What types of event-related technology do the top events industry experts and influencers use or interact with most often? We asked that question, and received (as expected) quite a range of answers.
There were, however, a few common tools and themes that emerged across the group:
Social media: For all practical purposes, prior to just the last decade, in order to experience you pretty much had to be there. There was some reporting about the proceedings in industry journals and perhaps some photo sharing, but live blogging was just taking off and YouTube (founded in 2005) was in its infancy.
Today, social media walls, real-time Twitter updates, and cross-platform image and video sharing expand the impact and experience of events far beyond the walls of the hotel ballroom or convention center.
Livestreaming: Related to the point above, livestreaming technology, combined with social media, is being embraced to expand the event experience. As Marissa Pick notes, the integration of Livestream with Facebook "makes it seamless to see professional livestreaming within your feed and leverage engagement from your social media audience."
Audience engagement systems: Long gone are the days when event attendees were content to be passive sponges soaking up the knowledge shared from the podium. Today's attendees expert to be actively engaged in the exchange of information. Audience engagement or response software makes presentations more dynamic and enjoyable for presenters and attendees alike.
A means to an end: Regardless of what the latest shiny gizmo offers, however, these experts noted that the best technology often blends into the event background. It improves the experience for attendees by increasing engagement (as above) or reducing friction (e.g., facial recognition check in).
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The best tech enhances events for both attendees and event organizers by enabling, for example, the event host to collect valuable data with little or no effort on the part of attendees, or to produce cool new lighting and sound effects while slashing energy use (see Will Curran's answer below).
Here are the event-related technologies being embraced by nine top event industry pros:
I am always on technology and even lead an annual event for the Society of Independent Show Organizers called “The Event Innovation Battlefield,“ where the trade show industry is exposed to the latest ideas. I believe that technology makes “what was complex, a trivial pursuit.” The smart tech solutions melt into the infrastructure and become just part of normal life.
I write about event tech and have an event (TSNN Awards) for the trade show industry, as well as work for a parent company with 160 shows worldwide (Tarsus Group) so I am touching event tech on several levels. Anything from registration systems and lead retrieval to AR, VR, ChatBots, event management software, event apps, etc. etc. etc. There's so much of it!
Mostly social media, content-marketing and digital, hybrid and livestreaming tech tools for meetings and events. I really like the 3-D mapping technology that can be used in large keynotes and networking experiences to create an immersive-themed, evolving environment.
I constantly remind our clients that technology is a tool to serve a purpose and help us connect with others. When technology is at its best in our events is when it appears seamlessly to help us get a job done. It’s backstage behind the event experience, not center-stage upstaging our event.
We’re always trying to leverage and test new event-related technology within various parts of our business. We’re longtime Livestream users and we’ve seen massive success given the recent integration into the Facebook pages. It makes it seamless to see professional livestreaming within your feed and leverage engagement from your social media audience.
Also, when you can complement the Facebook/Livestream with a paid social media strategy, from my experience, it’s a real home-run. We’re also loving Sli.do for live audience engagement and interaction. It makes it fun to share questions or comments and others can "like" it to push your question to the top of the stream.
My team has taught me to embrace social media in a way I never would have without their encouragement. (That’s a nice way of admitting they had to shame me into it.) We use online registration systems and mobile apps that we customize for clients, have built out proprietary programs that check people in, in real time onsite, have embraced SMS marketing, audience response systems and RFID technology.
I’ve gone through demos for every conceivable type of event technology in order to be of most value to my clients. I have a greater awareness of event tech than the volume of tech I actually implement. That said, I regularly use event influencer marketing solutions, audience engagement software, and social media walls on the events I directly impact.
I don't get to use event apps and cool things like beacon technology as much as I wish I could. In the AV world, we're primarily dealing with all the magic and technologies no one ever sees.
For example, in the last five years or so, the big move in our part of the industry was the transition from traditional incandescent fixtures and lights that sucked up a ton of energy to LED technology. It uses dramatically less energy and produces way less heat. It means significantly lower electrical bills for clients and enables us to do some very cool things with color and lighting effects.
I run a very low-tech operation myself. As long as I have a laptop and an Internet connection, I am well served. I do, however, think a lot about the technologies that event organizers would, could, or should use and have some thoughts:
There is a surplus of technologies and tools, but a dearth of strategy about where, how and if technology should be integrated into an operation. The best technology for an organization should align with an organization’s roadmap.
Event organizations must establish organized processes and an internal apparatus for selecting and integrating event technology. Doing so makes technology accountable, measurable and (if needed) replaceable.
Those who have read my books or blog posts (for example, Meetings Are a Mess—And How They Got That Way) know that I don't see "event technology" as the latest shiny gizmo or app but as something much broader—of which the most powerful (and oldest and overlooked) incarnation is what I call human process technology.
When done right, the technology of changing the process we use in our meeting sessions is far more effective at creating useful learning and change than just about anything invented recently.