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Working Smarter By Timothy J. La Fleur, CMP

Take Away

Head in theCloud

With the binder-vs.-tablet debate raging on, one meeting professional decides to go paper-free. And doesn’t look back.

Twoyears afterApple introduced the iPad, the binder-vs.-tablet debate continues to rage, with meetingprofessionals fallingoneither side. Imade the switch a year ago, ditching paper event specs in favor ofmyMotorolaXoom. I’ve done five events since then, and have loved every minute of being paper-free. If you’re thinking about following suit, you

should approach this transition with the under- standing that a tablet is much more than just a device on which to view your event specs. About a year and a half ago, I decided to create an

was to be chargedonconsumption—directly into my specs on one ofmy devices. Fromthere Iwas instantly given percentages of guarantee vs. actual attendance numbers aswell as variances of actual F&Bspend vs. the forecastedF&Bspend. Thanks to the cloud, this information was

instantly synced with allmyother devices, includ- ing my laptop, along with my client’s devices, givingmy client real-time meetinginformation. In a culture in which knowledge is power, this real- time data has proven to be invaluable both for myself as the planner and formyclients, allowing

A tablet is more than a device on which to view your event specs.

approachthat wouldallowmenot only to viewmy specs onmytablet and phone, but also to edit doc- uments, see specified reports, and keep real-time event information along with budget actuals.And all that information would be available to my clients, suppliers, facility, and event team, flowing seamlessly across all our electronic devices via cloud networking.

Really Real-Time I took the first beta version of this approach on site at the Palais des congrès de Montréal lastMarchfor a 7,000-person, breakout-heavy association meet- ing, and was able to view all my event specs — includingcontracts, BEOs, and floor plans—from mymobile devices. I didn’t have a tablet yet, so I ran everythingfrom the four-inch screenofmyAndroid smartphone. Data consumption was tricky, but by usingthe cachingability of Dropbox, the multitask- ing functionality built into my Android, and the ThinkFree Office suite, Iwasable to effectivelyman- age the entire show frommyphone. Amongmanyother things, I was able to record

actual F&B numbers — such as attendee room countsandspend, accountingforany fooditem that

them to be completely up to speed on the progress of their meeting.

Looks Great Off Paper Over the last year and a half that I’ve spent work- ing to figure out how to use mobile technology effectively, I’ve come to appreciate justhowinvalu- able a paper-free toolbox can be for planners— especially when it comes to: Knowing that an app allows me to sign

and/or call out edits toPDFs(such as contracts and BEOs) from my phone or tablet without ever having to print them out. Beingablenotonly tonote on a floor plan

during a walkthrough exactly where I want to relo- cate security guards, F&B locations, and VIP seating arrangements on a floor plan, but also to share that informationwithmy colleagues without havingto print it out, mark it up, scan it, and then email it to them.

These are just two of the many ways that

mobile canmakea meetingprofessional more pro- ductive and efficient—both duringthe planning phase of a meeting and on site.

ON_THE_WEB: Read Convene’s initial Working Smarter article on “Binders vs. Tablets” at http://bit.ly/Convene-tablet.

28 pcmaconvene March 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY GREG MABLY

Before You PlugIn Switching from paper to tablet can bring challenges. First, you need to know how to use the applications on your tablet that will power your event- specs file and other information platforms. You also need to become comfortable with working off a tablet screen as opposed to paper, and not always physically writing event notes with a pen but instead making notes directly to online files. Under- standing how your cloud network works in relation to Internet connectivity and how it caches data is also important. Training on a truly

mobile approach — available from a vari- ety of sources — is a must. But your time and effort will be rewarded in cost savings on time and supplies, along with increased accuracy and flow of informa- tion. Not to mention relieving the heavy binders from your already tired arms.

TimothyJ. La Fleur, CMP, is a meeting and event manager for Experi- ent. Contact him at tim.lafleur@experient- inc.com.

Working Smarter is sponsored by PSAV Presentation Services, www.psav.com.

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