TECHNOLOGYJune 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 45 onference technology supplier Etherlive claims that just 11 per cent of agents and 12 per cent of hotels are "completely comfortable" with technology terminology used in the meetings industry.The results come from a survey conducted among 100 members of The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA), designed to understand confi dence and attitudes towards the progressive use of IT in conferences and events.The desire for Wi-Fi and a more complex IT infrastructure is proving challenging for agents and venues, it seems.The survey highlighted that 46 per cent of hotels and venues were confi dent with the changing technology landscape compared with 27 per cent of agents who felt confi dent that they were abreast of Wi-Fi and streaming media demands. "The advent of hybrid events and delegates' reliance on the internet is bringing the digital revolution to the fore for agents and hoteliers alike, and we are actively looking to make sure the Association keeps pace with it," says Executive Director of The HBAA, Peter Ducker. Both agents and venues agreed that Wi-Fi was a key consideration for meetings of under 50 delegates. Survey results also showed:. 55% of agents cited Wi-Fi as a prerequisite for smaller groups; 35% of venues stated it was a key consideration. For events of 51 and upwards, agent demand remained static at 55% for Wi-Fi, while hotels and venues noted an IT comfort zone? Etherlive's recent survey of Hotel Booking Agents Association members found organisers are less than confi dent when it comes to choosing the right technology for their events. Sarah O'Donnell asks a selection of IT experts why this is the caseThe advent of hybrid events and delegates' reliance on the internet is bringing the digital revolution to the foreOut of your CLisa Metcalf, Logistics Manager at experiential events agency, Logistik:"The landscape of technology within live events has evolved signifi cantly over the years. It is now seen as a project in itself to manage the different tech channels when organising an event and their integration also means an event can be more vulnerable to unforeseen risks. Lead times have signifi cantly reduced meaning staying on top of several management systems as well as meeting tight deadlines can be a challenge. "Its development has, however, allowed us to integrate social media into events and the use of smart phones and iPads has meant that it can be a truly live event communicated to the world."Gerard Lennox, Director at Symphony Event Management: "Technology, love it or hate it, but can't avoid it today. So how can event organisers keep up-to-date on what they should be investing in? One way is to watch what others are doing or take time out of your busy schedule visiting exhibitions. "Another way is to build relationships with trusted suppliers who work in your industry, especially the ones that you don't have a commercial relationship with. Look at their blogs and websites by all means but also ask them how they would solve a real business problem. After all, technology is a tool that helps you make money, not an end in itself."
TECHNOLOGY46 . www.conference-news.co.uk . June 2012 Ken Clayton, Director of event ticketing and registration supplier, Ref Tech:"It shouldn't come as a surprise that organisers feel confused about the avalanche of technological developments. They're told on all sides that they should be making use of this or that technology with the implication that if they don't they're either idiots or incompetent. "The reality is that the people demanding that organisers adopt new developments are rarely impartial: most have something to gain by promoting a particular technology. The real danger in all of this is that organisers can easily lose sight of the basics: what does the audience want from the event? That question has to be answered whether the organiser is staging a major exhibition or an academic seminar. If they don't meet that need, the Tweets, FB posts, LinkedIn updates, hybrid technologies, participant tracking and all the rest will count for nothing."Below: 11% of those HBAA members surveyed said they were "completely comfortable" with technologyincrease in demand to 39%. 80% of the agents and venues concurred that they were fully briefed on Wi-Fi requirements by their clients; . However, just 11% of agents and 12% of hotels and venues felt completely comfortable with the terminology used."The use of IT in events is far reaching and little understood," says Director of Etherlive, Tom McInerney. "To say you offer free Wi-Fi simply isn't enough. From the most basic perspective, delegates are reliant on their personal digital assistant; presentations often use the web; and content is frequently streamed across the globe. All of this requires a robust infrastructure."Corporates expect off-site solutions to be as adaptable and fl exible as the ones they have in their offi ces. This is all too often not the case."When asked if IT specifi cations were of equal importance to AV (sound, light and staging) requirements, 72 per cent of agency respondents stated IT was less important.Agents noted that a quick fi x and more powerful infrastructure was regularly required to bolster what should have been in place from the outset at venues, and that IT spends were often over budget on production of the fi nal bill. The disparity between IT requirements and the actualities at the event has a proven effect on repeat business at the given venues, with 59 per cent of venues stating that issues with IT had led to business not returning.Despite the corporates' desire for IT, it was still not deemed sufficiently important to be part of the tender process for a strategic meetings management programme, according to the Etherlive research, with almost two-thirds (65%) of agents stating that it had never featured despite the corporates' need to measure and consolidate total costs for their meetings and events. Anthony Miller, VP of Strategy and Business Solutions at Active Network:"The world of events has changed signifi cantly in recent years, with organisers being asked to do more with less and demonstrate maximum return from any spend. And, business users now have the same expectations as consumers, with delegates asking for personalisation and maximum value from every interaction."Technology can fundamentally enable the changing role of live events, however, it can also be daunting for organisers to fi nd time to fi gure out how these fi t in."The question of whether technology should be part of an event manager's toolkit is undoubtedly yes. We have many case studies of signifi cant savings and improvements though the use of our technologies, however, the challenge is helping educate busy event teams on how to use technology and how it will make their lives easier and their organisation more successful."Our role is as much about education as it is about creating powerful technology."