This week I attended a conference where tweets were displayed in real-time on a large screen to the right of the front of the room. The moderator even invited audience members to tweet their questions and comments. At first I thought it would be distracting, but soon realized that at conferences most people can do several things with their minds during a panel discussion or a speaker presentation. In contrast, three weeks ago I attended a conferences where less than a third (according to a random sample of the audience) even had a Facebook account. I think I was the only one tweeting at that conference.
Both conferences are at the extremes of technology use at conferences and conventions. I suspect such use will grow, although it seems that there are an increasing number of conferences that urge attendees to turn off the technology. Generally, it seems that the larger the conference the greater the use of technology.
Technology certainly improves productivity for event and conference managers. On-site laptops and portable printers make name badges instantly and professional-looking. On-site registration using PayPal and credit card devices is becoming more common. And for all its criticism and misuse, PowerPoint, the ubiquitous technology tool of presenters, is still the staple of conference presenters.
As a regular conference attendee and presenter I find it fascinating to watch technology use at meetings. And yet, there is nothing like sitting at a roundtable with a few other people and just talking and listening.