Ken Edwards is director, financial services for SmartSource Computer & AV Rentals with 35+ years as a skilled solutions provider serving the financial industry. His in-depth expertise covers all aspects of technology application. A well-recognized leader within the meetings industry, he previously served as president of MPI, Greater NY Chapter. www.smartsourcerentals.com
If you’re a financial or insurance meeting professional, you can enhance your conferences by deploying strategies that address the needs of your stakeholders. It’s less difficult than you might think; if you take the time to learn about and leverage today’s leading-edge event technologies. They are robust in features designed to capture valuable data, engage meeting participants, enable sponsors and exhibitors to achieve their marketing and sales goals and streamline otherwise burdensome event administration planning and processes.
A Financial & Insurance Conference Planners (FICP) Incentives Survey revealed that a majority of respondents (84 percent) outsource at least one service such as: AV production (62 percent), travel (57 percent), registration (36 percent) and speaker selection/management (36 percent). Typically, outsourcing of services is a way to alleviate the pain associated with certain processes. Meeting professionals in the financial and insurance sector share similar challenges with those in other industries. For example, an etouches survey of 239 event and meeting planners found they share many pain points:
A recent survey by the Professional Convention Management Association found that meeting professionals also were challenged by:
Event technology providers are helpful in defining a road map that addresses their stakeholders’ endgame. That can be as easy as obtaining head-count totals to obtaining sophisticated analytics. Vendors have become very knowledgeable regarding the process and helping stakeholders achieve data that is useful in conducting future business.
How do you raise your game? Many solutions are supported by knowledgeable, experienced event technology professionals. These specialists have in-depth technical skills and knowledge of the specific technologies, their performance features and how best to leverage them. Equally important, these solutions architects and project managers are capable of managing an event technology solution project across all phases. That includes assisting with pre-event planning, budgeting and goal assessment, simplifying the technology component and generally elevating event concepts so they really shine.
Here are some of the most popular technologies that many meeting planners have embraced:
Registration software — Improving attendee check-in and registration processes is as simple as applying web-based event registration software. This solution offers event professionals choices on how to register their attendees (for example, online, onsite with staff or self-serve onsite registration at event kiosks). Additionally, the software captures valuable demographic data to enhance target marketing and streamline processes such as badge creation, email confirmations, reporting and data importing to CRM and lead retrieval systems.
Mobile event apps — Mobile event applications may be one of the best ways to keep your attendees engaged. They put the power of technology in the hands of the stakeholders and their attendees by providing them a way to access real-time information such as: upcoming sessions, exhibits and product demonstrations, special promotional activities, etc. They also have market intelligence functionality to capture behavioral data, which can be applied to re-engage attendees and/or in post-event communications. Interestingly, according to the FICP Incentives Survey, 40 percent of respondents always or frequently use a mobile app at their incentive programs.
Interactive touchscreen displays — These displays are a great complement to mobile event apps and another way to engage attendees. They serve multiple purposes and offer a dynamic way to capture attendees’ attention, create a wow factor, integrate with social media and deliver an enhanced experience. Touchscreen digital kiosks can be used for registration, training, presentations and demonstrations. Interactive touchscreen displays can be integrated with content management software to deliver information on a pre-determined schedule.
Video displays — Large LED and 4K video displays are another way to boost engagement. When configured in multiple tile arrays, they can be real show stoppers. These displays offer high resolution (i.e., up to 1920 x 1082) and can be connected to mobile devices, PCs, Blu-rays, cameras and DVDs for purposes of interactive presentations.
Giant iTab — This technology takes the well-known format of a smartphone to deliver a high-impact display with touchscreen functionality on a grand scale. The Giant iTab is the equivalent of a fully functioning, super-sized smartphone operating on both iOS and Android platforms.
Charging stations — Given that today’s millennials and Gen X event-goers are usually armed with multiple mobile devices and expect to stay connected, it’s important to accommodate their needs. In addition to mobile device charging stations, many event professionals are setting up lounges with furniture that has built-in ports where attendees can plug in and charge their devices, stay connected and relax.
What’s unique about all of these technologies is that they provide many ways to get the word out: LED monitors, touchscreens, video walls, kiosks and the Giant iTab are all crowd-pleasers.
In the simplest of terms, it’s about throughput and risk. A Wi-Fi solution specialist can discuss the various options available to ensure that the right bandwidth (cellular, satellite, microwave communications), internet service provider, signal distribution choices and network (e.g., wireless hot spot service with captive portals, virtual private network, etc.) are established, and especially that the solution is secure. Given the high incidence of cyber breaches, it’s critical that event professionals take every precaution to ensure that their stakeholders’ personal and business data is not compromised. By engaging a qualified resource, you can make risk mitigation a top priority.
For meeting professionals, event technologies open a whole new universe of ever-expanding opportunities. Where meetings with a single computer or projection screen were once considered advanced, we’re now seeing interactive and high visibility technologies, including those driving virtual and augmented reality experiences. Meeting professionals should be open to exploring and learning about event technologies and other solutions including audio-visual and lighting. When properly designed and implemented, these technologies can transform an event from ordinary to extraordinary, all while significantly alleviating pain points for meeting professionals. Finally, by including event technology resources at the beginning of an insurance or financial meeting’s planning stages — or for any meeting or event, for that matter — meeting professionals will benefit from their expertise and ability to maximize a fixed budget so that the highest return on investment can be achieved. I&FMM