Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 2012

Forward Thinking: What's Your Tech Mindset

By Dave Lutz, CMP

More conferences are placing a high priority on using technology that not only improves the attendee experience, extends its reach, and streamlines processes, but also fits into their organizations’ overall digital strategy. That’s a tall order for meeting professionals.

Planners are increasingly expected to have a grasp on how the latest technology solutions and social-media platforms can be used to improve their events. If you’re lucky, you have an IT team that is savvy, progressive, and eager to work with you. In the absence of such a resource, you and your organization may develop an event-tech mindset that leads to poor choices. Here are four troublesome ways of thinking.

1. Techno-Maniac - This mindset is mostly found in large organizations that believe that their business is so unique that no off-the-shelf, configurable solution will do. These organizations opt for highly customized solutions designed around existing processes. Continued improvement that supports new processes or emerging technology almost always proves to be costly, if not impossible to implement.
Whenever possible, choose technology that allows you to examine and configure software to leverage the best practices of other power users. Never build when you can lease or buy.

2. Integrate-Aholic - Also common in large organizations, this frame of mind is based on the notion that every transaction and process must dynamically feed the enterprise system. Staff efficiency is placed ahead of the customer experience. Customers are required to learn new processes and remember login information that they seldom use.

Don’t overthink your digital plumbing. Your annual meeting happens only once a year, and it will rarely deliver ROI for all of your integration efforts. Integration resources are better applied to processes and customer experiences that take place every day of the year.

3. App-4-Everything - Also known as shiny-object syndrome, this mentality is most often found in smaller organizations that purchase modules they don’t need or use. Too many new and competing technologies are implemented in one conference cycle. These organizations do not conduct enough due diligence to ensure that technology decisions are around long enough to deliver a return on their investment.

Most technology decisions need to be in place for three or more years in order for the organization to receive the full benefit of their investment. Do your homework and consider your switching costs before you purchase.

4. Ready, Fire, Aim - New technology rollouts often start off on the wrong foot. A strong business case is rarely made before purchase, quickly followed by insufficient training and a poor implementation plan. System knowledge is not documented. If the one employee in the know gets hit by a bus or moves on to greener pastures, it sends your organization into a tailspin.

Nearly all technology implementations should include a phased rollout. Executive buy-in and support is a must. That happens when you develop a business case for the investment and then report back on the results vs. the plan.

Breakout: If It’s Not Broken…

This is the most dangerous tech mindset. Associations receive 35 percent or more of their revenue from conferences. It’s rare to find technology budgets proportionate to this revenue contribution.
Organizations that apply Band-Aids to existing solutions - or that put off adopting new technologies because they’re too busy working on projects that contribute less to their business - are setting themselves up for a fall.

Customers like to do business with progressive and innovative companies. Your most valuable customers are usually the ones attending premium conferences. They deserve the best. Leverage technology to improve their experience and perception.

More Resources
Scott Klososky is an expert at advising organizations on their digital plumbing. Read his blog post “Five Crippling Mistakes People Make With Technology” at convn.org/klososky

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, velvetchainsaw.com.

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