Trendy isn’t a word I would use to describe myself. I’ve purchased the exact same white Polo shirt at least five times. I’m only a small mental break away from buying seven of them and seven matching pairs of pants giving me an identical set of clothes for each day of the week. Simple. Clean. Easy. Effective. These words won’t set the fashion world aflame, but, lucky for me, we’re talking about technology trends. A world in which being simple, clean, easy and effective is downright sexy (or at least that’s what I tell my wife).
In this and subsequent columns, we’ll look at meeting technology trends using those four guidelines. After all, someone could develop an app that fosters world peace, but if it were confusing and difficult to use, there would still be war. These are trends most have heard of, many have tried and the rest are still trying to decide whether to test. For each, I’ll try to provide simple ways to get started and advice for keeping your implementation simple, clean, easy and (most importantly) effective. Up first, going hybrid or virtual
To the cloud, and beyond!
Just a few years ago, “the cloud” was some magical place that most people didn’t understand. The Luddites among us would swear it was too complicated or regurgitate security concerns overheard from the IT guy by the water cooler. They didn’t know they were already using cloud computing extensively. There’s a similar feeling about hybrid meetings. Just remember, every second of every session does not have to be streamed live for your event to benefit from virtualization. If you can simply create some buzz for next year’s event, that’s all the ROI you need. Start small and make a big impression.
“It will cut into our attendance.” The original Luddites were early 19th-century textile workers who smashed factory machinery fearing the technology threatened their livelihoods. MPI’s recent Meetings Outlook publication found that only 3 percent of today’s Luddites use virtual or hybrid meeting technology to replace face-to-face meetings. The other 54 percent already dabble in virtualization and use it to enhance user experience and to integrate on-site and off-site elements. Don’t worry about that 3 percent; the 42 percent reporting no use at all are what should concern you.
“It’s too expensive and complicated.” The most basic hybrid meetings are as simple to set up as a conference call and take little more than a computer with a decent webcam and an Internet connection. Google Hangouts on Air is free and uploads your feed directly to YouTube, where it can be streamed live or saved for later viewing. GoToMeeting, another regularly used app, can easily be adapted for a full-blown hybrid meeting. Now that the jumping off point doesn’t seem as scary, add a nice camera, microphone and lights for better production value, and you’ll look like a pro.
Make inaccessible guests accessible
Did you see the coverage of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden’s virtual appearances at SXSW Interactive in Austin? Your next speaker likely won’t be a political refugee, but a tight budget also can restrict one’s ability to travel. This epitomizes how even the most inaccessible guest can add great value to a meeting through virtualization.
Hybrid and virtual meetings are no longer reserved for tech geeks with big budgets. They are a staple. They can be as simple or as comprehensive as your individual meeting’s needs. They are not a one-size-fits-all operation, but the entry point is low and there is beauty in the scalability. They are my white Polo shirt.
Next: With more than 100 conference and event apps on the market, choosing the right one can be like getting dressed in Elton John’s closet.
What meeting technologies do you favor? What would you like this column to examine? Please let your comment in the box below. Thank you.