Conference wizardry

Conferences can be dull, but with the right technical kit, you can make the
right impression. Scott Beagrie looks at the latest…

Repeat this mantra after me: It is worthwhile going to conferences. No –
really it is. And with the right tools, you too can become a self-styled
conference guru and maximise your experience.

All you have to do is streamline your operation. Dispense with your heavy
shoulder bag, and forget heading off to pick up your voicemail and e-mails
three times a day. You need to get totally wired instead.

That way, you can capture key data, multi-task during the less relevant
moments of a presentation, respond to e-mails or edit documents, and free up
your coffee and lunch breaks for networking. So here’s a guide to some of the
leading technologies and gadgets that will help you achieve this goal.

Spotme Conference Navigator

What is it? An ingenious, pocket-sized wireless device which not only
pinpoints where you are, but locates and tells you where other people are in
relation to you. Its infrared technology facilitates point-and-shoot actions,
such as business card exchanges, and it can also beam news announcements,
update conference agendas and deliver messages directly to delegates in
real-time, via point-to-point links.

Spotme, developed by Swiss company Shockfish, is a service provided by event
organisers. A digital image of the delegate is captured during their
registration by the Spotme photo-station, and fed into the database. Spotme’s
base station broadcasts all database updates.

Conference application You know all those times when you’ve attended
events intending to meet up with someone and you either just miss them, can’t
track them down or simply forget their name? Spotme ensures this won’t happen
by alerting you when they are near. It can be set to vibrate, and a pop-up
description photo appears so that the user can decide whether, as the manufacturer
states: "to take the plunge and make that crucial handshake". A swift
electronic exchange of business cards can ensue, courtesy of the device.

Spotme’s radar function discreetly lets you know who is within 10 to 30 feet
of you. The messaging facility allows you to contact any other delegate to set
up a meeting. Plus, when you highlight a person’s name, it will show that
person’s photograph and contact details. So during coffee, you can decide
whether you really want to talk to the person next to you. Just remember that
those you may wish to avoid can use it to track you down too, so when you feel
that hand on your shoulderÉ

Back in the office The event organiser will e-mail your personalised
contact log with all collected cards and photos, and can be copied directly
into your personal information management system.

Signed up for it? The European Private Equity and Venture Capital
Association used it at its annual symposium last year, and the London Business
Forum will be the first to deploy it in the UK at its annual event in March.

Cost As Spotme is a service provided by the event organiser, you
shouldn’t have to buy one.

More info

Olympus W-10

What is it? A high-quality digital voice recorder with built-in low
resolution camera. It can simultaneously record sound and take photographs,
allowing you to create multimedia slide shows. With 16Mb of memory, it can
store an impressive three-hours of dictation, and up to 250 images. The image
quality won’t impress the David Baileys of this world, but it is functional.

Conference application This is one of those devices that makes you
wonder why nobody thought of it sooner, as it’s useful on several fronts. If
you want to record that keynote seminar speech at Harrogate and the
accompanying PowerPoint presentation or slides, this will do it. The imaging
has been described as being of ‘sketch’ quality, but should be good enough to
capture readable information. While recording audio, the point at which the
user presses the shutter is given an index mark by the recorder’s in-built
software, so during playback the photos appear on cue. When networking, you can
use it to record business card details and match them with photos of the
individuals to help identify key contacts. You could also use it to take
pictures of prototype products that have not yet made their way into the
corporate brochure.

Back in the office Both audio and J-PEG files can be transferred
instantly to a PC via a high-speed USB interface. During playback, the
photographs provide visual indexes to specific points in the voice recording.
So if you were the only one in your department fortunate enough to attend the
Michael Porter lecture on productivity, for instance, you could download the
entire presentation and e-mail it to your team.

Signed up for it? The W-10 is so handy, expect Personnel Today
reporters to be using it for their Vox Pop interviews at this year’s HRD and
Harrogate events.

Cost £150

More info

Gyration Ultra Professional Optical Mouse

What is it? A breed of super mouse that knows no bounds. The bullet-shaped
device works in mid-air and is both PC and Mac compatible. It doesn’t need line
of sight to work and can operate at a range of 100 feet, thanks to the
gyrosensor technology behind it – the MicroGyro 100 that senses the motion of
the hand and body. It has a built in rechargeable battery and there are no
moving parts to go wrong.

Conference application This one is more for when you’re presenting
your masterclass, rather listening to one. As the mouse works in mid-air and up
to 100 feet away from a laptop or projector, the presenter can roam around the
room, interacting with the audience. It is the ultimate in freedom of movement
and expression for a presenter and features 80 special effects, including the
ability to highlight objects or text, underline particular words, zoom in and
out, or launch video clips or soundtracks. Favourite control tools can be
assigned to button and scroll clicks, as well as hand gestures.

Back in the office It performs well on the desktop – the makers claim
it can transmit data up to 160 per cent faster that other cordless mice.

Signed up for it? It’s what trainers and conference speakers
everywhere have been waiting for.

Cost: £160

More info

Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet PC

What is it? One of the most powerful Tablet PCs on the market. In
case you missed the hype (and not wishing to state the obvious), they are a
tablet-shaped device on which you can write with a digital pen or stylus.
Tablet PCs generically run Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, but are
externally designed by a number of Microsoft’s hardware supporters such as
Acer, Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard.

Toshiba’s thin, highly-specified offering has a more than respectable 1.33
GHz PIII-M processor and 12-inch screen. It also comes with integrated Wi-Fi
(wireless networking technology), Bluetooth, 56kps modem and ethernet port.

Conference application Tablet PCs may take a while to convince some
of their worth – especially those who are perfectly happy with their laptops.
But the ability to jot things down will be appreciated by conference goers who
want a more informal method of taking notes, rather than keying them in.
Although PDAs can be fine for this kind of thing too, their limited screen size
hardly compares to the Portege’s.

The stylus can also be used to create drawings or annotate documents which
can be saved in Digital Ink form, or converted to text.

The Wi-Fi connection, tipped to be the fastest growing mobile technology
this year, means that e-mails can be sent without having to plug in a single
cable. To transform it from a notebook, the Portege’s screen swivels and locks
down, turning it into a writing tablet.

Back in the office Are you kidding? This is a tool for the serious
road-warrior who wouldn’t be seen dead in an office.

Cost £2,100

More info

Conference technology breakouts

Tubula Rasa

A variation on the conference navigator theme, it involves name
badges embedded with tiny chips. Sensor units with a range of 5 feet which
detect the unique ID for each name badge, can be placed at strategic points,
such as seminar room entrances. Organisers are then able to non-invasively
track who is in attendance. This may signal the end of stewards having to scan
the barcode on your name badge.


Think you know where the training video is headed? Things don’t
have to be so predictable with this interactive video platform technology.
Throughlines is developed by New York company Static & Motion, and is aimed
at trade shows, corporate meetings and training usage. It allows delegates to
decide the outcome of various hypothetical situations. Audiences of between 20
and 2,000 people can use individual keypads to vote what happens next at
certain points in the video presentation. The audience response is
automatically calculated, and the video continues with the scenario that
received the majority vote.


Debuting this month at the Training 2003 conference in Atlanta,
this software application turns a PowerPoint presentation into an interactive
experience. Presenters can receive immediate feedback from the audience through
wireless hand-held keypads. Using drop- down menus and tools, the presenter can
use this information to make new slides in seconds.

Comments are closed.