Having worked in the hotel industry, I’ve seen and planned a lot of meetings and conferences. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I can empathize with meeting planners about some of the ridiculous requests speakers and attendees can make. But I can also see where events fall short and proper planning wasn’t done.
Conferences are definitely changing and that’s a good thing. With the introduction of social media, attendees are looking for a new kind of experience. One where they can leverage social media and the informal learning environment. This means conference organizers have to get technology savvy and figure out the places where they can incorporate social media without a huge expense and get a tremendous return.
At the ASTD 2011 International Conference in Orlando, I got a taste of a game changer for conference attendees. It’s a conference smartphone app. Now, I have an iPhone and iPad, but the app was also available in other formats. Here are some things the app could do:
- Display the Twitter feed. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, you could still read all the #ASTD2011 conference hashtag goings on. Not only do you get a flavor for Twitter but you can see what others find interesting.
- Create your schedule. The app sorted sessions by time and you could select a “short list” of the sessions that interested you. No need to carry around a big schedule.
- View the speaker’s PowerPoint. This was incredible. I didn’t have to kill trees and download handouts. I could view the presentation directly from my iPhone or iPad. And I could even add notes to the slides!
- Read the conference blog. There was a direct link to the conference blog where a digital copy of the conference daily was posted each day. And I could read what bloggers were writing about the sessions I didn’t attend.
- Tag exhibitors and sponsors. I was able to highlight the companies I wanted to visit to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. Extra exposure was given to sponsors – so they stood out.
- And much more…
Kudos to the team at ASTD for putting together such a comprehensive app to enhance the conference experience. I enjoyed having the flexibility of choosing sessions on-site and not having to worry about handouts. It was nice being able to have a good view of the presentation right on my iPad while listening to the speaker. And it was all eco-friendly.
I hope other conferences take a page from the ASTD playbook. The bar has been set pretty high.