Whether it is providing information or answering questions, communicating with participants is an integral part of the job of every meeting or event planner. Communication is even more important these days when everyone is connected, and rapid communication is the norm.

When participants or potential participants ask a question, they expect a quick answer. This can cause a dilemma for a busy planner. With all the tasks you are juggling, finding the opportunity to quickly respond to every communication can be a struggle. Many planners are now turning to technology to help address this dilemma, by deploying chatbots.

Chatbots, scripted responses based on the question put to them, provide computer-to-person communication automatically. They are designed to interact with people as if the reply was coming from another person rather than a computer. For planners, they can function as a personal communications assistant, providing answers to questions and delivering information on an as-needed basis. Chatbots can mimic natural speech when communicating with event participants. Their ability to answer common questions in a natural manner frees up the planner’s time for other duties.

Chatbots can be programmed with the answers to the questions that are on the participants’ minds. The pop-up chat boxes on many internet sites are examples of the chatbot technology. You type in the question and a computer provides the answer. Chatbots work on popular messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, and they can also communicate by text message. They are able to respond immediately with the appropriate information. Chatbots can also be programmed to send out notifications at specified times.

“Think about the last week or two before the event. Planners are often inundated with questions,” explains Elizabeth Glau, CMP, product marketing manager for Sciensio. Questions about topics such as parking, WiFi and even restrooms often come up at the last minute. “You have answers to all the frequently asked questions posted on the event website, and you probably emailed them to the participants. However, they may not have noticed them earlier and now they want the answers. This is where the chatbot can be extremely valuable,” says Glau.

“Chatbots have been around for quite a while, and you are starting to see them everywhere,” says Glau. “However, adding artificial intelligence (AI) has taken this form of computer-based communication to a higher level of sophistication.” Sciensio has developed Eventbots as a chatbot application specifically designed for the meetings industry.

In the past, chatbots were only able to respond to questions worded in a specific way. However, utilizing new developments in AI has added a fresh take on the communication process. Glau says, “Think about your FAQs. Every questions can be asked in many different ways. Questions about 25 or 30 typical topics can be asked in more than a million different ways. AI enables the chatbot to understand the question and give the questioner the answer they really want.”

With smart phones an omnipresent part of today’s lifestyle, text messaging has become a nearly universal method of communication, and chatbots are particularly suited to it. “While Eventbots can utilize any communication channel, we focus on text messaging because everyone has it and everyone knows how to use it,” says Glau. She adds, “The communication feels natural. Event attendees tell me they love the conversation style.”

Technology tools such as Eventbots can be a valuable addition to any planner’s toolbox. By saving time and relieving a bit of the stress, especially in the critical weeks immediately prior to the event, these tools can make a planner’s life much easier.