April 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April 2000 Current Issue
April 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




How to extend the length and impact of a meeting electronically

Before the Internet, a three-day meeting lasted three days. Now, the life span of an event can be lengthened dramatically by harnessing the communicative and collaborative nature of the Web. By building a “digital surround” around the meeting, planners can enhance the quality, engagement and impact of the event.

We recently ran a two-day conference in Seattle for 200 human resources managers. The digital surround has a six-month footprint, extending from two months before the meeting to four months after the last coffee break.

E-mail welcome. We send participants a highly personalized e-mail (delivered by our mail server) the moment they register. They receive a current agenda, event news, information on who else will be attending and a welcome from the host. Updates are sent out every two weeks until the meeting, contact that reduces our cancellation/no-show rate dramatically.

Digital reading. Participants often complain they never have time to read pre-event packages. We upgraded the media format to small, streaming video clips they can view on their PCs. To get them into the content, we send an animated PowerPoint presentation with narration from one of the key speakers.

Community begins. We create an online discussion area where participants can interact prior to the event. Subject areas range from travel plans to event topics. We have found people respond best when the board blends social and work issues. Planners can use a free online Web community like ONElist ( to provide this functionality.

Live pre-event briefings. We hold an optional teleconference with Web-enhanced collaboration to give attendees a final briefing. While on the phone, they can view related graphics on the Web. Services like CentraNow ( and WebEx ( offer this low-cost connectivity.


Site building. The digital surround continues during the event as staffers upload session proceedings to the Web. They annotate slides and elaborate on questions that were not covered fully by the presenter. PCs set up at the back of the room offer a view of this organic Web site during breaks. The completed site is up and running when participants return to their offices.

Recordings. Key sessions are captured on audio and video. The files are offered to late arrivals so they can catch up on what they have missed, and the files become part of our post-event resources.

Learning resources. We enhance our Web site with links to key documents and resources. Rather than just list a long series of links, we review each one to help visitors find the most pertinent sites.

Presentations galore. We post all slides and presentations, as well as some audio and video. We link these clips to a discussion board for on-going conversations.

Peer locator. We offer contact information for attendees who provide permission. Highlights. The social aspects of the meeting also are loaded on our site to help people relive the fun.

Registration for next year. Annual events can be marketed through early-bird registration on the Web site.

E-mail newsletter. A post-event newsletter goes out every six weeks to continue the communication process and is loaded with new content from the presenters.

Live post-event briefing. You can even add a final session similar to the pre-event briefing. A number of organizations are charging for these add-on events or are selling sponsorships to offset costs and raise revenue.

To sample our digital surround, go to

Elliott Masie is president of the Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based MASIE Center (, an international think tank focused on learning and technology.

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