MeetGreen® has undergone a big technological transformation in the past year which has made us faster, more efficient and more sustainable. One of the more exciting changes was the move to tablet devices for our on-site conference logistics. It used to be, during conference season, I would come into the office and see the large conference table covered with binders, dividers and paper, with a beehive of activity trying to get them all put together and shipped. Moving to tablets saves us a great deal of time in preparation, saves paper, and allows MeetGreen to have a more dynamic logistical system than can be updated in real-time. If we update a site guide, our entire team has the change immediately.
That’s all great, but where to start? When using tablets for conference logistics, what is the best way to configure them and what apps can you add to make the experience even more effective? Below, we share how MeetGreen has set up our tablets that you can use as a guide for your own tablet configuration.
Android or iOS?
The first big question you will face is which platform to choose. Yes, Microsoft has the Surface platform, but it is not as well supported with apps and services as Android or iOS and is more expensive. As far as Android or iOS, it is a toss-up really and your decision could hinge on personal preference or cost. MeetGreen chose Android, primarily because of the lower cost and frankly, Android does everything we need it to do. Why spend more when you don’t have to? TIP: Our conference team really appreciated a tablet case that includes small pockets to hold business cards.
If you do choose Android, you will need to sync the tablet with a Google account. We chose to use a single Google account so all our tablets can share in any apps that are purchased. This also allows all the tablets to easily share the same Google Docs file system and overall there are fewer accounts to manage. It is a similar situation for iOS, except you are setting up for iCloud. Again, it is easier to use a single iCloud account to share among tablets for the same reasons as on Android. This is by no means the only way to configure the system, however. It is also perfectly valid to setup each tablet individually.
Your Office on the Road
For MeetGreen, one of the most important components of our conference logistics is our file system. This is where all the important documents and spreadsheets live that we use for our daily work. We recently moved to a cloud-based file system which has an app that runs on Android as well as iOS. This provides us with a seamless interface to our critical documents. The app also provides for offline access to our documents. TIP: Make sure to download an offline copy of all the documents needed, just in case wifi goes out or is not working reliably. When edits are made to the local copy, the changes will be automatically synced back to the cloud when connectivity returns. If you do not keep your files on a central, cloud-based file system, I recommended looking into one. We use Egnyte, but there is also Dropbox, Box.com and Google Docs.
The documents on our file system are all Microsoft Office documents, so we need a way of editing them on the tablet. Fortunately, Microsoft has recently released full versions of Office for both iOS and Android. This is the next app you will want to install. Alternatively, Google Docs and Google Sheets are apps that also work quite well for viewing and editing Office files.
Turn Your Tablet into a Swiss Army Knife
There are a few general utility apps we find very useful to have on hand including:
Bandwidth Measure (Android/iOS) – WiFi is on the mind of every conference producer and this tool helps us insure we are getting the bandwidth we are expecting as well as helping to identify weak spots.
Skype (Android/iOS) – We use Skype at MeetGreen to communicate, both for text and audio/video. Having Skype on the tablet lets our on-site staff keep in contract with each other and the home office. We also have a cloud-based external phone system that is installed as well on our tablets for external calls.
Notes (Built-in Notes) – One of the simpler but important apps is a note app that allows the on-site staff to take notes quickly. One of the things we like about Android is the widget functionality that allows the notes to be shown right on the home screen of the tablet without having to run the app itself.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. At MeetGreen, we work hard but also understand the need to relax. Conference management includes long plane rides and downtime in hotel rooms where some of these apps can be a welcome respite from the conference grind.
Games – There is nothing like a good game of Peggle or Sudoku after a long day in a conference center.
Depending on how technically savvy your staff is, specific training may be needed, especially regarding the file system and editing Office files.
You may have to create new policies around tablet use. At MeetGreen, we have a liberal policy. Staff is allowed to install any apps they feel are needed to do their job or maintain their sanity.
As with any new technology, support will become an issue. If your company is small, you may want to use the training to also enable staff to troubleshoot issues themselves so they can get back up and running quickly if they don’t have time to call for help.
TIP: One final big tip. As much as we love all the cool, new digital technology, always have one paper copy of all your important documents for the event, just in case the unexpected happens.
We welcome your questions or comments about your own transition to tablets. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have anything to share.