How to Free Yourself From the Binder

Two days before the 10,000-attendee National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) 2012 Annual Meeting last April, Tara Moynihan, CMP, NCTM's annual meeting planner, still hadn't put together her binder.

Short-handed, she needed a quick way to get all of her materials to the meeting, which was held in Philadelphia. “So my IT guy said, ‘Why don’t you just put everything on an iPad?’” Moynihan said. “And I said, ‘I don’t even have an iPad, and I don’t know how to work one.’”

Forty-eight hours later, Moynihan was on site with nothing more than an iPad and a few hard-copy floor plans. “I think it’s just about embracing the change, because it really, really did make me more efficient on site,” Moynihan said. “But I think it can get a little overwhelming when you talk to everyone and they’re like, ‘I use this app, I use that app.’ My biggest tip to anyone going with the iPad is making sure you’re organized in your process.”

At NCTM’s 2013 Annual Meeting in Denver this past April, Moynihan had more time to arrange her materials in Dropbox beforehand, making the process even smoother. “This year,” she said, “the only pieces of paper I printed were a couple extra floor plans of my exhibit hall.” And Moynihan certainly isn’t the only meeting planner making the transition from paper to tablet — as shown in “Technology for More Efficient Meetings,” the latest video in The Intersection Series: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV Presentation Services.

“I’ve been watching technology for more than 15 years full-time in the events area, and I’ve never seen a more rapid change than right now,” technology consultant Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, who is featured in the Intersection video, said in an interview with Convene. “What I find intriguing is the possibility that tablets have to eliminate the conference binder to truly digitize your business process.”

In the past few years, evolution across a wide range of technologies — from social media, to mobile, to new web platforms — has produced substantial change in the world of meetings and events. And everywhere else. “The beauty is, technology has finally gotten easy enough that a three-year-old or an elderly grandmother can use it,” Ball said. “Even the people that have been technology resisters are now getting smartphones, are now getting used to the idea of downloading apps. What we’re doing right now, we’re crossing the divide and going over the hump from the early majority to the late majority.”

Meeting planners who have cleared the hurdle now can transport thousands of documents in a lightweight device that allows for easy sharing, backing up, and collaboration. An added bonus: Most meetings-related apps are free or very cheap. “The challenge is, there’s just so many of them,” Ball said. “There are thousands of apps that are directly related to meetings. How do you keep on top of that, and how do you manage that? That’s the challenge for meeting planners, is to keep up with the lightning-fast rate of change.

Sarah Beauchamp

Sarah Beauchamp was formerly assistant editor of Convene.