Technology has altered the way people process and retain information and that, in turn, has impacted the meetings industry. At the IACC’s (International Association of Conference Centers) Second Thought Leader Summit held in late March in Chicago, industry leaders discussed “Incorporating Advancing Technology into the Meeting Experience.” The purpose was to use technology “to expand and enhance — rather than eliminate — live meetings and events,” said Tom Cappucci, president of the North and South American chapters of IACC.
Greg Van Dyke
Three areas have changed significantly in the meetings experience over the last few years, according to Greg Van Dyke, senior vice president of marketing for PSAV Presentation Services in Long Beach, CA. The first is the environment, he said. “There are so many ways to create a stimulating, welcoming environment with staging, lighting, sound and display that compels attendees to take notice. And it is becoming more necessary for facilities to take part in this in order to differentiate themselves and not leave the task solely to the planner,” he said. He acknowledged that this is not easy because “these days so many people have a large HDTV with Blu-Ray in the living room that they come to meetings and think ‘That is it? I have something as good as this at home.’ So we have to constantly deliver the appropriate impact and that will require an ever more sophisticated environment.”
The second area of change is in the “lifespan” of the meeting, said Van Dyke, referring to the social media that starts far before the meeting commences and helps to elongate the experience far after it is completed.
The third, said Van Dyke, is the “convergence of AV and IT, which “gives us greater opportunities for interactivity with the audience and opportunities for greater reach — right around the globe.” Paul Leguillon, the technical support director of the Q Center in St. Charles, IL, said that with You Tube and other do-it-yourself applications being incorporated into meetings, it’s important to build your infrastructure around high definition. “In many cases, we’re knocking down walls and putting all the wiring in there,” he said.
To provide planners with the facilities and technologies they need, panelists said they use a combination of methods: focus groups, touring other facilities for ideas, and observing meeting participants in action. The needs are ever-changing because brain functions can change because of technology, according to Andrea Sullivan, president of BrainStrength Systems in King of Prussia, PA. “Young people today have different brain wiring than older people who used different technologies that were dominant in earlier decades,” she said. “For instance, older generations who are used to print media read from left to right and top to bottom, while younger people who are used to reading screens pick out boxes and colors and bounce around the viewing area with their eyes to absorb information. So we are playing catch-up with meeting design and it has to come into alignment with these differences.”
One other observation especially relevant to planners is the importance of choosing the right venue for their meetings, since it might alter the information that participants retain. Mark Griener, senior vice president/chief experience officer for Steelcase, Inc. in Chicago, said that “the brain creates markers through its hippocampus region, which records information very much by the context of the physical environment it gets the information from. So the way you remember your childhood is by the room you grew up in, the schools you attended or the place you got married; and that’s a trigger for so many other memories. So neuroscientists find that the more an environment can be inspirational and memorable, the more people will be able to recall the content.”