What types of communication devices are best for event planners?


I like things easy, so sometimes I get sucked into buying the latest electronic gizmo. It’s a crapshoot whether or not it lives up to its hype. Since the readers of this newsletter are real event planners, I want to ask them about their own buying experience with communications devices.


Would you ask your readers if they have purchased communication devices that ended up being a bust? Which devices did not work as you wished, and what was the problem? I want to avoid throwing away more money.

On the other hand, what have they found that met their needs?


— Event Planner, Boston

Stay connected, stay practical


Whether you are running your business or running an event, staying connected is essential. The days are long gone when we needed to carry a roll of quarters around and stop to use payphones along the highway. However, several readers point out that buying the latest gizmo “because it’s there” can backfire. Their advice clusters around three main points:


  • Keep your technology practical.
  • Arrange for trial periods when possible.
  • Focus on the payoffs.

Keep your technology practical


An anonymous East Coast planner admits to overspending on features and apps he rarely uses. “I bought one of those new smart phones that allow you to connect to the internet and retrieve your e-mail, but as it turns out, I rarely use those features often enough to make them worthwhile. My best advice is to make sure that you will actually use the apps you purchase because the costs can really add up in addition to the cost of your monthly cell phone service.”


There are times, though, when the right phone makes all the difference. Margo Spencer, President and CEO of Jay’s International, would likely agree with that. “I recently upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and used it while traveling to Ethiopia. That phone made a world of difference. Of course, I was not able to access my e-mails due to lack of Wi-Fi, however, being able to make calls was great.”


Karen Gritton, President of Gritton Productions, Inc., says she uses her smart phone for calls and e-mails, which comprise the bulk of inbound and outbound communications at events. “We have replaced stereo systems and radios for small, compact MP3 players to provide music at events. The older technology used to create their own problems because they were big and bulky to transport.”


Beth Hecquet, Director of meetings and events for the National Association of Sports Commissions, reports good luck using a new generation of interactive technology at meetings. “I used the Turning Technologies Audience Response system for both onsite surveys and interactive presentations that truly involve participants. Although it was more work, it was worthwhile — and affordable!”

Arrange for trial periods when possible

It’s important to remember that everything is negotiable, says an anonymous Pennsylvania event planner. “After getting burned a couple times on new technologies, I started insisting on trial periods, ‘test drives’ or even short-term rentals,” he says. “Sure, when you buy something at retail, you can usually return it, but I can’t get comfortable using new technology that quickly (although my 12-year old can!). So I negotiate more time, especially if it’s something I plan to use at an event.”


Focus on the payoffs


More than one reader advocates taking time to analyze the payoffs before jumping on the gizmo express. “If it’s not going to help you get more business, serve clients more effectively or pull off a more exciting event, then forget it,” one anonymous VP advises.


Gary Bennett, event manager for BKD, LLP, shares an excellent example: “In 18 years, I have yet to use a badge scanner,” he says. “But someone in the next booth down the aisle always has one, and you hear bragging about how many leads that person got. I prefer to have a dialog with prospects, find out if they have a need for your product or service, and then follow-up with them. Don’t use toys, gizmos or trickery to gain leads. Use the strengths of your company to talk to future clients.”



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