Jessica Weedon is marketing executive at BCD Meetings & Events. Before building her experience at The Stars Group, Betfair and the London Stock Exchange, Jessica earned a degree in International Hospitality Management from Bournemouth University, and a CIM Diploma of Event Management, Marketing and Communications from The Event Academy.
Five hot technology trends in meetings and events
A day rarely goes by without news of a revolutionary technical advancement, apparently set to disrupt life as we know it. The events industry is right in the thick of it, so we caught up with experts across our business for their thoughts, to explore current trends, and take a glimpse into the future.
Hybrid events combine a ‘live’ person with ‘virtual’ component; for example – TED Talks. There are countless reasons why TED Talks have been such a success but a key one is that they are available online for free, and anyone can ‘attend’. Hybrid events expand the reach of your audience and provide the opportunity for greater reach and scope.
In the current era of globalization, companies have found that hybrid events offer the perfect solution to their event requirements, and although not the most recent of tech trends, they have become hugely popular as the technology has improved. Accessibility has improved significantly with people able to participate in live shows, talks and Q&A’s. Events can be streamed in real-time and people can feel part of it regardless of their location, maintaining the human connection element to the event that is key.
Clever use of live-streaming technology can also engage new customers and employees. According to a study by Livestream, 80% of brand audiences said they would rather watch live video than read a blog, and 82% said they prefer live video to reading social media posts. Live streaming creates an immediacy and authenticity as it is in the moment and un-editable.
A PwC report that analysed the accelerating development and take-up of Artificial Intelligence (AI), estimates global GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will be up to 14% higher in 2030 - the equivalent of an additional $15.7 trillion, due to the economic impact of AI. One of the three drivers of the economic impact of AI is in increased consumer demand resulting from the availability of personalised and higher-quality AI-enhanced products and services.
AI offers the opportunity to create a more personalised service and an enhanced event experience. This is done by suggesting more relevant sessions, speakers to attend, networking opportunities and products to investigate. It also supports event managers in their reporting and gathering of data and feedback from an event.
Chat bots streamline customer experience, through event apps, Facebook, LinkedIn or on a website. Customers can get quick, on demand responses that are personalised, often removing the need for them to call a help desk. Chats bots also help the event's organisers with freeing up their time to focus on other management duties. AI isn’t as costly as one may think and is often worth the investment, where it really enhances the customer experience. It is already becoming a must-have tech in the industry.
AI is changing the ways that events are run. We will see more of emotion tracking and wearable tech, to track delegates moods and reactions, to then improve the personalised experience for the next event.
AI is a key driver in facial recognition developments which we’ve become accustomed to through activities such as tagging photos on social media, unlocking (and paying with) mobiles, and passing through security at airports. Such technology offers a huge opportunity during events, it aids the delegate management process including safety and duty of care as well as providing efficiencies at registration. These days, it’s a common requirement in a world where people view personal safety as a priority.
Recent advancements in this field can give even more insight to organisers. Recognition software and sensors now make it possible to track the emotions from crowds allowing organisers to analyse the engagement levels of attendees and design amendments to the programme accordingly. A simple highlight would be ‘stressed during lunch’, technology can alert staff in a busy meal area to a problem which needs immediate attention and ensure a resolution is on hand quickly.
This kind of tracking can pay dividends in the post event analysis and the planning for future events through insight into which parts of the event grabbed people's attention, and which parts were less engaging.
Event Apps are now very common in our industry, allowing personalisation of the client experience. Delegates can track their schedules, speaker sessions and networking opportunities and are particularly useful at larger events, conferences and exhibitions, where they can help delegates cut through an enormous amount of information and data. These days it is unusual for an event host not to offer an app to improve the customer experience, however, it’s important to remember that you need to get it right as superfluous features can have a negative impact on the experience.
According to a survey by Event Manager Blog, 91% of event organisers believe event apps are ‘definitely relevant’ for their events. The same survey identified that the key benefits of event apps were ease of setting up and integration, the ability to work offline, and the use of engagement features such as live polling and Q&A.
From a CSR perspective, event apps are popular because they reduce the amount of printed materials required, which is better for the environment. Even before the event, companies can use email marketing and paperless promotion through event apps. Not only is this sustainable but audience engagement is also greater.
We are very accustomed to booking engines and their uses as they have been around since the late 1990’s. Advancements in the technology have benefited users but they are not leveraged enough - especially for data.
Booking engines can be used by event planners to source and manage accommodation for attendees. By identifying and using hotel partners there is also the potential to generate revenue.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can incorporate pre-negotiated rates with hotel groups and rates from third party sites such as booking.com and Expedia, offering the lowest rates regardless which channel is used. Modern solutions should be mobile-friendly and offer instant live rates.
Data from booking engines can then be gathered from the booking service and fed back via the agency to the exhibitors and event organiser, helping to improve future events. Analysing trends of peak bookings, campaigns and geo mapping can proactively improve solutions.
Combining a hotel booking service with event registration can supply a much greater personalised service. Find partners who are passionate about the delegate journey and look to find ways of constantly improving this.
Technology in events is increasingly prevalent and as people grow continuously more technology dependant, they expect instant, accessible and high-quality services.
Most important is to ensure that the technology you use supports your organisation’s strategy and event objectives. Make a strong business case first. When choosing an agent or technology solutions provider, it is important to do your research. The main considerations should be onboarding, usability, personalisation and cost.
Tech in events shouldn’t be for tech’s sake. It’s there to improve the customer experience and add value.
Come and visit us at Event Tech Live, in London from 7-8 November 2018. We will showcase our industry leading services in Accommodation and Delegate Management Services, and how we are using new technologies to create an unforgettable customer experience.