New software that allows conference attendees to schedule breakout sessions and individual meetings could prove a significant leap forward in online event registration for planners.
The calendar application ScheduleFlex was released by Cardinal Communications, of San Rafael, CA, a pioneer in online registration.
ScheduleFlex is now offered as a module to event registration software, but Cardinal chief executive Rodman Marymor said he plans to expand ScheduleFlex into a full registration application in about a year.
"We have in our hands the next killer 'app' for the meetings industry," claimed Marymor, who in the 1990s developed RegWeb, one of the first-ever online event registration applications, which he later sold to StarCite. "We are in a position to leapfrog everybody else technologically."
Corbin Ball, president of event technology consultancy Corbin Ball Associates, was less enthusiastic about ScheduleFlex than Marymor, but not by much.
"This represents a substantial advancement," Ball said of ScheduleFlex. "It is state of the art."
ScheduleFlex is built on Adobe Systems' programming technology Adobe Flex, which came to the fore last year among software developers as a way to improve the interactive experience for online users. Although users can access the application via a web browser, ScheduleFlex actually operates in Adobe Flash, which enables the animation and interactive features seen on many websites.
Cardinal's software features drag-and-drop functionality, whereby attendees can click on session titles from a searchable database and then drag the session onto a personal event calendar. By the same method, they can also reserve time slots for one-on-one meetings at exhibitor booths. The calendar can then be printed as an Adobe PDF file.
Thanks to Adobe Flex, the process is much quicker and smoother than with previous browser-based programming technologies, according to Ball.
"It doesn't require a lot of system resources," he explained. "That's why it's so quick and can handle large amounts of data. A standard database would have problems with that."
The new technology is especially helpful for meeting planners who must manage a large number of sessions. They can easily reschedule sessions times, for instance, and the system will show attendees not only the changed time but whether the session conflicts with previously scheduled sessions.
Planners can also can limit session seat capacities and assign sessions to certain audience groups, such as presenters or employees, and they can track in real time session sign-ups and cancellations.
Ball did criticize that ScheduleFlex's online calendar cannot be downloaded to portable communications devices like smart phones. "They have to fix that," he said. "PDFs are so last century."
ScheduleFlex is marketed by metroConnections, a Minneapolis-based event management company and longtime Cardinal partner. Cardinal declined to provide pricing information. More information is available at www.scheduleflex.com.
Originally published Sept. 22, 2008