Time efficiency: added value for conference delegates that counts

Author: Matthias Schultze, Managing Director GCB German Convention Bureau e.V.

Travel times and days spent at events are out. It's all about short, interactive and experience-driven conferences. Here are six ways how organisers can enable delegates to make the most efficient use of their time.

One thing that conference delegates nowadays consider very carefully before registering for an event is if long journeys to venues are worth their while and what kind of work facilities are offered on site. They might then well come to the conclusion that a similar event closer to home or one that is shorter is preferable to a three-day congress. However, meeting planers and location operators can make sure to organise conventions and meetings that allow participants to make the most efficient use of their time:

1. Choose the right meeting scenario

The "Future Meeting Space" innovation network has developed various scenarios for organising meetings and on that basis drawn up the "Future Meeting Room ", an integrated overall scenario. For instance, the basic "interactive forum" scenario could include several regional meetings, taking place simultaneously in various locations ("multisite conference"). A real event could also be moved into a virtual space ("hybrid conference"). Or the meeting takes place over a number of days so that participants can build up their network whilst still keep up with work in their free time ("co-working-conference"). This model combines the need to get on with one's daily business with the demands of an event. Last but not least, a community only existing in the virtual world could deliberately meet up in reality in order to be able to communicate with each other in person ("virtual goes live). As part of the "Future Meeting Room", a toolbox was developed to help meeting planers and location operators choose the scenario that is most suitable for their purposes.

2. Make effective use of travel times

If longer flights are necessary, delegates can use the time spent on the plane to familiarise themselves with the conference, trade fair or event they'll be attending: Lufthansa, for instance, works with special programmes, so-called "FlyingLabs", that take up themes that are related to the destination or event at the destination. Apart from talks, this also includes the opportunity to try innovative technical devices on board. The first two FlyingLabs focused on virtual reality as well as fashion and technology. Lufthansa plans on opening the platform and offer the FlyingLabs to third parties, i.e. organisers can turn the journey to the destination in a conference venue so that delegates can already feel like conference guests while still on their way to the event.

3. Develop guiding principles

In the case of decentrally organised events, not only different locations but also virtual spaces need to be connected with each other. To be successful with this concept, guiding principles are needed in order to combine virtual and real event elements and to make sure throughout that the event or conference goals are kept in sight and participants are addressed in the right way and with the right topics.

4. Use innovative software tools and apps

Participants not on site can take part via meeting and webinar software, without having to find the time to travel and bear the cost for the trip. Alternatively, events can be streamed live and guests can ask questions via chats. Apps that facilitate individual bookings or check-in via smartphones without the need for queuing at reception are also helpful tools to make efficient use of time.

5. Use social media

Social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter can be used before, during and after events in order to save participants a lot of time. They are perfect platforms to extend the reach of an event to the social web via newsletters, blogs, posts or videos and to enable individual planning and preparation for an event, live streaming of talks, to connect participants or to provide them with relevant information and post-event news.

6. Invest in modern technology

Hybrid events, mobile apps or the use of augmented reality are increasingly gaining in importance. All this requires event locations that are fitted adequately with state-of-the-art technology and a cutting-edge digital infrastructure. In this context, the findings of the "Future Meeting Space" innovation network show what matters and what the future holds. Click here for your free download.

The "Future Meeting Room" scenario shows how events can promote interactive knowledge transfer. It was developed by the "Future Meeting Space" innovation network that was set up by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) and the GCB German Convention Bureau.

The results of the research phase will serve as an instruction manual for the design of future-oriented organisational, technological and special future meeting spaces in phase 2 of the project.