Adding Artificial Intelligence to Your Meeting Planning

Photo by Niek Verlaan / Pixabay

 

As a social media strategist I make my annual pilgrimage to the Social Media Marketing World conference to sharpen my skill set. In years past the focus of the conference has been on the use of social media platforms, but in 2017 there was a shift to technological advances — particularly artificial intelligence and bots.

If you are like me you’ve heard about bots and AI, but don’t really get how it impacts your life or the events you plan. Let’s start with simple definitions of the technology we will examine in this article.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined as the process of getting a machine to be able to simulate aspects of human intelligence like speech recognition. Many of us are using Siri or Alexa in our homes to execute tasks and answer questions. This technology is just the first level. True AI systems can learn on its own. We’re talking about neural networks from the likes of Google’s DeepMind, which can make connections and reach meanings without relying on pre-defined behavioral algorithms. True A.I. can improve on past iterations, getting smarter and more aware, allowing it to enhance its capabilities and its knowledge.

Bots or chatbot technology is defined as messaging software mostly with a conversational interface, to simplify a task and be more personal. In my estimation this is where meeting planners can really embrace the use of this emerging technology.

 

Think about your average conference attendee

In the conference industry we attempt to meet the needs and answer questions of attendees by employing the use of a live person at an information desk, or — if you are into technology — use an app like Bizzabo.  Yet more and more people want to get answers from the palm of their hand, in the privacy of their own space, and in real time. The cool thing about a bot is it personalizes the interaction with an app and creates personal connection with the user, simply by using their name!

 

…more and more people want to get answers from the palm of their hand, in the privacy of their own space, and in real time.

 

Creating a chatbot allows you to establish a persona that represents your event and create buzz around it. One of the most popular bots around is Mitsuku, which has the bragging rights of being the most “human-like” chatbot. It processes nearly a million interactions per day and has 5 million users on the web, with reports of millions more on Messenger, Skype and Kik. The Mitsuku persona was so beloved that it was proposed to 400 times. That’s how relevant this technology is to current and future attendees. It underscoring the importance it has for the future of the meetings industry.

I have your attention don’t I? Now, before your brain explodes with the thought of having to budget for a programmer or having to watch You Tubers like Siraj Raval on how to use programming language sites like Node to develop a bot – pump your brakes!

Building a bot is easy. Building a bot-strategy is a challenge

Let’s start with the easy part first! There are a number of tools out there that can help you build a bot easily, but here are my two picks:

Bots.co is free and compatible with Facebook, Slack and Cometchat, with other platforms in the works.

Pandorabots is a full-service option providing free services including tutorial videos to help you build your own basic bot.  It also offers a variety of paid services for on-site training for your team to develop, design and maintain the bot you create. They were the buyers of the Mitsuku bot platform, so they really are cutting edge!

 

 

7 things you can do to build a great bot-strategy to engage users for your events:

  1. Educate users about bots. Tap your influencers or speakers to create videos about using the bot you’ve created for the event. This technique worked for the community polling bot, “Swelly” that saw its user base go from zero to 800,000 in just three months.
  2. Advertise in unexpected places. Mitsuku was launched via mousebreaker, its developer’s website and traditional technology publications vs. crowded bot directory sites. Discern your niche audience and promote the use of the bot for your event through industry publications.
  3. Streamline usage by limiting options. Popular bots being used by 1-800-Flowers and sports gaming company Score found that three specific design elements help with ease of use. First use buttons versus free form input, next replace user actions with automatic transitions, lastly limit options to core use cases.
  4. Language of conversation. Take a lesson from your college composition courses and stay away from slang.  Use standardized wording and established terminology for industry related communications for ease of use when used by an international audience. Ensure the integrity of the conversation is accurate on the part of the bot. This establishes trustworthiness for the bot and promotes positive sharing about the use of the bot. Also, make sure the design allows people to turn on or off notifications.
  5. Register the bot with Facebook Messenger. The process for getting your bot in its Discover tab starts with filling out the Discover submission form located in the Page settings on Facebook.  Poncho is a featured bot on messenger and the exposure has helped the weather bot to increase weekly users to the “tens of thousands” and that average session time has more than doubled, to more than one minute, as the bot has learned to answer follow-up questions.
  6. Learn from others’ mistakes. Follow topbots.com to learn what’s trending and challenge yourself to be a pioneer in the bot space for the meeting planning industry.
  7. Leverage your previous attendees. Promote the bot in emails, newsletters and registration confirmation materials.

It’s been said that we have entered a Bot Gold Rush — an homage to the California Gold Rush era. It was a time when people descended upon the state to find their fortunes through mining gold in the new frontier of the American West. With the announcement from Facebook of its new Bot Store and predictions of it surpassing the App Stores, this scenario creates a similar climate for bot pioneers.

This means you could strike gold with bot technology, so stake your claim soon!

Sherry Hayes-Peirce