When the Internet
first exploded on the scene as a convenient resource for
information, many worried that virtual trade shows, electronic
publications and new search engines would hurt the meetings
industry. In many instances, just the opposite has happened.
Indeed, rather than viewing the
Internet as the enemy, savvy meetings professionals have learned
how to use it as an enhancement to their traditional “in-person”
Still, keeping meetings relevant in a
wired world can be a challenge, even as the industry uses the
Internet more and more in marketing and managing meetings. In an
age where a few simple keystrokes in the comfort of one’s own home
can provide a wealth of knowledge about any subject, planners need
to adapt to entice attendees away from their screens and to a
Following are some strategies for
incorporating the web in-to your meetings.
I belong to myriad industry listservs
(online mailing-list groups united by a common interest), and
whenever a major meeting is coming up, or even local/regional
events, participants begin to make plans to get together and order
ribbons for listserv members to wear. These faceless,
Internet-based groups actually can motivate people to attend so
members can put a face to an e-mail address or screen name of
someone they chat with via the Internet.
Why not arrange roundtable discussions
for members of different listservs to attend during the meeting,
where people can sit down with a group of their peers and exchange
information face-to-face? To facilitate discussions, recruit the
authorities or recognized contributors from the various industry
If your event is a trade show with
exhibits, you might consider adding a virtual trade show to add
value before, during and after the show. There are numerous options
for virtual shows, with offerings ranging from an online exhibitor
list to an online showcase with links to vendor literature and
online product demonstrations. These virtual shows should be viewed
as a complement, not competition, to your live show. By using the
list of exhibitors that have signed up or have exhibited in the
past, you can drive more people to your show.
Let your registered attendees use the
full power of the virtual trade show to plan their time on the show
floor and to set up appointments with the vendors.
The age of leaving the meeting with a
binder full of brochures, pamphlets and even notes is in the past.
Today, most major meetings are either published on CD/DVD and
distributed at the show or are available for download or from the
web with proper credentials (typically a registration number or
To get the most out of this electronic
information source, don’t limit access to attendees. Make access
available to members or targeted audiences who did not attend, for
a nominal fee if appropriate. By doing so, you’ll service the
industry, maintain your value and hopefully convince the no-shows
to attend in the future.
The Human Angle
It helps to appreciate the value of
meetings. Remember that people are social animals, and typically we
like the company of others. I conduct 90 percent of my business via
the phone and Internet from my home office, but I find the personal
interaction with people to be critical to my success in all
No matter how wired our society
becomes, people will still want to gather to get to know each other
and talk face-to-face.
Bob Walters,based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of Phoenix Solutions
and developer of MeetingTrak Software.