Event Technology – Your questions answered

ASK YOURSELF SOME QUESTIONS – SEE THE LIGHT 

It doesn’t matter what event you are running, you still need to know what you are trying to achieve and critically understand who your audience is and what they want to hear. 

Clear event objectives must come before jumping to any whizzy technological solution.  But once clear on the who, what, when and why, event organisers still need to ask themselves a few more technology linked questions; 

  • Is it simpler and quicker using technology to get the result I’m after?
  • Does technology improve the audience/delegate experience?
  • Will my investment in technology be able to save time and money?
  • Will my audience get it?

There is a time and a place for event technology, particularly when technology provides a solution to an idea.  But one size doesn’t fit all and technology for technology’s sake is not the answer. 

But what is?

ONE STOP APP SHOP 

Rumour has it that the number of new Apps being launched has peaked.  We’re all apped out! 

But changes are clearly afoot.  When once you might have had a separate App for your micro-event website, another for registration and a third for interactive voting, now the emphasis is finding a solution that does all three. 

Companies like Crowdcoms (www.crowdcomms.com) and Eventbuizz (www.eventbuizz.com) are making serious strides in seamlessly integrating all key elements in one easy to use App which provides the much heralded “seamless convergence experience.”  Ease of use is a key driver, but this push to make life easier is also driven by data analysis and all important data security. 

It makes sense.  But don’t forget to factor in the support and help of a human.  It’s easy, particularly for an inexperienced event organiser to be blinded by science.  So find yourself a company you can trust, someone who wants to really know your business before selling you anything, a person that can teach you how to use technology.   

Be prepared to be challenged in your thinking, particularly if you go down the full digital route. Also be prepared to challenge your delegates without forgetting to take them with you.  They may have been used to paper programmes and paper plans.  Go digital and these comfort blankets may go.  And if you’ve an app on your phone which enables you to ask a question of the plenary speaker, do you really need hand held mics and another costly pair of hands? 

As event Apps become more integrated, the data they hold will become even more important.  Central data stacks are here now.  This is not only helpful for the registration and data management processes but is fast becoming an invaluable marketing commodity.  Analysis will show in the not to distant future, when delegates arrived, where they went, which exhibitor stands they visited, how long they spent attending which breakout sessions, what food they consumed, how they voted in a plenary session and which questions they asked.  Scary?  Well it depends on what your views are on Big Brother.  It also highlights that security surrounding the safekeeping of data will be absolutely key in a year when GDPR is already a hot topic.

INTERACTIVE AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT 

Interactive audience engagement technology is one area which immediately springs to mind when thinking about Event Tech.  It’s been around for over 30 years and IML with their black voting keypads and “fastest finger first” technology were an early pioneer.   

Crystal Interactive (www.crystalinteractive.net) arguably one of the UK Leaders in this field have run thousands of events during the past two decades.  They recognise audience engagement is key in what-ever form it takes with delegates wanting to feel very much part of the event with their views and opinions listened to.   

But how whizzy does the technology have to be to be effective? 

Well, asking a question on an iPad or voting using an app may seem so 1990s, but it is still very popular.  Afterall people still don’t like to ask “stupid” questions in public or share their personal views by a show of hands.  

But there are other reasons to consider using “dated tech equipment” such as dedicated voting handsets or hired in tablets.  Whilst it’s true that the smart phone has become the device of choice for event interactivity it’s worth stopping and thinking fully before you risk your event.  Not every venue has Wi-Fi you can rely on.  Three hundred people trying to download a particular event App all at once with dodgy Wi-Fi is not easy.  And there are many events where organisers simply don’t know who is going to be walking through the venue door on the day. Time then for the event organiser to definitely provide the hardware to protect the integrity of the event.  

But it’s true to say that most event organisers are always looking for more creative solutions as well as ROR.  The latest buzz according to Crystal Interactive are dubbed smart wearables – similar to an Apple watch.  Crystal have partnered with Canadian company klik and offer smart wristbands, badges and buttons – ideal for networking and delegate management.  Each has an LED light and in the case of a badge, when delegates meet somebody, they want to connect with they simply click their respective buttons and contact details are exchanged.  Excitement appears to be generated when both badges flash simultaneously to confirm digital business card exchange. 

The same badges can be a useful tool to direct people to breakout sessions.  How often have people forgotten which session they were due to go to let alone know where it is within the venue?  With different coloured LED lit badges, delegates can be made aware the next session is about to start and can simply follow the colours, aiding timekeeping and delegate flow.

TECHNOLOGY FUTURE – NOW OR LATER? 

So what technology is here NOW and what is still really in a LATER stage of development? meetingsclub crystal ball time! 

NOW 

  • SELF PRINTING BADGE KIOSKS – Crowdcomms self-printing badge unit PRONTO can really speed up the registration process – https://www.crowdcomms.com/blog/event-self-printing-badge/ 
  • WIRELESS HEADPHONE SOLUTIONS – Silent Seminars (www.silentseminars.com) are a UK -leader in providing headphones for breakout sessions.  Ideal for exhibitions where seminars are held within the exhibition itself or a large room where there is no traditional room partitioning.  Up to 10 simultaneous presentations can be made each with their own set frequency.  Noise reducing headphones help to focus on the speaker message and even multi-panel sessions cause no problem for the delegate as one feed is taken from the mixing desk.  Good also for silent discos!

TWITTER VENDING MACHINES  

No, Twitter has not entered the event market.  BUT recently rebranded company Sparq (part of the Saville Group – www.sparq.livehas successfully developed a fun vending machine which is a great attraction.  A pre-event social media campaign using Twitter drives event attendees to your stand.  Delegates then have the chance to win a prize or product by playing an interactive game having entered their email contact details for future follow up.  

LATER 

  • FACIAL RECOGNITION FACILITIES – it’s nearly there, but still a bit “clunky.”  When perfected it could change for ever how registration is conducted, particularly important for secure events. 
  • VIDEO MAPPING – the art of projecting video onto irregularly shaped walls and buildings to create an illusionary 3D image.  Looks good but is still expensive and really the preserve of big budget product launches or music concerts. 
  • VIRTUAL REALITY(VR) – event producers and technology companies are still trying to think how VR can be used in the event world.  It’s still rare, possibly because of cost, but possibly because the use is not completely clear.  Set up costs and the VR environment creation are not cheap.  But it has been used for worldwide car launches where it is not possible to get every dealer under the same roof.  Seated in “car” chairs, add in a degree of movement and that all important new car smell and you could be driving the real thing?  Or what about saving all that time and trouble when undertaking site visits?  Surely an immersive 360-degree experience could help make the decision to sign up?