Fresh innovations you need to monitor 
by Maarten Vanneste, President Meeting Support Institute
Cyborg participants. If you compare conferences and meetings that you organized or just attended a few years ago to present examples of events, you are definitely aware of the fact that there are several innovation "streams" that congress planners need to monitor today. There are hybrid meetings where remote participants can gather in new and "bigger" ways online.
There are innovations making participants "present while at home" in new ways. There are social media, Conference Content Capturing technology and there are presentation techniques, co-creation systems and mobile apps all growing and changing and making more things possible. All those innovations can help to make congresses more effective.
The Fresh Conference in Copenhagen is a conference for conference professionals about conference innovation. Participants experience hundreds of things they can apply to improve their own conferences.
The participants are a mix of divers professionals that test, use, apply and even co-create anything that improves meetings' and conferences’ impact and ROI. The conference took place 26-28 January 2014 and highlighted some of the current trends in meetings and conferences.  An exciting novelty was the "Cyborg participant“.
The robot participant was a woman in Belgium that followed the conference in Copenhagen. She operated a kind of Segway with an iPad through which she could “see, listen and talk“. She literally drove the robot around in the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers from her computer at home in Belgium where she could see presentations or network during the breaks. During the opening session Evelien appeared on stage and talked to the participants. 
During the coffee breaks she drove around and met new people that picked up the headset to talk to her. She would even represent Fresh‘s production company, Abbit Meeting Support, on a stand at the conference. After a full day of conference participation we wanted to know how well she did and how participants reacted: Evelien was interviewed by Gerrit Heijkoop, for the online participants.
200 registered online participants from 40 countries joined in for three days. A nice little anecdote is about how Corrie met Sally in the “Scopia meeting room” during Fresh Copenhagen, while both of them live in the same city in Australia. In this bigger online meeting room up to 28 people can meet and see each other via video. Sally and Corrie were just two of them. They‘ve had a coffee together by now in a bar in between places. A meeting which they set up in a private Scopia chat.
These are just two examples that illustrate how many exciting innovations exist and how they can improve conventional meetings. The Fresh Conference 2015 will focus on the “Art” of meetings, with a literal focus on things like music, colour and even poetry and a less literal approach like the "The art of playing games". Our first speakers have already been targeted so it promises to be a great program for anyone who wants to improve the experience of their own meeting or conference or add value to it. As for every year, we aim to hold “Fresh” in January, to give all participants a great start for a new season.
The Meeting Support Institute’s mission is to improve congress effectiveness. Since 2006 the company offers support and services to conference organisers to improve the design of their conferences. w w w. meetingsupport. org, w w w. thefreshconference. com