Etherlive, a British company specializing in event IT, has published its list of the top 10 ways to maximize face time at meetings using information technology, it announced this month.
"The purpose of meetings and events is to get people to engage face-to-face," said Etherlive Director Tom McInerney. "We are in a transition period whereby conference organizers can benefit from IT to maximize both delegate retention and also engage with extended audiences across the globe. It is imperative to remember that IT should enhance the event and not to take it over. Events are about face time with colleagues, peers and clients and not worrying about urgent emails which are ready to surprise. By providing reliable networking on site, delegates can monitor and react as appropriate."
Divided into several categories — speaker, attendees, venue and planners — Etherlive's top 10 event IT tips are:
1. Understand what your speaker requires in terms of IT
Is it a simple PowerPoint presentation or does it have video embedded into it? Does the speaker need access to the web to conduct an online demonstration?
2. Decide how the speaker will receive questions
If social media will be used, make sure there is a delay on questions appearing and be very prepared for candid questions.
3. Determine the venue's bandwidth
Do be mindful that delegates will all want to check emails throughout the day, therefore ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth for the number of delegates in attendance.
4. Decide if social media will be used as part of the event
An influx of delegates tweeting questions to the main speaker can have a dramatic impact on Wi-Fi. Encourage the use of a hashtag so that you can keep track of delegate feedback and the general tone of the audience.
5. Decide if streaming media will be open access or a closed site
Bear in mind the ramifications of intellectual property and privacy rights. Also be prepared for up to 70 percent of the audience using their PDA to view the event as opposed to looking directly at the speaker.
6. Make sure all common sites required on the day — e.g., Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, Google Docs — are accessible
Public sector organizations sometimes block these sites, so make sure there will be no nasty surprises and ensure you have administrator access to check that the coast is clear.
7. Don't rely on free Wi-Fi
Because free Wi-Fi is not a guarantee of quality or size of bandwidth, invest in IT infrastructure — any issues will have huge ramifications on the whole event.
8. Encrypt your W-Fi
Just as you will have ensured that your conference is not held in the same venues as a competitor, make sure that you do not label your Wi-Fi network the name of your organization. Always use an alpha numerical password and the best encryption possible.
9. Make sure you know who your IT contact is
If it is the audio/visual person, are they prepared to support a speaker who cannot get online to do a demonstration, or delegates who are unable to access their work emails?
10. Decide if you'll be working on a computer during the day
If you will be, you should ensure reliable Wi-Fi access is available in the planner's office, with a computer powerful enough to handle mass mail-outs if you plan to send out content.