Businesses are employing technological solutions to keep up with the changing landscape of meetings and events across all industries. Planners are looking for the necessary tools to organize and enhance events to bring additional value to existing clients while attracting new exhibitors and attendees. Software proprietors need to enable the use of contemporary technology and integrate cutting edge features into their overarching events management systems or create separate applications to satiate the need. A Report generated by MarketsandMarkets states that events software will climb from a $5.10 billion industry in 2014 to a $7.78 billion industry in 2019. Niche players can utilize the industries latest trends in virtual events, mobile apps, location based technology, and business intelligence to successfully gain market share by providing unique software that the meetings and events industry needs.
As the economy bounces back from the recession, hotels and convention centers are seeing an increase in demand for elaborate events, exhibitions, and trade shows. Events and meeting planners are losing their leverage to negotiate lower rates. Planners are now looking to virtual events to reduce travel and accommodations costs for their attendees and exhibitors. Virtual events use web capabilities to host a meeting in a digital environment. In this scenario, a virtual environment is constructed, complete with digitized booths for exhibitors and avatars to represent both booth staff and attendees. Without the need for a physical presence, digital meetings can reach a broader audience and are limited only by bandwidth rather than the physical restrictions of the venue. In some cases, event planners use a hybrid approach that incorporates both the physical venue and a virtual venue to expand the reach of the event and give attendees additional options for attending, especially if the physical location of the event is sold out.
From a software perspective, one must create a 3D environment where the avatars can interact with one another in a similar manner as they would at a physical event. The communication platform must be robust and reliable, unifying messaging, video conferencing, live chat, and data sharing between attendees. An additional feature to incorporate into this type of platform is the capability to allow exhibitors to customize their virtual booths with elements that are similar to those they would put in a physical booth. Cross-platform capability is paramount to accessibility, although this requirement can be accommodated by creating the virtual environment on a cloud platform that is accessible regardless of device or operating platform.
Custom Mobile Applications for Events
The ubiquity of smart phones presents a prime opportunity for event planners to make use of mobile applications and mobile websites to streamline internal functions and facilitate attendee engagement. Applications for mobile devices can reduce paper and time by employing them to deliver content such as programs, agendas, exhibitor lists, and feedback material. It will also serve as a function to get guests more involved in social media, increasing peer-to-peer connection and networking opportunities.
When developing applications for mobile devices it is imperative to program web, native, and hybrid apps for smart phones and tablets for popular platforms including iPhone and iPad (iOS), Android, RIM / Blackberry, and Symbian. Building SMS & alerts modules with built-in, one-way and two-way SMS via SMSC gateways will be beneficial. Developing web enabled mobile websites with touch functionality furthers the scope of your meetings and events channels.
Geo-fencing and Beaconing
Location services including geo-fencing and beacon technology can enhance attendee and exhibitor experience. Geo-fencing is a technology that enables contextual messaging to users within a certain external boundary. When the virtual barrier is crossed content is delivered to the user via messaging services. Geo-fencing is mainly concerned with outside boundaries and it is supplemented with proximity services called beaconing. Beaconing uses Bluetooth hardware technology to send information to a device when an attendee is in close proximity. Geo-fencing can provide a streamlined check in process. Pairing location tools with feedback modules allows you to send timely and relevant polling questions for accurate data. Beaconing can be used for way finding and provide attendees with pertinent information about booths and seminars. Using location based services allows planners to promote and provide information instantaneously.
Location-based services should be integrated with the overarching meeting and events mobile application. When developing the application utilizing geo-fencing, it is imperative that the users' location be recognized. Through specific programing the application must determine the GPS location of the user by way of geocoordinates. Interfacing a location API allows users to define their targeted boundaries via a simple and navigable User Interface (UI) integrated with Google Maps API. Creating a management dashboard to configure beaconing functions and customize contextual messages will create an easy-to-use and efficient beaconing system. Relevant coding needs to be implemented to enable the application to run in the background. This will be key to enable functions while the application is not actively open on the user's device.
Harnessing contemporary technology in big data, business intelligence, has always, and will continue to be an important aspect of meeting and events. Integrating all technology facilitating an event including virtual events, mobile application use, and location based data with data aggregation and data warehouses will help planners improve patron interactions, engagement, and experience. These insights help a planner spot trends and streamline internal processes.
It will be important to offer a data warehousing system on the back-end of events management software and related applications. Warehousing architectures extract the miscellaneous information from various mediums including applications, virtual events, and websites and load it into a database. A fundamental tool for any BI software is a query builder for the creation of a project for data mining. Providing a list of all parameters based on the specific needs of your users and offering a combination of real time and scheduled, batch mode, reporting is a key component. To view the highly sensitive material it will be paramount to have a user friendly front-end dashboard. Offering a cost effective, and efficient solution for business intelligence and reporting by offering cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will improve software viability.
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