Does technology really improve audience engagement?

Column Holland Audience Engagement

Audience engagement is viewed as an important measure to determine the success of a meeting or conference. More meeting owners and organizers feel that the audience wants to have its say. There are many mobile technological gadgets that can increase audience engagement during your meeting, like mobile phone-based applications to vote and comment on a speaker.

I have seen such tools more frequently during the last months. Speakers use them to let the audience vote on different statements and opinions. But is this truly engagement? Does my opinion really matter for the course of the session? Are these technologies really valuable for participants of a meeting? And what is the key to true audience engagement?

#Planners are… Researchers

So far we have explored many skills and functions of the meeting planner and I have to admit that I was really impressed by everything I have learned. But besides organizational, communicative and negotiation skills you need more. Knowledge, for example. Since you are the first contact person, all questions concerning the event will be directed to you. As a good planner, you will always have the answer.

Modern business concept

Walking information desk

Beside research for a proper destination and venue you need to explore the surroundings of your location. Your attendees will ask you for the way.

“Attendees often ask me questions like ‘Where is the next bus stop?’, ‘What is the fastest way to the city center?’ or ‘Do you know a good pub/restaurant around here?’. I always try explore my chosen destination to collect facts that might turn out useful for the attendees, like bus stops, train schedules, clubs, bars,supermarkets…”  (anomynous)

“I often have to plan international meetings with many international guests. This often turns out to become a study of foreign cultures and habits. How do I receive Russian visitors? What food do the Japanese prefer? And how can I make sure that my Spanish guests will be on time?”  (anomynous)


Of course, even the the meeting planner can’t know everything. In this case you have to find out.

“My clients are typically non-profits, which fall slightly under the “up with technology” in their company, much less their evnets. So in order to push and integrate updated features, it has fallen on me to either know and do, or know and oversee or not know and be willing to try. Among the things I have done are registration sites and databases, webpage design, social media, audio-visual requirements… shall I go on?” (Janna Bowman, @JDuckEvents)

Blog Holland Meeting planners discover


“I know a lot of planners use 3rd parties to source their meetings and research venues but for me, that’s not only the fun part but it’s the most important part.  During the data gathering and research phase for any event, it’s during this process you make the most connections and build the most relationships.

Outside of site research, we have to find the most cost effective ways to do business.  We are often tasks with finding assessing the best registration software, discovering new methods of attendee engagement, accessing the most sustainable supplies, securing the most inspiring speaker and integrating latest technology to meet the needs of the clients and/or attendees.  We pride ourselves on being creative so it only makes sense that we actually enjoy staying up nights researching.” (Kendra McMurray, @Meeting_Pro)

Please tell me what you think!

Can you tell us examples from your work as a planner that underline your overall expertise? And what other skills do you have? Leave a comment or send a tweet with the hashtag #PlannersAre. Let’s show the industry how broad the capacities of a meeting planner are.
Finally I want to thank Carmen Gosalves, Janna Bowman and Kendra McMurray for their valuable input.

Top 5 Meeting Trends of 2012

One of the most important things to realise when planning a meeting is: we are living in the 21st century. So plan your meeting in a 21st century venue! Nowadays we’re all depending on technology. You can resist it, or just deal with it! Go with the flow. Furthermore, the trend of holding a green meeting is here to stay. We all care about keeping our planet clean. Read our top 5 of Meeting Trends so your event won’t be old fashioned.

1. Luxury is back!

We’ve tries, but cheap and simple just isn’t hip anymore. Luxury is finding its way back into events and meeting. According to ‘Luxury resorts are no longer a pariah’.’. We are craving more luxury in our conferences, and like to be pampered after our meetings. Read more trends on

2. Mobile technology

Technology is a fast moving field, so remember to stay up to date. Wake up! It’s 2012. An app or mobile website for your conference is an absolute plus, and allows you to keep participants updated on everything that’s going on during the conference. And last but not least: the latest news arrives on the participant’s mobile in real time. More tech trends in meeting planning? Read this blog:

3. Involve all departments you need to work within your team

A lot of processes are much entangled when planning a meeting. It’s a trend right now to involve important departments in the planning process by adding key players to your team. The process will run smoother because of it. Involving more people has been made much easier of course with current technologies. In cooperation with your buying department for instance, it’s much easier to reach local suppliers through the internet. This trend was spotted by Alise Long, a Dutch CMM manager.

4. More demand for meetings with hotels

Hotels can take their pick! Hotels are more and more deciding which meeting planner they want to work with, instead of vice versa. More demand means more bookings, and hotels are definitely seeing a positive trend. This ends the possibility to book 30 days in advance for peanuts. Tip form us: maintain your contacts and network; you never know when you’ll need them.

5. Taking the whole package

Arranging everything separately is over. More and more we’re embracing the idea to book a complete arrangement for our participants. Tip! Take a look at what the convention bureaus have to offer. We have excellent bureaus that can plan your whole meeting with you. Read more about the Dutch regional convention bureaus: