In a limitless era where any imaginative plan on how to improve the way we convey messages can be made possible using technology, the only limiting factor is that our budgets don’t always grow as fast as our ideas. Yet, in a world where everything is bigger and better and about stimulation of the senses, the measurement of how well even the most brilliant business plan, case study, strategy or meeting is delivered, heavily relies on the experience our intended audience has while receiving that message.
Two of the top South African events and conferencing organisers, Blue Moon and Omage, talk about different aspects of how technology can enhance the conferencing experience and ensure that your messages are received and REMEMBERED.
A client’s or guest’s experience begins from the moment they are invited to attend the conference. RSVP engines are useful tools in extracting all the relevant information from the guest, using one e-mail that they reply to as opposed to answering a hundred different calls from different people. All they do is fill in the information, such as their preferred flights to their special dietary requirements, and it is saved on your database. “At one of our events we had 300 columns of information applying to each guest on our list, ranging from what room they were occupying to which day they would receive an award title,” says Deana Heslop, Production Director, Blue Moon.
Once all the attendees are organised, there is still the planning of the look and feel and technological aspects of the conference. David Newton, Senior Key Account, Sales and Marketing and Creative Manager believes that ‘you can never underestimate the value of being at the conference personally’, but depending on the importance of the message and the availability of the speaker, there are ways to have key speakers attend without physically being there. “Holograms, video conferencing and Skype are amongst the ways we can have them deliver their messages live. A benefit is that it can also be a cheaper option, especially when the going rate for some professional international speakers is about R500 000 per day,” explains Heslop.
In an era of immediacy, web-based social interaction between conference delegates becomes imperative to ensure ‘the message’ lives. “The Tuckshop Brand believes in creating a sustainable platform that will ensure effective communication between conference delegates from the point of first interaction to long after the conference has concluded. It’s not enough to merely talk about a strategy at a conference; Every participant should be involved,” said Sales and Marketing Manager Martie Steyn.
Along with more traditional approaches, The Tuckshop Brand believes that Online Broadcasting is taking conferencing to the next level. A ‘technology in a cloud’ approach on a web-driven platform not only enhances the experience of the delegates at the conference as they learn to connect with one another in a unique manner, but also provides a platform for all future content connected to the conference message. Delegates from around the world, and in many different time zones, can easily access information using the internet, making comments and effecting changes to conference content in real-time. The application of this type of cutting edge technology, is revolutionizing the way delegates interact.
New LED 6mm pixel screens (only recently available in the country) or other types of big screens can be used at conferences to display images, videos, live TV, and projections from a website in high definition. The picture quality is so good that even the people at the back of the crowd have a clear view. These are great for adding different aspects to the conference, relaying messages that relate to the topic of discussion, or, maybe even showing audience reaction as things happen.
Everything in 3D imagery, from photos to movies is quite popular at the moment. Heslop talks about a conference they produced entitled ‘Consider This’, which conveyed the message that there are two angles to everything. In fitting with the theme, they used 3D for emphasis. “We had a cameraman who took photos of everyone in 3D; guests received newsletters in 3D and had to read it with their 3D glasses,” says Heslop. Even with the most expensive and fanciest of gadgets, the most important aspect of conferencing is the actual delivery of the message, the face time in front of the live audience. If you are a poor speaker who relies heavily on reading your speech using PowerPoint, you could potentially botch the entire purpose of the conference.
Technology can be a saving grace in terms of improving your presentation. “Really good speakers do not use PowerPoint presentation to convey their messages. If they do, they have a slide show purely of photographs and they talk as they click along keeping audiences interested and riveted on their every word,” says Newton. Both Blue Moon and Omage recommend a coach to train people on presenting their messages. They also revamp and rework speaker’s presentations using technology, and give guidelines on how they can improve their message.
Loading your presentation onto the conference organisers’ laptop with a USB stick can save you the hassle of fiddling with your own laptop. They will control the laptop from the back and project it onto a monitor behind you for the audience to see, and you will have views to the comfort laptop that also has your notes somewhere in front of you. A remote mouse can help you click through your presentation and give you control of it as you go along. If you must use PowerPoint, then PowerPoint 2010 version is one of the better options as the features are enormous and they package information quickly. The only problem with USBs is that the format of one computer doesn’t always match another – but most organisers have skilled technical staff who can tackle any issue this may pose.
Holding a microphone may be difficult with a remote mouse if you like moving on stage, so opt for pel microphones or headsets. The aim of your presentation is to capture the attention of your audience, make people curious and to make your message explosive and interesting. “Don’t rely on technology to make your product amazing – rather see technology as a way to enhance your message,” says Newton. Both Blue Moon and Omage have coaches who train unprofessional speakers on how to work with the technology that is available to them, and offer advice on how to address their audience as opposed to reading to them.
“Technology is great and fantastic, but it is even better when you don’t see it,” says Newton. “Technology has allowed creativity to be expressed. If you have the budget, building a city (as a venue) in the middle of the Namibian Desert is achievable through the advancements we have made using technology,” explains Newton… “Nothing is impossible. The trick is hiding the technology and making the experience as real as possible.”