With the right approach to technology, and technology vendors, planners can extend the impact of their events far beyond the gathering itself. That was among the points discussed during Northstar Meetings Group's recent webinar, "Which Technology Will Benefit Your Events Most Right Now?" The event brought together a pair of thought leaders to discuss how the latest meetings technology can enhance engagement at their events and offer the flexibility to connect with an audience whether it's in-person, virtual or a blend of the two. For panelist Dahlia El Gazzar, tech evangelist and principal of DAHLIA+ Agency, that means breaking out of the traditional way of thinking about events as distinct goals in themselves. Instead, she urged planners to think of events as a means to an end — and to think of how technology can help to accomplish that. "I'm trying to get event organizers to reset the big picture," said El Gazzar. "What is the goal of events and experiences, and what are you trying to create in the business model that you have at the moment? If you're here to churn out amazing content and amazing experiences, you've got a hundred, two hundred thousand people in the digital funnel that you built last year." She stressed that planners should see events — whether in-person, virtual or hybrid — as tools they can use to meet their business goals, and that they should be nimble in trying — and blending — different approaches. "Events are one marketing channel, and you have to think of them that way," said El Gazzar.
Watch: Julie Ho of Project Management Institute discusses why even the most cutting-edge tech tools can't replace a meeting planner's insightful perspective.
Julie Ho, manager of live learning and event operations at Project Management Institute, an association for individuals who considered themselves project, program or portfolio managers, compared finding a strong event tech provider with shopping. And just as when you look for the best item for your needs, she pointed out that getting the best tech for your event is often less about price than relying on recommendations from colleagues and industry peers. This could mean that you need to expand your own network to find the right expertise, or simply be more proactive in reaching out to others or joining professional organizations. Because it isn't only about finding a solution, but also figuring out the proper terminology to discuss it. "As an event planner, before Covid, my knowledge in the virtual world was limited, and I knew what I needed, but I didn't know how to articulate that in a professional sense," said Ho. "I was able to talk to someone who could understand what I was trying to convey and helped me say, 'Oh, I think I have a good solution here.'"
Watch: Dahlia El Gazzar explains why the choice of platform should be one of a planner's last considerations.
As planners have had to rely on a growing number of vendors to pull off a successful event, it's led to increasing complexity and often more headaches for the planner trying to keep everything running smoothly. It doesn't have to be that complicated, advised El Gazzar. She urged planners to get more comfortable doing a "group huddle" with their vendors. "If they call themselves competitors, they can do that on their own time — for you and your events, try to get all your tech companies together and give them the task to be a strategist for you," said El Gazzar. "What are revenue opportunities or streams you are missing out on that maybe their other clients have done and they can share with you because they're supposed to be there with you? Not as providers, not as suppliers, but as partners."
The past year has forced planners of in-person events to improve their tech skills and get comfortable on digital platforms. But Ho emphasized that this must go the other direction, too, and that the tech experts should tap into the expertise of meeting planners when thinking through how to engage attendees. "We would notice something like dead air between sessions — the gaps in the agenda and what our attendees are feeling — and that's not something that non-event-planners will necessarily see," said Ho. "[Event planners] really need to be part of the conversation." Among other points addressed during the webinar: