Meeting Planning Automation
Giving event professionals the much-needed time for strategic thinking
Meeting planning automation is the newest hospitality phrase on the block. You may not have heard of it, but I guarantee you’ve dreamt about it.
After being in the event industry for 10 years, I know a thing or two about the struggles planners have shouldered for far too long: communication gaps, inefficient operational strategies, scheduling nightmares.
Sound familiar? If so, you’ll want to learn about meeting planning automation and how the most innovative hospitality technology companies are harnessing it to provide the tools to do your job more effectively.
Defining Meeting Planning Automation
Meeting planning automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for the hospitality community to alleviate time spent on minor details by automating repetitive tasks, thus allowing planners to focus more strategically on their events.
Examples of Meeting Planning Automation
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology: The future of events is digital, and this wireless, non-contact system is elbowing its way into that landscape. RFID wristbands are increasingly appearing at festivals and large-scale events, including Coachella and Bonnaroo.
Most RFID wristbands contain short-range (typically 3-5 cm), passive tags and don't require batteries; instead, they are powered when placed near or tapped against an RFID reader. One tap and the information stored in the tag (credit card numbers, social media accounts, ticket status, etc.) is transferred.
Collaborative planning technology: Google Drive has more than 120 million users. The cloud-based service has obliterated the need for desktop documents through its extensive suite of applications. This falls under the meeting planning automation umbrella by providing instant accessibility and real-time collaboration on documents used for communication during the planning process.
Professional connection technology: Events require staff, and we all know good staff are hard to find. Companies like Elance were created specifically to address that need, and to keep you away from the dreaded white pages. With 8 million freelancers available to work and more than 2 million companies currently signed on as customers, the site provides a seamless transactional marketplace that has thus far generated $750 million of work. Meeting planning automation is evident here through directly engaging two services, each with a need for one another, with the click of a button.
Industry Giants Utilizing Meeting Planning Automation
The recent boom in mergers and acquisitions in the hospitality industry suggests a pointed shift toward meeting planning automation, as companies scramble to provide entire ecosystems of travel to their customers from one integrated platform.
· After Priceline bought Bouteeq, it roundhouse-kicked the competition to acquire Hotel Ninjas. Then it went after OpenTable.
· Westgate Resorts acquired the 28-resorts in the LVH-Las Vegas Hotel and Casino portfolio.
· When Oracle purchased Micros, it expanded its reach into 30,000 hotels.
These consolidations present another case study in the advancement of MPA in the hospitality market space by providing planners access to standardized procedures. By combining their operations, these companies seek to create a funnel of efficient communication and service between their brands—opening up massive time saving opportunities for planners.
The Future of Meeting Planning Automation
Take a moment now to consider the apps and products you currently use. How many of them fall under the definition of meeting planning automation? The truth is that you’ve likely been engaged with the concept and didn’t even know it.
That’s because the future of meeting planning automation within the hospitality industry is now.
Meeting planning automation harnesses the best technologies available to make events and programming successful. Small technology companies to industry powerhouses understand the crucial role that it plays on their success.
How are you utilizing the future?
Name: Claire A. Harrington, CMP
Company: Social Tables
Email: [email protected]
It's Time to Reevaluate Your Social Media Marketing
Does your company have a social media strategy specific to each platform you participate on? Has it been written formally?
If the answer is yes, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that your way of thinking is correct. The bad news is that unless you’ve updated it in the past six months, you might need to reevaluate what you are doing.
While we are still in the infancy of social media marketing, this infant is learning to crawl--fast! It’s not enough for small businesses to simply participate on these popular platforms; you have to know why you are doing it and have realistic expectations.
Everything about social media has been moving at one pace: exponential. From user bases to hours spent on these sites to the adoption of mobile versions, whatever you think you know will change in six months.
The good news is that if you have specific brand goals for each place you participate, you should have the guidelines meaningful to your specific company and how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. Below are strategies to take into consideration when planning to reach your goals based on recent paradigm shifts in social media.
Facebook: The biggest change for brands participating in social media has been on Facebook. If you have a brand page, you have probably seen fewer and fewer people who see your posts. You haven’t necessarily done anything wrong, although you can help the situation.
Facebook is worried that its user base is being inundated with sales-y posts from brands. In order to protect its user experience (the only real product it has), it has choked back how many people who like a specific page actually see the company’s posts.
This means people/companies with 7,000 "likes" have posts that only as few as 200 to 300 people actually see. Those who are seeing your posts are those who like, comment and share your posts the most. This means you will mostly be “preaching to the choir.”
There is hope in getting your message out to a larger audience, though … you just might not like it. Facebook gives you the opportunity to “boost” your posts. Boosted posts mean more people who like your page will see your post and even allows people outside of your core audience to see it, but that comes for a price. You pay per impression and per click, but if you have a message you really want to get out, you can pay for that privilege.
The free ride is over, and the now publically traded Facebook is acting more like a traditional media company.
Twitter: Conversely, Twitter doesn’t choke anything, and there are good and bad aspects to that fact.
Everything you post is visible to anyone who follows you right in their feed. User behavior is very different on Twitter compared to Facebook. Users check their feed at different hours of the day and usually go back only so far, which means it’s even more important for you to know when your followers are on Twitter in order to increase exposure to your messaging.
The website utility Tweriod (www.tweriod.com) can give specific statistics of when to best tweet based on when your specific followers are most likely to be using Twitter. With that knowledge, you can use a post scheduler like Hootsuite to tweet at optimal times.
Twitter’s value is the ability to directly network with anyone on its open platform. For best results, remember to be generous. Give partners or potential clients testimonials they can then use to retweet to their own followers. Not only will this increase your top-of-mind awareness with the brand you’ve complimented, but their user base will be exposed to your brand in a form of endorsement.
This strategy is in direct opposition to what everyone complains about with Twitter. Instead of being a narcissistic tweeter, celebrate others and reap the benefits.
LinkedIn: If part of your brand strategy is to be considered an expert in your industry, LinkedIn’s new commitment to keeping its user base on its site and mobile app longer is just what you need.
LinkedIn’s feed has transformed from a small aspect of its design to a major component. Savvy users are logging in and staying on longer in order to find information that benefits their professional careers. Providing content valuable to professionals in or before their workday is a different content angle than the more entertainment-friendly content that gets traction on Facebook.
Consider creating Google Alerts for topics you have an expertise in and share those with your connections. Being consistent with this strategy and adding information is a great way to be perceived as a thought leader.
Instagram: Instagram’s huge increase in users makes it an exciting place to engage clients and prospects, but its prevention of active links within the copy of posts makes it a poor platform for calls to action.
ts strength lies in its ability to brand a company. When brands emulate how their users act, they reap the benefits. In-the-moment shots with people’s faces see the most engagement versus overly produced advertisements.
Show people a behind-the-scenes look at your business to create a closer connection between them and your brand.
In Short: Other social media platforms, such as Pinterest, should also be evaluated when looking at your marketing plan, though they have not changed as drastically in the past six months as the ones I have mentioned in this article.
Don’t feel as though your business has to be everywhere. What you need to have are specific goals that are achievable; otherwise, you are just wasting time just to keep up.
Keep in mind that as your goals change, your participation on certain platforms may change, too.
Name: Nick Borelli
Company: Rock the House Entertainment Group Inc.
Address: 7809 First Place
Oakwood Village, OH 44146
Email: [email protected]
Three Steps to Better Event Entertainment
When clients and event producers hire entertainment for large-scale events, much thought is put into producing the entertainment properly. But what about smaller or more laid-back affairs? How do you properly handle situations where just a DJ, a band, a small jazz trio or a couple of ambient dancers are the only entertainment your client seems to want.
Most people just arbitrarily throw the entertainment to the lions letting them “do their thing.” Instead, I have three tips that can go a long way to making the client experience better through entertainment.
1. Talk with your entertainment about the energy and feel you want to create, instead of specific music or dances.
Most people try to think in terms of what kind of music they want or a routine they have seen before. By shackling entertainment to an idea in your head, you may be veering from the event’s true meaning. Trust them to know how to make your event feel the way you want. If you have hired a professional entertainment team, they will want the event to feel the way that makes you happy. If you have sections of socialization and sections of dancing, talk about the energy you want to create from front to back of the event. Any good entertainment team will make sure the dancers, ambient elements and the music all fit the mood, if you give them a chance to prepare.
2. Sound aesthetic is as important as visual aesthetic, so treat it that way.
If you want your party to have the right energy, be aware of how sound affects people. Often at smaller, laid-back or lower budget affairs, a DJ or band is providing the sound for everything. Bands and DJs are not AV companies. Do your research and ask your entertainment what their strategy is for sound at the event and what type of equipment they use.
Bands tend to have loud, in-your-face sound that is great for creating a larger-than-life stage presence, but it may not be the best sound for socialization or speeches. Several DJs will put only two speakers right next to their table. If you put that DJ in a corner with five tables between him or her and the dance floor, you are setting the DJ up to fail. On the other hand, some DJ companies are happy to run sound away from their table and even use delay speakers for sound support so that speeches are clear to all guests and the sound in the room is even. If you are using a DJ who refuses to spread the sound out, be sure to have his or her table right next to the dance floor to ensure that the position creates the ideal sound aesthetic for the DJ’s natural setup pattern.
Some people also forget about sound in pre-function or ancillary areas. Not all entertainment companies accommodate that. Know the entertainment you have in the room when you make the layout so your event is more likely to succeed from the start.
3. Use your entertainment team’s creativity to your advantage.
Entertainers usually have a lot of creativity and love to express it. Most entertainers consider themselves artists. They are also the experts you hired to make this event fun and exciting. If you give them a chance to interact with the client and extract what the client wants for the event, they may very well likely have access to or come up with a concept that clients or event producers wouldn’t imagine. While entertainers see things in a different light, this advantage can help make the event more unique.
Name: Ryan Pflumm, CSEP, CPCE
Address: 3708 Benson Drive
Email: [email protected]