Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio July
BY ELLIOTT MASIE
TWO-WAY PAGERS TO THE RESCUE
When the phones are down, this new technology saves the
It was a meeting planner's nightmare. Ours was the first meeting
at a new hotel that had not ironed out all its kinks. House phones
did not work, all calls ended up at voice mail, and steel in the
girders interfered with our cell phones and walkie-talkies. How
were we going to maintain communications?
Luckily, we had just given our key staff members two-way digital
pagers with mini-keyboards. These are four-ounce gadgets that send
or receive e-mail and buzz or beep on your hip. Each gadget has its
own e-mail address and 800 number. They turned our frustrated staff
into digital gunslingers during this most challenging meeting. When
we could not reach each other on the radio or cell phone, we sent
We were able to communicate with each other within the hotel and
even across town, when the buses showed up late at the hotel for
the party. While onstage, I received a message, whose stealth
arrival was announced by a gentle vibration on my belt, telling me
to stretch the general session while the rest of the banquet order
NO WIRE REQUIRED
Wireless e-mail is part of the exploding field of convergent
technology, combining computers, telephones and wearable gadgets.
Many of the current devices are made by Motorola and are equipped
with paging services from Skytel, BellSouth and other
Ours cost approximately $300 apiece plus a fee of about $30 a
month, which covers a finite but adequate number of e-mails. I can
even instruct the pager to send a message to a computer, which will
dial a phone number and "read" the message to the recipient. By
equipping every member of our meeting team, we built a powerful and
reliable wireless, wide-area network that could function in the
most adverse conditions.
Taking a short step into the future, we can see a host of new
features and applications for this technology. Imagine being able
to give pagers to key committee members or even speakers and stay
in touch, without having to monitor radios, throughout the event.
Imagine reaching all participants with updates about meeting times
or confirmed tee times and restaurant reservations.
In a few months, pagers will be able to surf a company's
intranet, request up-to-date information from a database and
provide e-commerce options. In less than a year, we will see pagers
integrated with global positioning systems and indoor location
equipment, allowing us to display the location of key staff members
on a screen or even see who is attending what meeting.
Fidelity Investments already is providing the ability to check
and even trade stocks from these handheld e-mail machines. A
theater chain is getting ready to offer movie reviews and
up-to-date counts on available seats for each show, along with
instant ticket ordering.
Is total connectivity always good? Not really. I had to turn off
my pager from time to time while having important conversations
with clients. But e-mail on the hip saved the day for our meeting.
It also provided us with a clear record of our crisis
communications for the post-conference review. (Not a very pleasant
review, by the way.)
Based on this experience, we decided to hand one of these pagers
to the convention services manager and catering manager whenever we
get to a location, linking them into our portable wide-area
For more information, contact your local communications company
or surf the Web (www.motorola.com/MIMS/MSPG/SmartPagers/,
ELLIOTT MASIE is president of the Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based
Masie Center (www.masie.com), an international think
tank focused on learning and technology.
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