Friday, May 07, 2010

Technology Better for Face-to-Face over Virtual Meetings? It is now.

Forget the idea that technology is steering meetings into virtual events. The newest gadgets and hi-tech tools are making face-to-face meetings more efficient and worthwhile than ever.

From state-of-the-art conference centers to new ways for finding dining venues and attractions in destinations like Manhattan, face-to-face meeting technology creates two benefits not found in virtual meetings: first, it improves and incentivizes the overall business travel experience; and secondly, it alleviates a problem reported in Forbes that half of virtual meeting attendees multi-task during presentations.

New York is fast becoming a world leader in face-to-face meeting technology, and is one of only 5 cities where the Starwood Hotel Group offers Tele-Presence. The advent of this technology is allowing companies on very tight budgets to send some attendees for face-to-face interaction while enabling virtual attendees to participate in a way that makes them feel like they are there too.

More importantly, Face-to-Face meetings and incentives by themselves are also becoming more high-tech than ever and here are a few ways New York expects to lead this new trend:

Electronic Check-in, Digital Take-Home packets: The same technology that helps travelers check-in at airports on mobile phones is coming to New York meetings. Business travelers can also say goodbye to those packets, big bags and sign-sheets as more companies move to an electronic check-in format that gets the meeting started faster with less distractions. With automated, post-discussion packets that can be emailed within minutes of a meeting’s conclusion, business travelers don’t have to find more space in their travel bags for mountains of paper.

Collaboration Software: Relieving an age-old problem focus-group organizers cite as a reason for less than accurate results, New York is becoming a national leader in using collaboration software at brain-storming meetings. This allows participants to improve the discussion by entering opinions electronically and anonymously. Opinion entries are encouraged to be frank and then are followed by a lively, focused discussion on original ideas – not bandwagon agreement. It also speeds up the meeting itself, which in-turn enables attendees to experience more culture, entertainment and dining sooner.

Consumer-originating itinerary providers – with less formal itineraries and more down-time for large meeting groups, companies likeDopplr, TripIt and WorldMate have developed real-time business travel applications for iPhones and Droids. At Shackman Associates, group meeting attendees often have time before and after a special event or themed dinner we organize and these new applications create personalized routes for experiencing New York. New mobile tech companies are also targeting face-to-face group meetings for sponsorship opportunities. Helping with costs for breakfasts, cocktail-receptions and even providing attendees free trials of mobile apps is great news for meeting planners forced to schedule at the last-minute. Now they can provide attendees value and a little “wow” on a budget.

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