Business Travel IQ - Kevin Iwamoto: Small budgets can still create a unique attendee experience

Posted by Lanyon on 05/20/2015

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Events big and small can benefit from using the right technology, but make sure your provider is working for you.

Whenever I go to conferences and trade shows globally, I always notice a bit of Œbudget envy¹ that comes from small to mid-sized corporate planners. They marvel at the bells and whistles and features ­ functionalities that larger corporate meeting and event planners have at their disposal to produce their events.

Our president and chief strategy officer JR Sherman recently shared some wise advice that I will paraphrase and repurpose for this Expert contribution. Budget envy is no longer a reason to not innovate and start gathering meaningful data around your events. No matter the size or budget of your meeting, here are some insights into some key areas that meeting and event planners can leverage using basic meetings technology.

1. Your sourcing process can be a major source for reducing costs.
Is your RFP process leveraging the power of marketplace competition? In this supply and demand marketplace, if you are not utilizing some registration and sourcing technology, then you will not receive the best prices and amenities from your venues and suppliers. Whilst you may not be looking to reduce costs, by doing so you can then invest those savings from your current budget and re-direct it towards a more robust mobile app, use beacons or virtual reality options or even upgrade your food menus.

Most simple registration tools today have some sort of sourcing functionality component already included in the technology pricing or can be added for a few extra euros or pounds. You may already be paying for it and not even using it. The venues and suppliers are very accustomed to receiving and responding to eRFPs so do yourself a favour; eliminate or reduce the manual processes and automate whatever you can to gain efficiencies in time and process ease.
2. What about the large invoice for web design?
Should you hire a third party to build an impressive conference website? Perhaps you should you consider paying for an employee to master HTML? The answer is a resounding no to all of the above. While web design can feel intimidating and overwhelming, I can reassure you that the days of programming confusing code have long since passed and are now history. Today you do not have to be a programming geek which means building a professional website to impress and attract your prospective attendees is easier than ever.

Today¹s technology, no matter what price point, allows basic insertion of dynamic background images, creating an interactive user experience. The list of what anyone can do with today¹s web design from fonts, templates and tools is surprisingly simple and available without hiring a web designer or programming geek. You can even create templates that you can re-utilise again and again, especially if you organise repetitive meetings and events.
Just in case you have not recently noticed, the emphasis today is not just about creating a beautiful and intricate website for the meeting; it¹s about providing a streamlined experience for attendees as they switch from their mobile devices to their laptops or vice versa. Another key consideration is that complicated websites do not translate well into portable technology screens.

3. Why not have that app?
The latest statistics around mobile app usage and increased functionality has almost reached a ³commoditised² level of pricing. Today¹s apps can capture so much rich data that if you are not using them in your meetings and events programmes, you really should consider it especially with the low price points in the marketplace.

The mobile app space has so many competitors that even the smaller sized budgets can afford them. Big word of caution however, because there are so many app suppliers in the marketplace, you must do your research into their financial stability.  There is nothing worse than losing a very inexpensive app supplier right before your event because they declare bankruptcy or just disappear. You can also reduce your costs by moving some of your regular event processes on-line via an app. You can eliminate all pre- and post- event paper and printing costs simply by moving your surveys and schedules, agendas and other expensive printing costs on-line and to an app.

It pays to take a little time to research the app company and definitely ask for references; sometimes you can get great app pricing from your registration technology supplier. Ask them if they have an integrated app with their attendee management technology. If the answer is yes, then ask for it to be included in your master agreement. You not only will have assurances about the app company¹s financial stability but as part of one technology agreement you eliminate a lot of contracting hassles by having to set up a separate agreement.

4. Managing your data can start with a more manageable price tag.
If you have yet to formulate a data collection strategy, it¹s important to remember that the first step can be a small one. Create a strategy about data collection points and how you want to provide not just the data, but some analytics using the data collected. Having that strategy beforehand can save you a lot of time and money and also creates more specificity around what technology needs you have identified at a specific price point. Another common error to avoid is buying a full technology package using up most of your budget and utilising only 25% of the functionality purchased.

Your technology provider should also be scalable so that when you are able to grow your programme and budgets, your technology partner can scale your meetings and events accordingly. There is nothing worse than partnering with a technology provider that is not able to help you when you need to grow your events, then having to source and work with another technology provider. A key thing to remember is that what your current needs are today, may not be what you need next year or the year after.  You do not need to have budget envy. Using the above key points can provide you with a unique experience for your attendees within budget limitations of all sizes.