Planners are going paperless in increasing numbers according to a new study by American Express Meetings & Events (M&E). The 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast found that North American planners predict an almost three percent increase in app usage in 2019. Study respondents cited the ability of apps to enable engagement and communication among attendees—particularly younger generations.

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“Companies want more and more sophisticated choices with interactive technology at a meeting,” an unnamed meeting professional was quoted as saying in the report. “We take the time for every event to really think about the purpose of that technology and how we can best utilize it, rather than implementing an ‘instant-app’ or standardized interactive technology. We really tailor it to what they are trying to achieve with attendees.”

Advances in app development allow planners to perform advanced functions such as publishing real-time agendas and sending out push notifications. They can act as an attendee’s pocket-sized best friend, holding their hand from beginning to end.

“From the time an attendee leaves their doorstep to the time they return from the meeting, there are technology solutions for very specific things—nutritional information for the event menus, or aggregate ground transportation, for example,” says Milton Rivera, vice president of business development and strategy for M&E.

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Shopping for the perfect app that best suits your meeting’s needs is getting increasingly complicated as more options present themselves. “It’s extremely fragmented and can be overwhelming for planners to have to navigate,” says Rivera.

To address this speed bump, AMEX M&E launched Meetings Marketplace. “We find the best in class, whatever the technology category might be—mobile apps, facial recognition, virtual reality, AI, robotics, online sourcing—and provide a common platform for our clients,” Linda McNairy, AMEX M&E vice president of global operations and shared services, says. “What we hear from businesses is that they are simply overwhelmed with the volume of solutions available and trying to figure out how to evaluate and partner with the right ones. We are able to remove that burden and help companies solve for their unique needs and demands using a known roster of providers.”

Beaming In

While meeting in person is beneficial and preferable, that is not always possible. Many factors, such as increasing costs, inability to travel and pre-existing commitments at home sometimes prevent people from attending in the flesh.

“Meeting planners are trying to find ways, as always, to do more with less,” Yma Sherry, AMEX M&E vice president of North America, says. “They are focusing on their attendees. Are the right people attending? Should they reduce the number of attendees? In certain cases, they’re using virtual technology for the general sessions, broadcasting the meeting to the people who were unable to attend the meeting live.”

Fathom Events is one company with a solution. In a joint venture owned by movie theater megahouses AMC, Regal and Cinemark, Fathom Events is expanding services to include corporate events. Their 967 U.S. movie theaters (2,100 worldwide) are available for trainings, town halls, product launches, educational forums and employee events. People can attend in a local theater and be connected to colleagues in another theater location, so no one has to travel far from home.