Forward Thinking

Are You a Geek or a Technophobe?

When it comes to technology, planner competency is often at one of two extremes — technology geek or technophobe. Where do you fall?

Tech geeks are attracted to shiny, new objects and rarely align decision-making with strategy. Conversely, technophobes resist change or defer to their IT departments, many of which also lack strategic insight. The most effective and valuable planners lie squarely in the middle. And that means that you’ll need to grow your competency in technology strategy to increase your value. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Understand switching costs

This is the most overlooked area in event-technology decisions. Implementing new technology can result in huge labor costs, including training, configuration, system integration, adoption, and data import. Bake these costs into your decision-making. It’s not uncommon for planners to select cheaper solutions and wipe away the savings with switching costs.

2. Be the attendee advocate

“I love that my association tracks every move I make with those cool iBeacons,” said no attendee, ever. The same goes for RFID, NFC, and mandatory badge-scanning at every session. Seriously, if the technology doesn’t improve or enhance the attendee experience, don’t do it. They want ease. They want utility. They want their data prepopulated after an initial purchase or relationship.

3. Be leery of Swiss Army knives

Those tech vendors that claim that they can do it all — registration, speaker management, and exhibits — probably can’t. Equally, vendors who claim they can be your solution for both small and large events are usually steering you wrong. It’s very difficult to be best in class at more than a few things. System integration should take a backseat to attendee experience.

4. Keep in mind that new tech should result in process improvement

IT departments love the term “requirements,” and usually define them based on existing processes. Event-tech companies worth their salt should be able to help you create and adopt new workflows that leverage the configurability — not customization — of their system. Also, guard against process-improvement initiatives that delegate your work to your stakeholders.

5. Inspect and test

Technology can look and work differently in various browsers and devices. Before selecting a vendor or deploying a technology, your organization should test the heck out of it. Conduct usability testing on different browsers. Ensure the experience is optimized for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows tablet and phone. Switch phone or tablet settings to airplane mode to test attendee mobile apps. Solutions that lack responsive design or leverage technologies, such as Flash, will be more apparent on mobile-device operating systems.

Tech-savvy planners align with and accelerate desired business results, ask good questions, and think more about benefits than features. And that doesn’t require venturing into geek territory.

Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.