When you ask most event planners what kind of technology they typically use, they’ll reply with things like “a big screen for main stage events” or “PowerPoint projectors for breakout sessions.” Those things are important, but they are just the tip of the iceberg for meeting planner technology.

If you don’t adopt current and new technology options in your live events, your attendees will notice and find ways to use them without you. Therefore, the sooner you embrace your technological options, the better all your events will be.

Listed below are a few technologies to consider as you plan your next event. Some are best used before the event to help you prepare so everything comes together smoothly, while others are designed to be used during the event.

Pre-Event Technologies

Communication with the speaker(s) about the event’s goals is critical. Good speakers will tailor their message to meet your needs. But rather than just communicate with your speakers via phone and email, interact with them before the event (and even have them interact with each other) to ensure everyone understands the meeting’s goals. With a tool like Google Hangout, you can have up to ten people on a video conference. Use this to build rapport between the speakers and the entire event team so your conference projects a truly unified and cohesive image to the attendees.

Tweet about the upcoming meeting and post status updates to Facebook and LinkedIn. Additionally, ask your speakers to provide a pre-event video where they talk to the attendees about the upcoming event and what to expect from their session or keynote. Post these videos all over your social media to generate publicity and encourage more people to register.

Instead of handing out printed event materials, make your program and handouts available online as a PDF download. This enables attendees to have all materials available on their tablet or smart phone, and they don’t have to worry about losing pieces of paper. Also, consider creating a mobile app for your event that includes access to all the meeting’s handouts. It’s easier and less expensive than you think.

During-Event Technologies

Many hotels offer free internet access in the lobby or in the guest rooms, but not in the conference areas. As a result, many meeting planners decide not to offer internet access, believing it’s not necessary. Big mistake! If your attendees can’t access the internet, post a tweet, or even check their email, they’ll leave the conference area to do so. If the hotel is charging you for internet access in the conference area, find a sponsor to pay for it. A great event starts with attendees being able to have access to their lives via email, web, and social media.

Sometimes people want to attend your event but they can’t for various reasons. Rather than lose their registration, why not have them attend the meeting virtually? They’d still pay a registration fee, but they’d attend via a service like Telenect, Omnovia, or Webex. You could also use these technologies to forgo the physical meeting and conduct the entire event virtually.

Keeping the audience awake during presentations is one thing, but getting the audience to participate is a whole different ball game. Encourage your speakers to go beyond using the old “raise your hand” or “talk to the person sitting next to you” participation techniques. Instead, have them create a conversation with attendees by using one of the emerging new apps like Join Speaker or even WhatsApp Messenger, allowing attendees to interact using their smart phones or tablets. Turning passive audience members into active participants is key since it creates value for the attendees and for the conference.

Create several Twitter hashtags—one general one that applies to the industry or organization, as well as individual ones that are specific to each presentation, breakout session, or keynote. A hashtag is simply the hash (#) symbol followed by a word or acronym used to group related tweets. Make these hashtags known and encourage attendees to use Twitter for their note taking (utilizing the hashtags as they tweet). Even people who don’t use Twitter can post tweets and follow the conversation using a tool like Twubs. This tool also enables you to moderate the posts and do live event streaming.

Rather than asking attendees to power off their smart phone, encourage them to leave it on and text the presenter as he or she is speaking. This will dramatically increase audience participation. For example, leadership expert Cheryl Cran asks her audiences to text her messages while she delivers her content. Audience members then text her questions and she answers them throughout her keynote and training events. This approach takes away the fear attendees may have of publicly asking a question.

To create a successful event—one that encourages conversations and interactions between event organizers, speakers, and attendees—you must use technology.

Remember, the ultimate goal of each meeting is to influence your participants. Therefore, don’t use technology simply because it’s exciting or cool. Use it wisely, based on your objectives, and make sure it’s part of your long-term strategy. When used correctly, technology will enhance your event, making both you and your organization more successful.

JOE HEAPS and DAVE REED own eSpeakers.com,
a fourteen-year-old technology and marketing company
providing the speaking industry with the tools to do business online.
eSpeakers believes in helping meeting planners find the right speaker,
with the right message—every time.