a mobile app,” and I’m like, “You don’t need a mobile app for this event. You need a mobile app for your organization or for your association.” If you already have one for your organization or your association, then how are you going to just build off of that so that yes, you can still get your mobile brochure of this event, but that you have that ongoing engagement. You’re investing in that as one of your technologies and one of your streams, much as you would invest in a website or as much as you would invest in having people in your office to answer members’ questions.
Michelle Bruno: Yes. I think just because we haven’t figured out how to harness the power of mobile after the event or before the event necessarily, I don’t think that it’s going to go away and that all the value will diminish. Let’s just say we just haven’t figured out how to create something that’s so compelling that someone would want to be tuning in year round, but I heard yesterday at our Reimagining the Tradeshow lunch, so Microsoft had this presentation in that it’s kind of related where they were reimagining their tradeshow as more of an urban landscape.
Tahira Endean: Nice!
Michelle Bruno: And they had different – the same way we had here at PCMA for the different lunch themes and it was color-coded.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Michelle Bruno: So Microsoft sort of color-coded different areas, and rather than create this rigid floor plan sort of situation, they actually created sort of like content areas, and then they built their tradeshow environment around the content areas. But what was even more interesting than that is during the year, they have these same content of subject matter areas flowing through to their clients and the people that would come to the conference, and they color-code them when they…
Tahira Endean: So you know when it’s – right.
Michelle Bruno: Right. So that when you get to the event, you understand that this area of the physical event is not going to relate to that piece of content that I saw that was blue or whatever beforehand. So the corporations are starting to understand the value of all of that content stream.
Tahira Endean: And the continuum of content and the continuum of context.
Michelle Bruno: Right.
Tahira Endean: Right? So as we start to do that. Do you think that part of the real issue isn’t that there’s disruption because there is disruption and we talked a little bit earlier, not only is there digital disruption but climate disruption about the reality that we’re just simply not adapting. So whether it’s because we’re [off stretching] about it, whether it’s because it’s time and it’s like oh my God, that’s one more thing to learn about, I really feel like, especially with digital, we don’t really have that big of a learning curve because I think most meeting professionals are already incorporating that into their lives. So their kids and their grandkids have tablets. They have, for the most part, mobile phones. They’re certainly working on computers most of the day. So I’m seeing how it’s impacting, but there is a gap between what we’re seeing in the world and how we’re extending that.
Michelle Bruno: Yes, which is kind of crazy because we’re also gaga over our iPhones. And then we come to an event where they have some wonderful content or a wonderful platform for engaging and learning, and we look at it like it was the first time we’ve ever seen it. It’s just so weird to me.
Tahira Endean: Yes. It is.
Michelle Bruno: Maybe as meeting professionals, we have to do a better job of transitioning people from what they know and love in their personal lives to what they know and love in meetings. It’s no longer separate worlds anymore. I think that’s the big lesson of disruption. It’s that everything is blended into one thing.
Tahira Endean: Yes. Thomas Friedman’s point this morning about really, we have this type of connectivity that it’s all around us. People on the podcast can’t see me. I’m waving my hands like it’s all around us, but it is something that’s ubiquitous and it’s something that we can’t say, “Oh, this is happening to other people.” It’s not happening to other people. It’s happening to our people.
Michelle Bruno: Yes. And listening to you just made me think about the fact that we’re called “planners.” It sort of indicates that we like things orderly and we like to be able to anticipate something and have a plan for it.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Michelle Bruno: And with disruption, there are all these uncertainly. So I think frankly, we’re just a little freaked out and we don’t know what to do.
Tahira Endean: We can’t have our Plan A, B, C and D because we don’t even actually understand what our Plan A should be.
Michelle Bruno: Right.
Tahira Endean: So what are going to be some logical next steps that as organizations – when I say organizations, I’m thinking sort of meeting and planning PCMAs of the world. What are some things that they can start to do for their members to start to get some of that training and to get some of that understanding for people?
Michelle Bruno: I think that we need excellent leadership, which I think PCMA has.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Michelle Bruno: Because I don’t think it’s really about surveying the gibbers out of your membership. It’s about at some point deciding, after you’ve done sufficient research, about which direction to take an organization. So I think starting with leadership. I think we need to do more and more experimentation or recognize the groups that are outside of this association, for example, like the event camps and the pod camps and whatever. Recognize the fantastic work they’re doing, support them and fund them so that we can take some of that work into the more organized associations.
Tahira Endean: That’s true. So take some of the things that we’re scared of, test them in those real life environments. We did that. I can speak to Event Camp Vancouver because we did that. We took all of these things that people were like, “Well, we can’t.” If we do a soft seating [weekend balls] into the environment, people won’t like it. If we have a game, people might not engage in it. What if we try and we Skyped [Mary Boone] in to a breakout session and had her on our table. Well, that’s not going to…
Michelle Bruno: Right. So the difference was you just did it.
Tahira Endean: We just did it.
Michelle Bruno: It’s just like let’s stop talking about it and just do some of these stuff.
Tahira Endean: So do we start to do some of those things so that people can start to see, you know what? This actually is how we can take some of these – what we consider disruptions – and start to actually mainstream them because this is the reality.
Michelle Bruno: Yes.
Tahira Endean: Also, the capabilities of the technology are so phenomenal and how we can actually use the technology to the benefit of every single person who is going to be there. I think just a little bit tying in to that is that people are still a little bit scared of hybrid and virtual events.
Michelle Bruno: Right.
Tahira Endean: In the cannibalization and the – again, we talked a little bit about this – that face-to-face isn’t always going to be the current reality. Right now, we love face-to-face. We’re humans, we love touching. But if you look at one of the disruptions, is airline travel and fuel are getting more and more and more and more expensive.
Michelle Bruno: Yes.
Tahira Endean: On the one hand. So the reality of face-to-face is going to be that it is a very good potential that will become diminished, I think. And so then, how do we then embrace those virtual communities and bring them in so that they are more a part of? You and I are a great example of we’ve been having conversations for three years. We met face-to-face yesterday.
Michelle Bruno: Yes.
Tahira Endean: So to say that you can’t have a valid conversation or a real relationship with somebody in a non face-to-face environment, well we can stand here and say it’s not true.
Michelle Bruno: Right.
Tahira Endean: So for getting down to just thinking of a business deal, that’s a great time for face-to-face. So if we’re really trying to do collaborative solution-building, great time for face-to-face. But as we look at the practical realities of climate change and you can’t get there because of weather and fuel prices have doubled and so your airline ticket is $7,000, then you need to be able to come up with, again, how is that disruption going to affect our industry and what are we going to do about it?
Michelle Bruno: Yes. Well I think it just sort of circles back to a point that you made at the beginning of our discussion, and that is there are two worlds that are colliding here. There’s the real world and there’s a digital world and there’s kind of two realities, or at least people think there’s two realities, when, in fact, there’s really one reality. What we need to do to prepare for what we’re afraid of is to start in very maybe small ways, blending the two environments together and seeing what we can make and build on top of that blend of things, but no longer thinking about it’s either physical or virtual because it’s going to be the experience and the experience will be both.
Tahira Endean: Yes.
Michelle Bruno: It will be all of that and it will probably be more things that we haven’t even though of.
Tahira Endean: I agree. I think that this is a great time to say thank you very much, Michelle Bruno. This is Tahira Endean, roving reporter, signing off for Meetings Podcast from PCMA Convening Leaders in Orlando. Thank you.