Meetings

Technology Gap: Are Meeting Planners and Attendees on the Same Page?

By / Oct 10, 2014 (shironosov/ThinkStock)

A new report reveals the similarities and differences in attendee and planner expectations across three areas of technology: event apps, social media, and virtual meetings. It could mean new things are on the horizon for association meetings.

As you’re strategizing and pulling together all the details and must-haves for your association’s next big conference, an event app and an active social media presence are probably both near the top of the list, while a virtual or hybrid meeting option may not be. But do your priorities match attendees’ expectations? New research by American Express Meetings & Events dives into where the similarities and gaps exist across three areas.

There can be an ‘expectation gap’ between the technologies meeting planners believe should be incorporated into an event and the solutions attendees expect to be part of their meeting experience.

“These technologies provide planners with greater opportunities to increase engagement … while attendees can gain a richer and more connected experience,” said Issa Jouaneh, vice president and general manager, in a press release. “What our research found, however, is that there can be an ‘expectation gap’ between the technologies meeting planners believe should be incorporated into an event and the solutions attendees expect to be part of their meeting experience.”

The survey gathered responses from 336 meeting planners and 161 attendees. Here’s a deeper look at the findings.

Event apps. Planners and attendees both see the pluses of having a meetings app, with 67 percent of planners saying they were important, compared to 55 percent of attendees. The groups agreed on the most important and least important features to include. Topping the list were communication and scheduling, which include access to event schedules and session descriptions and the ability to schedule meetings with exhibitors and other attendees onsite. The ability to participate in games and contests within the app ranked at the bottom.

Social media. While the use of social media before and during meetings has grown significantly in the past few years, the study surprisingly showed that meeting planners value social media more than attendees. Forty-three percent of planners feel social media capabilities are very important, compared to 35 percent of attendees. Along those same lines, while 50 percent of planners said that posting or reading commentary or reviews about a meeting or event via social media is very important, only 39 percent of attendees thought the same. However, both groups ranked participating in games and contests via social media low.

Virtual and hybrid meetings. Eight-five percent of planners and 74 percent of attendees think in-person meetings offer greater value than virtual meetings because of the social opportunities they offer. One of the problems with virtual meetings—said nearly half of both groups—is that participation is difficult. In addition, 68 percent of planners said attendees can be easily distracted if they attend virtually. (Only 45 percent of attendees agreed.)

More interesting is that the report also revealed that attendees are looking for more opportunities to attend virtual meetings and events, with 63 percent agreeing they would attend more if the option were available.

However, this does not match up with what planners thought: Only 36 percent responded that virtual events provide a good return on investment. The report suggests that these viewpoints are responsible for the slow adoption of virtual meeting solutions.

Another area where viewpoints diverged: 45 percent of attendees think that virtual attendance should be available for all meetings and events, compared to 35 percent of planners. The report suggests that planners include interactive features during virtual meetings to address their major concern: attendee engagement. Those features may include real-time surveys, polling, and Q&A.

While I think it’s highly unlikely use of event apps and social media will decrease, association meeting planners and their related teams should consider what’s most useful to attendees before deciding what to include in each meetings technology. And while virtual meetings may not traditionally be money makers for organizations, they may want to consider how to introduce them, perhaps on a smaller scale, to see who participates and how they can tweak them to draw not only a larger audience but higher engagement.

How are you making sure your meeting technology is matching up with  your attendees’ expectations? Share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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