There’s no denying that technology is paving the way for a bright new future in the world of events. Whether it’s a garden party for 30 VIP guests or a trade show attracting 10,000 delegates, new innovations are constantly changing the way event planners work and what they deliver to clients and visitors.
Following Event Tech Live 2018, we’ve rounded up some of the key trends, ideas and technologies that event planners should be mindful of as they gear up for 2019.
Please note, these ideas were discussed during the day’s key sessions and do not necessarily reflect Freeman’s opinions.
Examine events differently
Everyone knows what they want from an event, but do they know what other people want?
Humans are the centre of everything, and each individual has different emotions, goals and expectations. The same is true of events, so it’s important to consider not just your own experience, but that of those around you. For example, a visitor may be there to learn, network, make new connections or feedback valuable information to their team. An exhibitor may want to know how many people will visit their stand, whether they will engage and how this will improve sales.
Meanwhile the organiser wants to measure ROI, and determine how successful the event will be. To reduce any friction between different people’s needs, technology can be utilised to ensure all groups are getting exactly what they want. Essentially the network underlying tech is an enabler for smoother processes and better connections at every stage in the journey. By removing silos, rethinking the way we work and connecting the dots, we can deliver a better event for everyone.
Data collection has been a hot topic for the past few years, as it allows us to better tailor events for an audience, offer a personalised service to exhibitors and compare and contrast performance and progress. While the focus has been on collecting data, now is the time to look at precisely how it’s used, and ensure we’re getting the most out of it. For example, if someone has stated interest in particular areas, organisers should be able to tailor the communications they receive accordingly.
It’s also important that we offer a fair exchange for the data we’re collecting, and that we’re transparent about the process. While people willingly hand over data to apps like Instagram, they also know they’ll be getting the benefits of the platform, whether for personal or business use. At events, particularly B2B events, we need to incentivise data sharing. For example, someone attending a session will be more willing to have their badge scanned if they receive useful follow up such as slides or poll results. Nobody wants to part with information and data if there’s nothing in it for them.
Revamp the registration process
Collecting data is crucial, but it can also slow down the registration process due to the number of questions that need to be answered. Research shows that while the overall abandonment rate during registration is around 25%, this rises to 40% for mobile registration. With mobile being one of the most popular ways to register for events, planners and organisers say that more needs to be done to improve the process. For example, gamification tactics such as a Buzzfeed style quizzes have been proven to be successful at keeping people engaged.
Meanwhile some planners suggest that organisers should collate data at different parts of the event journey, rather than trying to get as much as possible at registration. By shortening the process, more people are likely to register and attend the event because you’re making it easier for them.
Focus on your marketing strategy
Whether you are running a whole trade show or exhibiting at an event, your marketing strategy is key to success. It takes time and dedication to build engagement and increase client retention. This means taking a before, during and after approach to marketing - ensuring the process continues throughout the year. Hustling for the best speakers, promoting your event with passion and creating that FOMO effect will really help you to stand out in the crowd.
Planners can do this in simple ways, such as encouraging social media sharing before and during the event, as well as utilising different types of technology to analyse the impact of the event. By contrasting the results of different data pools, you can help see the bigger picture and determine how you can retain visitors for the following year. This could include everything from using facial analysis to guess people’s moods at certain events, right through to tracking systems, where you can determine how many people engaged with a certain section of your activation.
The next step in improving the registration process is utilising facial recognition technology. No matter how fast your technology is, if people are fumbling around for their codes or ID, it will slow down the badge printing process. For an event with just a few hundred people, this isn’t a major problem. But when you’re trying to process huge numbers of guests, facial recognition could be a way to really improve speed and efficiency, something that delegates are always looking for.
It could also boost security, by verifying the people that enter and recognising those that have previously caused trouble at a large festival or consumer event. Facial recognition booths can be easily transported, meaning they can be operated at airports, train stations and hotels ahead of events, spreading out the badge printing process and reducing queues on the morning of the event. While this new technology is on the agenda for many, it is still developing, and some planners are concerned by the lack of diversity on offer. However, as it advances, it should effectively recognise people from all age ranges, cultures and races, making it an ideal tool for use at large, international events.
Increase ROI for sponsors and exhibitors
Ultimately for organisers, exhibitors and sponsors, events aren’t just about having a good time. There needs to be a serious return on investment, especially when paying high prices to exhibit at a trade show or sponsor a major consumer event. Particularly for sponsors at consumer events, it’s becoming more difficult to justify costs based on an interaction opportunity during the event itself- there has to be long-term gain. In addition to developing brand activations, organisers should encourage pre- and post-event activity with brands.
This enables them to collate more data, which can then be used for consumer research or to better engage with existing customers. Asking visitors to share images and videos from quirky activations can be a great way to encourage people to continue interacting with the brand, long after the event. Moving forward, brands will need extra value at events, so that they have the right opportunities to work on their relationships with customers and return to the event the following year.
Embrace innovation with caution
When new technology launches it’s always exciting, so it’s no surprise that people are constantly looking for the next great thing. For many planners, wearable technology will be one of the key features of future events, with digital content channeled through watches and glasses rather than smartphones. Some forward thinkers have even floated the idea of digital contact lenses, that could allow new VR experiences. That said, technology moves at such speed, it’s hard to know what will be the new buzz invention year, let alone in the next 10.
In the meantime, organisers and exhibitors shouldn’t get bogged down with the most innovative trends or fun new gimmicks. Instead of focusing on the shiny and new, we need to secure the foundations of good technology by ensuring that the processes and systems we have are working properly. Data sharing is a key part of this, and if we get this right and ensure that accurate information can be shared, we’ll be successfully laying the framework for future innovations.