by By Bob Walters | May 01, 2009

Somewhere over the course of the past few years, a marriage of convenience and technology has taken place between the phone and the PDA (personal data assistant). This union has resulted in an explosion of "smart phones" being introduced that handle everything from phone calls to e-mail to entertainment to web surfing. The list of uses goes on and will no doubt continue to expand.

One of the first and still most popular smart phones is the BlackBerry from RIM Technologies (, and each service provider now offers its own special branded version, with names such as BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve, etc. Of course, one smart phone that has sparked considerable growth in this market is Apple's iPhone (, which helped blur the line between business and entertainment device.

Other variations include Palm's Centro and Treo, the Q from Motorola, the Blackjack from Samsung, and the HTC Fuze or Touch. Each has differing capabilities, though most provide the basics of phone, e-mail, messaging, camera/video, web browsing, GPS, ability to download applications and, depending on the operating system, Microsoft Office document editing. Some have touch-screen capabilities.

Desktop To Go
As a very late smart-phone adopter (BlackBerry Curve), I'm currently attempting to temper my enthusiasm with caution, lest I become a "CrackBerry" addict.

The ability to synch with multiple mail servers and actually receive e-mail on your phone is one of the device's best features. I have three e-mail accounts delivered to my smart phone; I can delete unwanted messages before they ever hit my Outlook account, as well as respond or compose from anywhere I have a connection. My smart phone automatically finds active Wi-Fi networks in the area, connects and also remembers Wi-Fi networks for places I frequent.

I find typing a challenge, but it's possible to stay in touch virtually anywhere. I no longer need to carry a laptop in order to stay in touch or to update Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and so on.

Impact on Meetings
Planners can take advantage of the data management and connectivity capabilities in several ways. If you have a Wi-Fi connection on-site, you can set up a portal through which you can offer agendas, messages and presentations directly to your attendees. You can set up a Twitter account or blog, each allowing real-time communication between you and attendees.

Many event tools are taking the mobile environment into account. Some of the more popular content management systems automatically format your website for delivery on a mobile network, limiting the graphics but delivering media such as links, documents and videos. That means you could set up instant surveys and evaluations, and collect valuable feedback.

Blogs can extend the conversation regarding key topics to anywhere attendees equipped with smart phones  might venture -- to dinner, their rooms, in transit and during breaks.

The Downside
Now, in addition to receiving phone calls and texts during presentations, attendees are responding to e-mails, surfing the web and instant messaging. The reality is that we are a connected community, and it is hard to not respond instantly.

And so meeting professionals must find creative ways to capitalize on today's mobile networks and devices, to deliver our content in compatible formats and to keep attendees engaged using the very devices that might otherwise distract them. We have to be present and connected at the same time.