Corbin Ball on How Tech is Shaping Attendee Engagement

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Welcome to the Social Tables Huddle, our weekly video blog series where you’ll find us interviewing a hospitality industry leader on a breadth of topics that pertain to meeting and events professionals. Each video blog is presented as part of a three-post series.

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In part 1 of our series with Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, we discuss how tech is shaping attendee engagement.

About Our Guest:

Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, MS is an international speaker, consultant, and writer helping clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. With 20 years of experience running international technology meetings, he now is a highly acclaimed speaker with the ability to make complex subjects understandable and fun.  His articles have appeared in hundreds of national and international publications and he has been quoted in the U.S. News & World Report, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Fast Company, PC Magazine and others. Corbin serves or has served on numerous hotel, corporate, convention bureau and association boards. He is the only person to have received both the MPI International Supplier of the Year and the MPI International Chapter Leader of the Year awards. Corbin was named as one of “The 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry” for 2012 by Successful Meetings magazine, having received this award four times previously.

The Analysis

Claire: Online and offline engagement are critical aspects of an event and meeting ecosystem. Each component must be considered when planning each stage of an event: before, during, and post. With that in mind, I’d like to take a deep dive into what the future of attendee engagement looks like.

To get started, can you tell me a little about why you think human behavior leads us to want to participate in meetings and events in the first place?

Corbin: There are a number of reasons why people like to attend events. Even as technology changes them – and we know that technology will change events substantially – some things will remain the same. On a basic level, we’re gregarious animals – we like to get together. We have a biological imperative to get together, which is why meetings – in some form or another – will remain viable for the foreseeable future.

The ability face-to-face meetings have to engage people during an event are very different than the engagement levels of, for example, a virtual conference. Virtual conferences and hybrid meetings do have their place, but it’s primarily for shorter information exchange.

You have 30 minutes maximum to keep people’s attention in today’s distracted environment. A face-to-face event, if done properly, can keep attendee’s attention for days by feeding them, entertaining them and informing them. I think that is the key driver that will keep events viable for the foreseeable future.

Take an exhibition, for example – you have a concentrated area of buyers and sellers together. The hospitality industry is a service industry – service industries require people. You want to meet the people you’re relying on – you want to know who you’re dealing with. Face-to-face meetings provide the opportunity for all that.

Finally, meetings afford individuals the ability to travel to new destinations away from the office. That desire to travel and see new things is another driver. The power of meetings to engage, to inform, and to provide networking opportunities will keep them viable for many years to come.

Claire: A crucial driver for individuals to attend meetings and events is continued education. In an article you penned earlier this year, you noted that “Information is cheap; knowledge is dear.” With the innumerable ways in which meeting and event planners can deliver content, what are some technology products they should keep in mind?

Corbin: Well this is a challenge – we are in an information glut. We have so much information coming at us every day that we need to filter that and sort it out. That’s an area that events can assist with.

For example, if you’re interested in technology, you can attend presentations at events, or go meet with exhibitors who provide the products you’re looking into. This engagement provides the foundation for obtaining quick, condensed, impactful information during a face-to-face exchange. It’s easier than trying to sort through the layers.

That’s where information is cheap and knowledge is dear: condensing and filtering that down into a useful platform. There are many ways that that can be done, but it’s a matter of training more than it is a matter of the technology. You have to know how to use the interactive tools that you’re afforded.

PowerPoints, for the most elementary example, are useful for many presentations and topics – mainly those which are complex. They can assist in the information exchange, stream videos – do a whole range of things – and help you do so in a short, engaging, and fun manner. The phrase “Death by PowerPoint” is around not because of the program itself, but because of it’s use.

Report: 12 Trends Shaping Events in 2017

Claire Repass

We envision a world where face-to-face events achieve great things. Social Tables has created the leading event management software used by planners and properties for more than one million successful events. Today, our cloud-based suite includes the best of diagramming, seating, anytime-anywhere collaboration, and check-in.