Event and Wedding Industry

Female #Entrepreneurs Bridge Gap with #Tech #Startups: @VenueBook Case Study via @theDS3group

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I recently covered the 2014 International CES as my team does annually, which is the largest consumer electronics show in the world. As a female business owner myself with a passion for technology and it’s implementation to make business more efficient, I usually hunt first for the seminars and keynotes by female CEOs and members of the C-Suite of major tech and entertainment companies.

Then as a female entrepreneur of color, I look for panels on diversity, multiculturalism, female presence in the tech and entertainment fields as well as innovative products from startups run by women or minorities. These are usually few and far between, but these finds are the highlights of my week in Las Vegas. Somehow, it amazes me how few women are present at the event, whether they are exhibitors, press, panelists, members of the C-Suite or innovators pushing the latest start-up idea for a shot at being the “next big thing.”

Some argue its the chicken vs the egg theory. You need more women studying technology and learning how to code at an early age to foster a healthy interest. Those girls who code arguably grown up to be executives at top companies, so more women will be hired in top positions. Others argue that if there was more workforce flexibility for women in technology fields, women might be more apt to “lean in” and pursue executive roles in technology companies like the non-traditional employee atmospheres that exist at Google, with on-premise daycare, flexible work hours and maternity/paternity leave support for new moms and dads.

While efforts by companies to hire more women are helping to narrow the gender gap, the glass ceiling has been difficult to shatter. A 2012 International Business Report survey showed that women only hold one in five senior management roles globally, with fewer than one in 10 businesses employing a female CEO.
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According to data compiled by the Computing Research Association, fewer than 12 percent of all computer science graduates in the 2010-11 academic year were women — a staggering drop from 1984, when 37 percent of computer science graduates were women. When I come across an example of a tech idea launched by a woman, it becomes important to highlight.

Kelsey Recht knows a thing or two about working in a male-dominated field. The New York City-based entrepreneur started out in the world of finance — long seen as a boys club — and that did not stop her from succeeding in the similarly male-dominated tech industry. If anything, Recht says the gender gap has made her more driven, fueling her desire to pay that success forward.

Recht launched the startup VenueBook.com, an OpenTable-like platform for finding and booking event spaces last year, joining a small but growing percentage of female CEOs in a sector where males largely outnumber women — particularly in leadership positions.

The key to bridging the gap, according to Kelsey, is the support of other women in leadership roles. A study conducted by Pace University professor Susan Schor showed that women in corporate leadership roles, such as CEOs and vice presidents have had up to four strong mentoring relationships that lasted two to five years, while only half of their male counterparts have ever had a mentor.
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VenueBook found support from Joanne Wilson, a tech startup investor who writes the blog Gotham Gal and whom Recht now regards as her mentor, one who is helping to build the “next generation of women leading companies,” Kelsey said.

Mrs. Wilson, an early investor of VenueBook, will join the company’s board this month. “Joanne has been amazing because she’s really supportive of female entrepreneurs, and that’s what helps you survive in the tech world,” Recht said. A 2011 LinkedIn study found that 82 percent of women (in a survey of nearly 1,000 female professionals in the U.S.) agree that having a mentor is critical to their success. But before any entrepreneur can get backing, she or he has to have that million-dollar idea.

The VenueBook concept first came to Recht in Chicago, where as director of finance for a startup nonprofit, she witnessed the frustrating back-and-forth email chain and numerous phone calls involved in planning a fundraiser. She wondered if there was an online platform that allowed corporate event planners — or even an individual planning a friend’s birthday party — to search for a space and find all the relevant information about budget, availability, capacity, menu and other details all in one place. When her search came up empty, VenueBook was born.
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“It became clear that there was inefficiency in this market, and it seemed like the simple solution was to build a better media website, but what I ended up doing is delving that much deeper,” Kelsey said. “The real problem was the booking problem, so we flipped the market totally on its head and digitized the venues’ booking process first.” The website is powered by a digital software solution that is sold to venues, allowing them to handle all of their bookings, interact with the kitchen and maintain their contacts on one platform. Typically, the average time in planning an event from inquiry to booking takes five to seven days, according to Recht. With VenueBook, that process takes 24 hours, she said.

In the early stages of the project, Recht made sure to connect with people with experience in the venue world to ensure that venue managers and event planners would actually meet and collaborate. She also made it a point to recruit the right employees and seek the advice of both female and male mentors. A study from the Centre for Women in Business at the London Business School found the optimal gender balance for teams that drive innovation is 50-50.

“Companies with a balanced team of both men and women tend to outperform [the competition], because both genders have their unique strengths, and there are a lot of men out there who want to build the next generation of women,” Kelsey said. While VenueBook just launched in New York City and is currently focused on bars, restaurants, loft spaces, galleries and general event spaces, the company plans to roll out its platform to other markets around the country over the next year. Kelsey’s advice to those interested in building a brand that stands out against competition?

“Build a beautiful, useful product and talk to your customers often about how your product can make their lives easier. If no one wants your product, you do not have a business.”

My sentiments exactly. Check out VenueBook at www.venuebook.com and follow them on Twitter at @VenueBook. For more articles, especially geared towards event professionals, check out DIRadioCast.com’s “Event Planners” section and search the hashtag #eventprofs online.

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#EventPlanners: Explore @EverNote as an #EventTech Tool: #Webinar

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Evernote: An event professional’s best friend for all things event planning

As Event Planners we are known for walking around with large binders and clipboards filled with contracts, room diagrams, banquet menu selections, a detailed timeline and photos of what the event is supposed to look like.

Perhaps you use pInterest to capture client photos, Google Drive to capture website inquiries from potential customers, Twitter and Facebook to promote your services, and Dropbox to keep track of client data in the cloud. Maybe you do resemble J. Lo in the movie “The Wedding Planner” at events walking around with your earpiece or walkie talkie.

Why not take time out to use #EventTech savvy and explore using Evernote as an event planning tool?
Well you should definitely consider it! Evernote is one of the greatest tools out there that seriously works like an event professional’s mind. From creating lists of things you need to get done, lists for food, potential event locations, and more Evernote is a great place to aggregate your ideas for each client event. Evernote can help you capture all your event details in one spot and be the ultimate team collaboration platform. It’s also compatible on Mac, PC, iPad and Android on your mobile device, tablet and computer.

In just one hour of a FREE WEBINAR from DoubleDutch, you will leave knowing how you can use Evernote for event brainstorming, site visits, document storage and more.

Be very prepared to:

1. Learn tips and tricks about Evernote.
2. Explore how you can use Evernote for team collaboration.
3. Become an Evernote Expert.

Register now for the free webinar on demand from Double Dutch. See the power of using Evernote for Events.

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Speakers:
Dahlia El Gazzar / Tech Spotter / The Meeting Pool
She’s a tech geek with an OMG attitude about technology and recently launched The Meeting Pool, the infohub for all event professionals on all things event tech, apps, social media and more.

Victoria Makras / Events Manager / DoubleDutch
Victoria runs events at DoubleDutch, a company that is embracing mobile and social to transform the event landscape. With over 7 years of event experience and planning more than 50+ events a year, her goal in life is to turn every moment into an event.

For more information on using Evernote for your Business read this great article by Lindsey C. Holmes.

For a great testimonial on using Evernote for Event Professionals read this post by Justin Nowak.

Quick Guide to Setting Up @LinkedIn For Your #Business #smallbiz #tech #branding

LinkedIn’s Company Pages feature is a tool that businesses can use to promote its professionals, products and services, attract qualified prospects for job openings or to engage with clients, potential clients and referral sources.

When you create a Company Page it is different from a personal account. Log in as your personal account then add your company profile and details. You can tag employees of the firm who have Profiles on LinkedIn. When they accept they will automatically be attached to the firm’s Company Page, giving those Profiles additional exposure. Having a Page for your firm on LinkedIn provides a vehicle to provide company-wide information, not specific to any individual, as a supplement to or an extension of your firm’s or organization’s website.

Elements of the Company Page
Company Pages are comprised of four sections: Home, Products and Services, Career, and Insights.

The Home page includes a cover photo and company description, recent Updates posted by the Page, the people on LinkedIn who are connected to your firm or organization, and any featured Groups. Visitors may choose to follow your Company page from here; they can also “like,” comment on, or share your Company’s Updates.

The Careers section is only available with a paid subscription. Here, your company can list jobs, include employee testimonials, and add multimedia elements to attract potential candidates to work at your firm. Visitors can apply for jobs at your organization directly through LinkedIn.

Visitors to your Company page can click on the Insights tab to see former employees they may know, as well as a list of other Company pages viewed by those who also viewed your firm’s Page.

The Products and Services section of your Company page provides a place to describe your areas of expertise, products and services in more detail and give individual links directly to specific pages on your website for more information. If you have created YouTube videos about your company or what you do for clients, you can link to those videos directly from Products and Services. You can also add logos and images to each product or service to make your descriptions more interesting.

Individuals can write Recommendations for your services which can be displayed on your Page as well. Depending on your industry there may be some jurisdiction ethical rules which prohibit recommendations (attorneys, dentists, doctors, etc). Sharing is also enabled for Products and Services, allowing others to share information about your services with their network.

For each service, you can identify an employee contact, which will allow you to let the individual group leader or department head within your organization to be contacted directly. You can also change the title of this section to simply Services, if you prefer.

A key feature not to be overlooked is that you can even add a disclaimer in a designated section if you determine that you need one.

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Updates
Your firm or organization can post Updates on the Company Page. Updates can be a great way to point people to items on your website or in your company’s newsletter that you might send out via MailChimp or Constant Contact. Company Updates can be up to 600 characters long (including spaces). Shared link titles and descriptions can be up to 250 characters each, which is plenty of room to provide summary information, links, and details about upcoming events.

LinkedIn also now allows you to post Targeted Updates. When you create an Update from your Company page, you will see a Share With box pop up. That box provides two options: either All followers or Targeted audience. If you click on Targeted audience, LinkedIn will provide you with several criteria to choose from under Company size, Industry, Function, Seniority, and Geography. After selecting your criteria, you may choose to send your Update to employees and non-employees or to non-employees only. Your firm must have at least one hundred followers within the selected target group to post a Targeted Update.

LinkedIn members can comment on, “like,” or share a Company Update, the same way they would with an individual Update from a Connection. But now LinkedIn Company page administrators can also comment on or “like” Updates as the Company page, rather than just as individuals.

Tips for Company Pages
The keys to making Company pages work for you are to get creative about what you post and to actively engage on a consistent basis. You can benefit from increased interaction with other lawyers, strategic alliances, referral sources, and prospective clients.

As more and more businesses begin using Company pages on LinkedIn, users will begin following these pages, just as they do on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other platforms. Given that LinkedIn is known as the professional network, however, followers of the Updates on your Company page are likely to be those interested in your practice or your professional associations. LinkedIn provides a tool to create a Follow button that you can add to your website.

Post Updates regularly and promote your business Company Page by adding a Follow button to the you organization’s website or blog. Feature the Company Page in e-mails, firm newsletters, and other marketing materials to encourage all of your audience to make it part of their LinkedIn experience.

About the Author:
Allison C. Shields is President of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc. She provides practice management and business development coaching and consulting services to lawyers and law firms in the areas of practice management, productivity, client service, business development, marketing and social media. Allison is the co-author of Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers and LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, both published by the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association in 2012.

Whether you are an established law firm, hotel, medical practice or starting a new business, allow LinkedIn to work for you.

Here are 5 tips to make your Company page great on LinkedIn.
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4 New Apps to Help Attendees to Engage w/ Your #Brand at #Events | #DS3 #Tech #Mobile

By PJ Douglas Sands, Events & Branding Strategist

Mobile apps are no longer an expensive option for planners with big budgets and tech-savvy attendees. Now there are choices that work for events of all sizes and types. As an Event Planner and Consultant, these are four of the newest products which help  digitize the event experience and engage attendees to showcase your branding strategy. Often my small business clients seek advice on how to best implement technology to make their events and businesses run smoother, so I am constantly looking for apps that are cost effective and useful across multiple platforms.

When exhibiting at a convention or expo, I find it is most useful to make the customer experience engaging. Your elevator pitch is usually no longer than 30 seconds, and capturing their contact information to continue the conversation at length to pitch your brand is priority. Whether you are running the convention, expo or conference or exhibiting, here are some amazing apps to engage attendees and exhibitors alike. The goal always? Increase ROI.

EXMO

EXMO launched in early October and is targeted at events with fewer than 1,000 attendees. The app is self-service: Planners log into a Web site, input information regarding location, schedules, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors, and the system creates the app and a simple Web page that planners can promote in emails and through social media. For ticket sales, EXMO has a partnership with EventBrite so attendees can purchase tickets and planners can track sales through the app.

EXMO Event Organizer Software

The system offers interactive features including real-time polls, feedback forms, push notifications, and integration with social networks. During an event, organizers have the option to share content on an “Activity Wall,” a large screen display of information such as announcements, polls, tweets, and photos. The app is free for attendees, and planners pay nothing to use the system if their events have 50 people or fewer. For larger events, planners pay $2 per person (and less as numbers increase) using a credit system that can be rolled over to future events.

E-proDirect’s EventAccess

EventAccess launched in early October and is the newest app from E-proDirect, a marketing and technology company focused on the meetings and convention industry. For $2,500, EventAccess provides a multi-platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry) native app and a Web app in as few as three days. Planners provide content to customize the app, for example: a welcome message or video, venue information, links to registration and surveys, maps, schedules, and as many as 12 social media links. The app can become a source of revenue through the sale of banner ads or by charging exhibitors a fee to have an enhanced listing that could include a product video and contact information for a company representative. E-proDirect provides a revenue calculator to help planners estimate the earnings potential.

E-Pro Direct Event Apps

EventAccess also includes information about dining, attractions, and transportation within a five-mile radius of the event, using information from Yelp. Once the app is created, planners use a dashboard to update content and track data such as downloads and ad click-through rate. Clients also receive marketing support that includes templates for press releases and tweets, screenshots, QR codes, and a mobile-optimized landing page that can be shared in emails and on social networks.

Pathable

Pathable has just released its Event Experience Platform, which C.E.O. Jordan Schwartz says is intended to help planners facilitate engagement at events and build a year-round community. “We have the desktop and integrated mobile experience, so we don’t drop you at the door of the conference and we don’t meet you at the door of the conference. This is a long-term engagement,” Schwartz said.

Pathable creates a custom URL that can be embedded into a client’s existing Web site. Planners use the system to manage the agenda, exhibitor listings, private meeting scheduling, interactive facility and trade show floor maps, and surveys. It’s also integrated with several event registration systems, including Cvent, RegOnline, and Etouches, to capture new registrations in real time.

Pathable - Multiple Platforms for Event Management

When attendees register, they can tag their profiles with keywords related to their industries and interests, search for other attendees with similar tags, and initiate private conversations. Profiles can also be linked to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to identify existing connections at the event. Exhibitors get a landing page with instructions on how to customize it with their logo, company information, and more. An upcoming update will turn the system into a revenue source by inviting exhibitors to upgrade their presence to receive lead retrieval data and an enhanced listing. Pathable pricing starts at $4,250 for single events and is based on the number of attendees, exhibiting and sponsoring companies, and events planned. Discounts are available for larger events, multiple event contracts, and nonprofits.

 

AtEvent

AtEvent provides a suite of apps that are intended to facilitate lead retrieval and prospect nurturing at trade shows and conferences. The four apps—Card Scanner, Fishbowl, Attendee, and Check-In—can be used independently or in tandem, and all feed information into a single system so brands can capture a holistic view of each interaction that occurs with a prospect. Using the Card Scanner app, exhibitors can take a photo of business cards, add follow-up actions, and then transmit that information to their marketing automation system. The Check-In app is used on a tablet to track people as they arrive at a booth. If a person is already in the company’s marketing system, the app will pull in contextual information so the interaction is more meaningful.

AtEvent mobile apps

The Fishbowl app is a self-service option for attendees to input contact information to be entered in booth contests, sign up for newsletters, and request information. Finally, the Attendee app provides a digital view of a brand’s physical presence at an event. Attendees download the app to get access to product information, videos, photos, surveys, contact information, and more. Since launching in April, AtEvent has worked with companies such as Rackspace, SAS, and Adobe.

 

@Wordpress #Blogging platform unveils new option for #smallbiz owners – @DiradioCast Spotlight

Wordpress.org unveils a new product for small business customersSurvey questions:
1) As a small business, what service are you using to build, host and maintain your website?
2) Do you post and update mostly from your desktop or via your mobile device?
3) Do you use an app or your browser to post pictures, videos and articles to your site?

Used by many, premier blogging platform WordPress unveiled a new option recently for small to mid-level businesses, WordPress.com Enterprise.

While large companies such as CNN, UPS and NBC Sports can handle the high price tag on WordPress.com VIP ($3,750 a month – not including setup fees), this service is pricey for smaller companies.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is offering WordPress.com Enterprise as an in-between option for small businesses and other customers who need more power than a regular WordPress.com account, but not a full-scale WordPress VIP account. The newest option gives users unlimited traffic, bandwidth and storage for $500 a month. Users also get access to a set of approved WordPress plugins and templates.

Thus far, brands like Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Chef, ESPN’s Digital and Print Products, Soleil Moon Frye’s Moonfrye.com, and The Crosby Press from JackThreads are already using the new platform.

Atlanta based website and mobile app designer DistinctiveImpression MMG uses WordPress for many of their international clients including DiRadioCast New Media Network, International Recording Artist Gia Miran, the Atlanta Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and Miss Universe Bahamas 2012 Celeste Marshall. In addition to the variety of plugins and templates encouraging 2-way communication via social media, Distinctive Impression feels their clients find WordPress to be user-friendly, easily accessible via mobile devices for posts and maintenance as well as cost effective.

According to Black Enterprise WordPress.com Enterprise may not be an ideal solution for many smaller businesses given that the $500 price point is a lot higher than most web hosts charge for similar service and more freedom and options. While WordPress is highly popular, its hosting services has competition from newer and cheaper options such as Tumblr, Squarespace and BlogDroid—all of which have gained major clients in the last few months.

It turns out that this is just the latest in a series of vertical launches WordPress.com has made to explicitly spur expansion beyond its signature blogging specialty and into building more general websites for all types of businesses. Special WordPress templates for restaurants, weddings, bands, and cities have all been launched in recent months specifically aimed at helping small businesses and brands build clean, useful websites that can be easily accessed from both desktop and mobile devices.

Toni Schneider, the CEO of WordPress.com’s parent company Automattic indicates in his Tech Crunch interview what makes WordPress.com/restaurants in particular much different from the product’s core offering and how this plays into its larger strategy.

When it comes to reach and the competitive landscape, WordPress is in a unique spot. It’s a relative giant when viewed against other web development and content management platforms, but there is still a lot of room to grow. Schneider broke down the numbers for us:

“Overall, if you look at the entire Internet and just go down the list at what all the different sites run… 17.4 percent of all sites on the Internet are powered by WordPress. The next number two platform is Joomla, which is around 3 percent, and Drupal is around 2 something. And then, I believe Blogger is number four with one or 1.5 percent.

If you notice, that doesn’t add up to 100 percent. So actually, the majority of the web is still custom made sites that don’t even use a content management system.”

Atlanta based website designers and mobile app creators DistinctiveImpression MMG the parent company of DiRadioCast.com

Small Businesses Use iPads, Tablets, Technology For Efficiency to Compete

Small businesses are using technology to help them operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in an increasingly competitive environment. 
Real estate brokerage owner: Krisstina Wise likes the app DocuSign, which enables digital signatures: “It’s rare that we need an ink signature anymore.”
Real estate brokerage owner: Krisstina Wise likes the app DocuSign, which enables digital signatures: "It's rare that we need an ink signature anymore."

Photos by Maxine Park,, USA TODAY

Small businesses are using technology to help them operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in an increasingly competitive environment. Each Monday, USA TODAY looks at new ways companies are gaining an innovative edge in a tough economy.

  • Theater design consultant Joshua Allen doesn’t routinely travel the country with a laptop for work anymore. The Apple iPad has become Allen’s go-to traveling companion. “At first I was hesitant,” he says. But then, “My bag got so much lighter … and my chiropractor bill went down.”

What made lightening the load possible for Allen and his colleagues at Raleigh, N.C.-based Theatre Consultants Collaborative are the numerous apps designed for the iPad to help folks operating smaller enterprises conduct business. Allen relies on at least a half-dozen apps that help him take notes, consult architectural drawings and even see behind walls.

Indeed, for all the attention that the iPad gets as a play device that lets you browse the Web, read books, watch movies and knock down a few pigs with Angry Birds, more and more people at the wheel of small companies are turning to Apple’s popular tablet for productive purposes, while potentially saving the business time and money. Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe says 72% of businesses that have tablets are using the iPad. And the iPad boasts by far the largest number of productivity apps for tablets, leaving Android, Microsoft and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry to play catch-up.

Apple has been pushing the iPad’s business virtues and along the way trying to woo the small-business crowd with some of its own apps. Most notably, there’s the optional iWork suite consisting of iPad versions of the Numbers spreadsheet, Pages word processor and Keynote presentation program, each $9.99.

But small businesses are increasingly summoning apps from outside developers that turn the iPad into an all-purpose hub for telephony, communications and e-commerce, and a gateway to the PC at the office — or to all the files stored in the cloud, through such services as Box, Dropbox and SugarSync. The scope of business apps for the iPad is as broad as the companies and entrepreneurs that take advantage of them. A company might bill a customer through the iPad using an app such as Invoice2go ($14.99), scan business cards and receipts through Pixoft’s TurboScan ($1.99) and keep tabs on customers through FileMaker’s recently redesigned Bento 4 database ($9.99).

Most people don’t think of the iPad as a phone. But several apps can let it function as one. Donnie Clapp, communications manager at MercuryCSC, an outdoors-oriented communications and public relations firm in Bozeman, Mont., says the company got rid of its traditional — and pricey — land-line PBX phone system and is now using the Line2 app from Toktumi on iPads, the iPhone and on desktop PCs. It lets iPad owners place calls over Wi-Fi or cellular networks. There are free and pay-as-you-go plans, and businesses can hold conference calls for up to 20 people. “A lot of us carry iPads around to meetings, and it’s nice to have our phones with us,” Clapp says.

Widespread appeal

Some apps are meant to appeal to both businesses and consumers. As it is on other devices, the Skype app for the iPad is as much an inexpensive way for folks to keep in touch with relatives and friends who may be living or traveling overseas, as it is for businesses who want to stay in touch with commercial contacts in foreign countries, all in full-screen video.

Jennifer Plotnek, a lead behavior coach at Retrofit Weight Loss in Chicago, says, “I use my iPad all the time to Skype, as do my clients. I have had clients use their iPad to meet with me in airports, cabs, cars and offices.”

Real estate brokerage firm Good Life Team uses a variety of real estate apps for the iPad to help run their business. But some apps spell business all the way. The free Roambi Analytics Visualizer from MeLLmo, for example, lets companies produce trend and sales performance charts in a handsome visual dashboard.

Companies such as Square, Intuit and PayPal produce apps and mobile credit card readers that plug into the audio jack on the iPad and let merchants swipe customer credit cards. Square charges 2.75% per swipe for American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa cards, or $275 a month under a new flat pricing plan that eliminates per-swipe fees for small businesses that process up to $250,000 a year.

No keyboard a drawback

Of course, it’s still pretty rare for businesses to ditch the longstanding tools of the trade altogether in favor of a slate, even one as versatile as the iPad. So the iPad more often than not complements desktop PCs, laptops and smartphones rather than totally replacing those devices. Indeed, while most of the business people USA TODAY talked to showered high praise on the iPad, the lack of a physical keyboard is still an impediment in some instances.

“The biggest change is the app stores on post-PC devices,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester. “Small-business workers can buy apps directly from the developers through the app stores, so they have access to a wider variety of tools (at lower prices) than they had in the PC era, all optimized for mobile devices.”

A slew of rival tablet makers are hoping to loosen Apple’s dominant grip on the market. The Windows 8-based RT Surface tablet that Microsoft unveiled in June, and is expected to start selling in the fall, is targeted at the mobile professional. Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet comes with a so-called S Pen that business people can use to draw or take notes. And Lenovo sells the business-oriented ThinkPad Tablet, an Android device with a digitizer pen.

A Forrester survey of 10,000 information workers in 17 countries, conducted at the end of 2011, found that 24% of workers at small businesses, defined as 20 to 99 employees, use a touch-screen tablet for work. Forrester found that numerous productivity apps are equally as popular if not more so on tablets as on PCs, including note-taking apps, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), team document-sharing sites (SharePoint, eRoom, Lotus Quickr) and Web meeting or Web conferencing (Cisco WebEx Meetings, GoToMeeting).

According to a recent Yankee Group survey, e-mail, database, corporate instant messaging and Web conferencing are the most common types of apps used on tablets by businesses of 50 people or fewer, though the overall percentage use of any given app category is modest. For example, just 14% of the businesses use tablet apps for e-mail and 8% use them for databases. Howe sees those percentages growing quickly. “Tablets are fundamentally reinventing business software and, in that process, business itself. We sometimes forget we’re only two years into the tablet revolution — the equivalent of 1980 in the PC era — and yet the tablet is already the center of new software development.”

Other ways that apps are helping businesses to operate more efficiently.

Task management. Baltimore wedding photographer Cayne Zimmerman and his wife, Christine, employ Bento 4 for the iPad to help manage his client database and stay on top of contracts, invoices and notes. Zimmerman says he investigated Web-based alternatives but found they weren’t as conducive. Zimmerman is also high on OmniFocus for iPad, which he describes as “bread-and-butter task-manager software that’s intertwined into my daily activities.” Among other features, the $19.99 app from The Omni Group lets him organize tasks into projects and folders and conduct location-aware task lists that can remind him of something he needs to do when he’s at a specific location.

Time savings. In Austin, real estate brokerage owner Krisstina Wise is partial to DocuSign, a popular app that lets customers sign contracts digitally. It has become a common practice in her field. Wise still encounters situations — certain short-sale transactions or foreclosures come to mind — where banks want people to sign on actual paper with an actual pen.

But “it’s rare that we need an ink signature anymore,” she says. “DocuSign has become a verb in our (15-person sales) office. ‘OK, we’re DocuSigning it.’ We pretty much run our business on the iPad.” Given the nature of her business, Wise also uses such real estate search apps as the Realtor.com app from Move Inc. and Zillow Real Estate, both free.

Allen’s firm is hired by architects seeking help designing performing arts facilities. Among his favorite apps is Noteshelf, a $5.99 handwriting note-taker from Ramki, that he says is terrific for “sketching things up. I set up a notebook for each project.”

Allen also doesn’t think he could live without GoodReader and Evernote. The former lets Allen read and mark up the many PDF documents that he comes across on the job — the app costs $4.99 and is from Good.iWare. Allen relies on the free Evernote app in part to capture voice notes at meetings that he can then sync back to his computer. “We use Evernote religiously,” he says.

AutoCAD WS is also in Allen’s rotation, as a free app to share AutoCAD computer-aided design drawings.

Still another app he puts to work from time-to-time is Duplicam for iPad from DanCreek Design. Used in conjunction with the iPhone, Duplicam lets Allen wirelessly view and control the camera on the iPhone from the tablet. That way if he’s involved in a construction project and sees a hole in a wall, he can stick his hand inside the cavity with the phone and turn on a flashlight. He can then see on the iPad what the iPhone is seeing inside, capturing video or photos along the way. It’s helpful to check out wiring behind walls, he says, that would not otherwise be easily visible.

It’s feats like those that make it evident to Allen — and numerous other people working at small and modest-size companies — that tablets mean business.

By Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY