What Event Industry Associations Could Do To Support, Synthesize, and Nurture Technology for Trade Shows, Meetings, and Conferences

Pretty much everyone in the event industry agrees that there has been a monumental shift in the use of technology in the past decade. Such a rapid influx of new solutions, startups, and platforms has caused users—the planners and event organizers—no small degree of headaches in staying on top of the innovation, making decisions about solutions, and tracking the solution providers. The leading industry associations—IAEE, PCMA, MPI, ISES, GBTA, and others—can help.


Thought leaders Maddie Grant and Sterling Raphael are working on "connecting associations that have an idea for a project, with consultants who can help strategize and position it, technology partners who can build it, and funding sources," through their Next Step Labs incubator. Why do all of the brilliant ideas have to be executed by private enterprise?

Our trade associations are perfectly positioned (i.e. they have databases of members with skill sets and resources) to help startups develop and market ideas to their members, as well as support innovation in existing technology companies. There are two compelling reasons why our associations would/should want to play that role: to attract new innovation to the industry and protect their members from being guinea pigs.


The trade associations that represent our industry do a great job of opening up speaking slots for event-technology topics, but those opportunities are only good for whetting the audience members' appetites. Sessions typically can't and don't allow deep study into a topic and most associations don't provide any continuous, in-depth education on technology the rest of the year. For example, the certification (CMP, CEM, etc.) programs could at least cover mobile technology—something that affects everyone.


Sure, there has been research—mostly the results of polling planners and event organizers on their (and their stakeholders) use of technology, but that's not the only research that could benefit the industry and polling individuals in an industry that is known to lag behind in technology adoption only affirms what we already know—our industry lags behind in technology adoption. A big black hole exists in the "what's possible" category.


Associations are in the best position to feed technology companies with leads (does the eRFP concept ring a bell?) and planners would welcome the idea of being able to go to one place for access to a category of companies. This is more than offering buyers access to an online directory of links to tech company websites (and paying for it with banner ads). This should be a mechanism for processing leads in at least the major technology categories, such as mobile, event management, and registration.

Playing the millennial card (i.e. we should do this because millennials—the next generation of workers—are tech-savvy and they will want to know more about how technology can make their jobs easier) might be a low blow because plenty of Ys, Gen-Xers and Boomers want a better understanding and better access to the technology that is rocking our industry. So, let's leave that card in the deck. Our associations should take a leadership position on technology because members need and want them to and because they uniquely can.

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