Afraid to use Internet Technology for Your Meeting?

InternetDo you want to use the Internet to improve and simplify your meeting planning but someone in your office (maybe your boss) thinks the Internet is too dangerous? Perhaps you live in the world of spreadsheets and that has always worked.  Maybe attendance is down and your budget is getting tighter every year, but any change seems overwhelming.

If you fit any of the previous profiles, then you should know that the Internet is not dangerous! Furthermore, if used properly, Internet software will save you time, money and increase revenue and attendance.  Here are some misconceptions that cause meeting planners to not embrace web technologies and thus miss out on its many benefits.

The Internet is not Secure

A common fear is that when someone enters a credit card on the Internet there is a hacker waiting to steal the card.  This notion is basically false. Almost all decent e-commerce services use SSL encryption technology to transmit credit card information.  This information is only intelligible by the servers involved in the transaction – it will appear as rubbish to anybody trying to read the data during transmission.

Furthermore, there is a standard called PCI that makes sure all data stored on servers meet a very high security standard.  Credit cards, in general, are not stored on Internet accessible servers but are passed through to the destination merchant – the same merchant you would be using even if you weren’t using the Internet! Ask to see your vendor’s PCI certificate to make sure credit cards are handled properly.

Still, you need to engage in Internet safe practices so your personal computer is not comprised by a hostile site.  While this is a topic of a future article, the easiest thing you can do is to only visit sites of organizations you trust.  If you are not sure of the website link, enter the organization in a search engine like Google or Yahoo.

Nothing Is Private on the Internet

Some people fear that by using the web that their personal information, as well as any users such as online registrations, will simply be sold off to corporations.  These corporations, it is assumed, will then use this information to personally identify everything about you as well as send endless Email spam.

Before you enter any information on any website, make sure they have a Terms of Use and Privacy Policy pages on their site.  These policies describe what can be done with the information collected through their services.  In general, what most organizations do is use the data for aggregate analysis of the information. That means your data is used for statistical reporting of the community as a total, rather than identifying the data with you as a specific person.  This is now generally considered a best practice.

Internet Software Costs too much

You may think web software is too expensive and is only for big organizations.  While it is true that certain classes of software such as Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be on the pricey side, most services like Online Registration are affordable even to the smallest organizations. Furthermore, you should keep in mind the hidden costs of doing everything through spreadsheets.  For example, a couple of major studies show that processing a registration the “old fashioned way” through spreadsheets and internal databases have an average cost of around $15.00 per registration! Most online registration services offer pricing at a fraction of that.

The Internet is only for Geeks

You may be thinking “I’m not hi-tech! I can never figure out the Internet!” Do you use an iPod, iPhone or a Smart Phone?  One of the great accomplishments of hi tech in the last decade is to design software that is so easy to use that an instruction manual is unnecessary.  This achievement is also true for the web.  People are amazed that young children can use the Internet. But it’s not because the kids are so smart – it’s because the web is so easy!

You may also think that if your organization moves to the Internet the end result will be the elimination of your job. What is more likely to be the case is that your job will have less drudgery and more strategic thinking and planning.  Tedious jobs like data entry are done by others (the originators as in online registration or exhibit booth purchasing) so you can focus on creating the best conference.

The Internet eliminates the Human Touch

The concern that you will not be able to talk to a human being if you have a problem is not without validity.  Your research of vendors should include whether or not you will have a dedicated point of contact or if you will be just directed to an email address or switchboard.

The other side of this is the notion that your attendees are so used to your office handling everything that they will resent being “shuffled off” to the Internet.  You will be surprised that most people embrace the opportunity to take care of themselves on their own schedule.  As long as you make it clear that your office is still available for support, you will find few (if any) people resent your organization improving its operating efficiency.

The Internet is just a Toy

You might think that the Internet comprises of sites that are only appealing to teenagers, especially when it comes to Social Media.  This is also not true.  Just take a look at this chart to see the staggering numbers of people who use Social Media. Not only does well over 50% of the population from 30-64 use such web sites, but it has an incredible reach into minority and under served groups.

Bottom line – if your organization is not using the Internet, then you are missing out on your best way to cut expenses, increase revenue, and reach people!