Shimon Avish is a 20-plus-year veteran of travel and meetings management. He has worked as a consultant for American Express Consulting, American Express Meetings & Events, Management Alternatives, Shimon Avish Consulting and is currently the head of Acquis Consulting Group’s Meetings Management Group. As current member and former vice chair of GBTA’s Meetings Committee, he has led the committee’s Thought Leadership Initiative. Avish is a frequent contributor to industry publications, presenter at conferences and is considered an industry thought leader.
In recent years, the meetings management technology landscape has evolved at a phenomenal rate.
It used to be that selecting a meetings management technology platform was straightforward since there were only a few suppliers, and all the systems provided the same functionality.
These days, the variety of technologies available for managing meetings is staggering, and the systems address the needs that end-users did not even know they have.
Today, we not only have enterprise-level meetings management solutions, we also have best-in-breed platforms, which include the following long list of niche technologies: abstract management, association management, attendee tracking, check-in and badge printing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and marketing automation, digital marketing tools, exhibitor and floor plan management, housing, lead retrieval, matchmaking, presentation management, registration, staffing, transportation, venue management, and virtual and augmented reality systems.
Additionally, we have event mobile apps, second screen technologies, beacons, smart badges, virtual meeting solutions and simple meeting systems.
What has led to this sudden enthusiasm for the development of new solutions in the meetings technology space? According to a recently published book on the subject, The Face of Digital: How Digital Technologies are Changing the $565 Billion Events Industry, by Marco Giberti and Jay Weintraub, the meetings and events industry is seen as ready for disruption by tech innovators. “They are enthusiastic about the size of the industry and the scale of available business opportunities….”
At the same time, Giberti and Weintraub note that “forward-thinking investors, private equity firms and venture capitalists are showing interest in event tech.”
They add, “More than $1.96 billion was invested [in event tech companies] in 2015-16, with 372 companies funded in the last five years…” and it is this influx of capital combined with the sense that the industry is primed for disruption that is fueling the emergence of very interesting and creative technology solutions.
Another dynamic forcing change in the event tech space is that participants come to events with an expectation that the technology they use at events will give them the same personalized experiences they have as consumers in their non-work lives. This is lending pressure to create innovative new solution types that mirror the consumer experience where their preferences are known and catered to by marketers.
All of this change happened in a very short time and is leading to considerable confusion for end-users.
While these dynamics have led to the development of many exciting technologies, meeting planners are having trouble adapting to the variety of new technologies, and it may take years for the market to sort out the valuable solutions from the not-so valuable.
It is also worth noting that it wasn’t so long ago we were talking about how the consolidation of the top meetings technology suppliers was leading to an unhealthy dominance by one supplier, but now we find ourselves talking about the fracturing of the meetings technology space into numerous niche technologies and suppliers. As in all things, this fragmentation has its pros and cons.
On the pro side is the emergence of so-called best-in-breed solutions that allow for the combination of many of the technologies enumerated above into a unified whole through the use of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that integrate the various tools and facilitate data flow between them.
These best-in-breed solutions are emerging as potential competitors to all-in-one enterprise solutions.
Additionally, a number of the new systems are self-service solutions, which shift some of the burden of meetings management to meeting stakeholders.
This is seen as a feature, not a glitch, especially for technologies like simple meeting systems that allow end-users to search for and book venues in keeping with an organization’s guidelines, while simultaneously providing end-users with a sense of empowerment to select and book their venues.
Many of these new solutions have the potential to be true disruptors in the strategic meetings management (SMM) space, as they offer unique capabilities not provided by enterprise level solutions.
Additionally, organizations are now finding themselves freed from a single supplier development road map which threatened to dictate the meetings technology capabilities available in the marketplace.
The emergence of these engagement enhancement and measurement tools is timely in that adoption of the standard SMM model has likely peaked. Organizations that have not yet adopted SMM are looking for alternative models that match their business needs, which are more focused on generating brand loyalty, leads and sales, and much less focused on cost savings and compliance.
Many of the emerging digital solutions developed in recent years have the ability to meet this new need by significantly enhancing participant engagement in the meetings and events they attend, and enabling the measurement of that engagement, addressing one of the more intractable problems in the meetings and events space, namely the determination of a return on investment for live events.
By measuring interactions with the new tools, marketing teams are now able to determine whether participants are engaged with their events and measure their satisfaction.
On the con side, we see that disruption is, well, disruptive, and requires years to shake itself out. Some of the implications of this are seen in the slow adoption of emerging technologies by meeting planners, and the difficulty for user communities in the development of technology strategies for their organizations, given all the options, unproven track records and long-term financial viability of these companies (approximately 75 percent of venture-backed startups fail).
These factors can introduce considerable risk into selecting emerging technologies.
Generally, the GBTA Meetings Committee sees that the emergence of new meetings technologies brings with it accompanying pros and cons with respect to the disruption of strategic meetings management programs, and the enhanced engagement and measurement of attendee participation, and will be closely monitoring trends in these areas in the year to come. C&IT