Essential Collaboration Tech for Today’s Meetings and Conferences

Most meetings and conferences today go beyond the traditional style of lecture-hall sessions with podium-based presentations and rows of listeners.  In fact, in a survey of meeting planners and conference industry experts, IACC found that over 77% thought access to collaborative communication tools will become the most important element of meeting venue selection in the next five years.

Collaboration technology is changing the meeting experience (and attendee expectations) to become more interactive, both during the meeting as well as before and after. “Incorporating distance learning and virtual or remote participation not only allows a meeting to achieve a broader reach in participation, but also to create a more engaging experience,” said David Fitzgerald, VP of Channels, US, for display and visualisation solution company Barco.

Some categories of modern meeting collaboration technologies include:

  • Video conferencing systems
  • Large screen monitors/projectors
  • Screen sharing
  • Interactive white boards
  • Touch-screens
  • Virtual reality systems
  • Lead capture devices
  • Audience interaction/participation
  • Social media displays
  • Trade show or conference apps  (mobile)

According to IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future Reportvideo conferencing technology is the foremost collaborative technology offered by venues. Currently, 85% of venue operators provide video conferencing technology to meeting attendees, while 86% of suppliers offer the hardware as part of their suite of products. 

Visualisation for wow factor

“Two of the most requested meeting technologies I see today are high-end visualisation, especially for large venues and events managed by high-end production companies, and for smaller rooms, it’s collaboration,” said Fitzgerald.  “We’re seeing more requests for collaboration technology, such as ClickShare, which allows participants to push a button to share content to the screen from their laptop, tablet or smartphone regardless of whether they came to share a presentation or not.”

Video walls, along with blended projection and message mapping allow messages and images to be seen across several screens or devices at once.  “These technologies are part of the wow factor,” said Fitzgerald. “High-resolution displays are important to making these types of presentations successful.”

Touchscreen technology has moved beyond smartphones, iPads, and tablets to larger screens, and even interactive meeting tabletops. Using high-definition digital screens lets you communicate and engage with meeting attendees in a much more interactive way on a large-scale.

From setting up touchscreen monitors and iPad kiosks that display interactive maps and event schedules, to capturing registration and lead information, the technology can be used in a variety of ways to increase engagement and deliver information to your guest’s fingertips.  You can even keep attendees engaged in rest areas by loading games or surveys onto touch tables or touchscreens and placing near mobile charging stations or lounge areas.

Interactive white boards

You might consider adding interactive white board software to large touch screens to support brainstorming sessions during presentations. Many electronic whiteboards have USB ports to enable connection to devices such as flash drives, cameras and camcorders in order to pull up content. Or, they may be “smart” and able to connect to a local network or go online to provide access to more information or support remote participation. Such smart boards allow  “real-time” changes from multiple users in different locations.

Some devices combine many aspects of meeting collaboration together.  For example, Microsoft’s Surface Hub is a large slim-profile touch screen that combines a collaboration/whiteboard/video conferencing system into one with a built-in computer, sensors, mics, cameras, and a custom version of Windows 10.

Many venue operators, however, are still not offering these types of interactive technologies. In IACC’s survey, 57% of venue operators indicated that they did not currently offer collaborative technologies in any of their meeting rooms. Meanwhile 32% indicated they do (such as Microsoft’s SurfaceHub, or Barco’s ClickShare and other related technologies) but consider them a premium offering and charge extra for them. The question that remains to be answered, then, is whether this will change, as the availability of free wifi at venues has over the years?

Audience participation tools

IACC’s research found that 81% of meeting planners reported they have introduced new technologies to their meetings that encourage interactive communication between hosts and delegates.  

The top three meeting technologies implemented in the last 5 years are conference apps, social media campaigns and audience participation apps.

Interactive meeting technology such as that offered by Barco, SocialPoint and Slido turn audiences into active participants with live feedback, responses or challenges using their mobile phones. These interactive experiences may also include real-time surveys, trivia games, game shows, leader boards, twitter voting contests, digital fishbowl, polls, speaker Q&A, open-ended questions, idea voting, social wall, social live metrics, and hybrid meetings.

“Interaction technology has become a powerful enabler democratising the Q&A and panels at meetings,” said Peter Komornik, CEO of Slido.  “Anyone can participate – introverts, extroverts and everyone in between. One of the most gratifying things for us is when we hear from our customers and their participants that Slido allowed them to better voice their thoughts.”

Using technology that they already have in their hands, such as mobile phones or tables, attendees are able to provide input or ask questions without being in the spotlight themselves. “People are eager to participate in audience polls,” added Komornik. “Last year we saw close to 2.2 million votes in 12 months.” 

Cloud-based solutions accessible via mobile devices help provide a seamless integration with other technology, but a variety of older-style audience responses systems with custom hardware are also available for lease or purchase, including those by companies such Merida, TurningPoint and Clickapad.

Social media engagement 

Similarly, many meeting planners are integrating social media into their events, using large screen LED displays to show real-time “live streaming” results with feeds of trending topics, post statistics, poll results or comments from attendees. 

“People have come to expect social media interaction as part of their attendance at conferences and events,” said Fitzgerald. “By putting the live feeds and results up on large screens, you can keep people from having their heads down on their mobile devices the whole time and increase the interactive experience.” 

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a technology with the potential to become the next great thing. IACC’s research indicates VR is not yet seen as a significant technology used in conference venues now. 

Mark Cooper, IACC’s CEO comments: “Only a small number of respondents feel that VR will play an increasing part in their meetings delivery in the next two to five years. However, there is a growing use of VR by venue operators to create virtual site inspections. For example one of our member venues in London is using VR to showcase their latest venue ahead of a formal opening”.  Other hotels have been using Oculus Rift technology to create VR experiences for many of their properties worldwide.

For the technology to really become important for meeting experiences, it will need to be come easier to integrate into meetings and use.

Obtaining new technology 

Investment in new technology can represent a significant cost.  Interestingly, IACC’s research revealed that more than 61% of venue operators plan to purchase new equipment outright rather than leasing it (14%) or sourcing it as needed for guests (11.7%). The trend is moving quickly towards holistic planning and implementation to allow both individuals and groups to engage more naturally with their surroundings, their technology and each other. 

“For venue operators, the challenge becomes supporting each new user as an individual throughout their day, offering choices for tech and space experiences,” said Adam Lanteigne, Global Microsoft Device Marketing at Microsoft. “This calls for a family of devices and environments to reduce the typical frictions experienced today, a key part of Microsoft’s research and meticulous craftsmanship of Surface Devices.”   

“In order to truly deliver the promise of digital transformation for group collaboration, you need a combination of technology, smart connected environments and a culture that enables collaborative habits and behaviours,” he added. 

And as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the demand for high-tech conference centers that not only keep up—but stay ahead of the curve—is growing. 

Get the report

Want to know more about The Meeting Room of the Future? Download the report from IACC here.  

Technology for Meeting Rooms

A few companies that provide cutting-edge technology for conferences.
Audience Response Systems   Slido, Social Point, Barco, Merida Audience Response, TurningPoint, Clickapad, PollEverywhere
Conference Cams Logitech, HuddleCamHD, Microsoft LifeCam
Conference Room Systems Intel Unite Conference Software, Mezzanine Collaboration Room, Cisco Collaboration Meeting Room, Microsoft SurfaceHub, Barco ClickShare (screensharing)
Large Touch Screens Microsoft Surface Hub, Sony, Samsung, Perceptive Pixel
Interactive Whiteboards Best-Write, eBean, Hitachi, SMART Board, Prometheian, TouchIT
Remote Interactive Whiteboards ExplainEverything, RealtimeBoard, LiveBoard, Jot
Video Walls & Large-Format LED Displays Barco, LG, Planar
Virtual Reality Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Microsoft Hololens, Sony VR, HTC Vive

Tell us your opinion 

What do you think the most essential meeting technology today is? Weigh in with your comments below.

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