Making technology work

We all know the latest shiny thing will always attract attention and this is just as true in the meetings industry as anywhere else. Sometimes this leads to the implementation of technology for its own sake. The cry is ‘Look what it can do’ and never mind whether it is relevant or not. In reality we should be seeking technology which makes life easier for planners and attendees, but how to make sure the new technology we introduce achieves this? Ken Clayton, director of RefTech explains:

There are three qualities that any new technology must have to make it worth considering for introduction: it must be useful, easy to use and fast. The first of these is simple to judge. If people hear about a new app or feature within the event’s systems and think ‘So what?’ then it has failed the first test. It has to answer a need that users recognise and not be there merely because somebody thinks it’s a good idea.

The easy to use aspect is important because with any technology there is a pain threshold. If the use of the technology or the installation of an app goes beyond the pain threshold, it is unlikely to be widely adopted: the money spent on its development will be wasted. The sad truth is, the older the audience, the lower the pain threshold and although we are constantly being told the world belongs to the X and Y generations, it’s often the older generation who make purchasing decisions.

Finally, speed. This is vital. Back in 2006, Google was reported as finding that taking an extra half a second to deliver search results caused a 20% drop in traffic. Amazon has been reported as finding they lose 1% in sales for every 100ms delay in delivering results. The figures for online systems for meetings are likely to be less dramatic but speed will be no less important.

The difficulty is it takes very sophisticated development skills to write the code which provides easy to use systems that are really fast. But it can be done. The diary system that will be used for The Meetings Show has been developed from the start with those goals in mind. Of the full development programme, around 70% was spent planning; working out how to build the complex systems and database structures behind the scenes so users are unaware of the complexity and will have an easy to use system which is fast.

So next time somebody suggests you need a shining example of new technology for your event, ask yourself, is it useful? Is it easy to use? Is it fast enough? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, think carefully before buying into it.

(This article originally appeared on The Meetings Show UK website)

The Meetings Show, 9 -11 July 2013, Olympia, London

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