What are the top trends in the events space, particularly with regard to event technology? When we asked that question of 11 top events experts, we got a fascinating array of answers.
But three enterprise tech trends clearly stood out, cited by several of these influential event professionals:
Augmented reality (AR) and to a lesser extent, virtual reality (VR): AR is finding its way into conference floor maps, booth displays, event games and activities, and elsewhere. Vendors are developing creative ways to apply the technology to boost attendee engagement.
Artificial intelligence (AI): The primary event use of AI technology thus far has been through text- or voice-based chatbots, which can answer many simple questions for attendees and help escalate issues if needed. Expect the use of this technology to become more sophisticated as time goes on, in areas such as personalizing the event experience.
Data integration and analytics: Event planners are increasing choosing tools based on their ability to integrate with other applications and platforms, both from an operational and data analysis perspective. As Rachel Wimberly points out, "Show organizers do NOT want multiple sign ins and they NEED good data to be able to be pulled in a uniform way from all their systems."
These experts identified a number of other event tech-fueled trends to watch as well, including livestreaming, automated check in, personalization of the event experience, influencer marketing, the increasing use (and sophistication) of video, and real-time collaboration.
Here are the expert's views on event trends.
The biggest trend that I want to see is making tech trivial. It should solve problems and not be considered an actual discipline. It’s part of the air and the sound and the light and every day life.
I recently detailed Eight Meetings Tech Trends to Watch for 2018 on my blog. A few of the key trends include:
Augmented reality (AR): Google Indoor Maps and newer products using beacon technology can provide conference attendees with a sort of "indoor GPS" system to find their way around large event venues. And as I note, "AR technology will also open the door to gamification options (a Pokémon-like event scavenger hunt?) as well as interactive booths, signs, banners and displays."
AI-powered chatbots: "The explosion of voice-activated systems such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home attest to the rapidly increasing capabilities of these systems. However, the voice interface does not work well in crowded environments such as a meeting room or a tradeshow...(so) text-based systems are starting to emerge as an excellent chatbot alternative."
Cloud-based software: This will make an “event tech deck” and integration easier, Powerful event technology platforms and advanced APIs are making it easier to share data between applications for functions like event registration, exhibitor and speaker management, audience polling/engagement, event logistics, and data analytics and marketing.
Friction-free event check-in: Automated check-in terminals are becoming standard at many events. Beacon technology is also working to streamline event check-in, slicing wait time down to just a few seconds. And facial recognition technologies are moving into event registration, making event check-in up to five times faster.
Artificial intelligence (AI), AR, VR and DATA analytics—also better integration between platforms. Show organizers do NOT want multiple sign ins and they NEED good data to be able to be pulled in a uniform way from all their systems.
Livestreaming, digital and hybrid events are getting a second wind as they gain steam in organization's event offerings. Several years ago, they were the top of the trends list and then almost disappeared. Now we are seeing their resurgence as more organizations understand that digital is here to stay and can be optimized for their customers.
I also see a focus on real-time collaborative technology tools, especially in the event cycle using them as on-ramp to the actual event and an off-ramp from the experience.
As technology becomes more advanced, I’d say the personalized experience matters more to consumers into 2018 than anything else. Six out of ten millennials would rather spend their money on an experience than buying material goods.
Now that social media tools allow businesses to not only promote their event but also listen to attendees before, during, and after the event, those businesses can better understand what makes the difference for them between a fine event and a must-attend—which is priceless.
Personalization also can help with long-term customer loyalty: if you’re able to show your customers you know them, the relationships will grow.
Technology can be a powerful tool to streamline processes, automate tasks, encourage networking, track attendee behavior and provide real time information. What it can’t do is replace the face to face experience that is unique to events and that is integral to building relationships and trusted partnerships.
Think of how great everyone seems in their online profile and how often those same people are duds when you meet them in person. It’s imperative for people to remember that events can be enhanced by technology but cannot be replaced by it.
Technology is changing the length of general sessions, how content is formatted and presented, how people process information and what they expect/need to remain engaged. AI and VR are on their way to the events world and, in my opinion, will transform tradeshow floors in particular.
Without a doubt it’s influencer marketing for events and the software that can facilitate conversions and analytics. VR/AR and Blockchain get all the press but I’m not seeing the rate of adoption with those as I am with influencer marketing. Events need to sell tickets and competition continues to escalate. Influencers (especially the ones already closest to your event) help humanize and amplify your message and if you empower them with resources, the results are tangible.
One of the biggest technology changes we're dealing with is the growth in video. People don't want to see a static PowerPoint anymore—they want amazing video content, cool transitions, intros, outros. They want to see it on their phones, in virtual reality, on the big screen. They want to see it combined with lighting. Everyone wants video, and they want it now, and they want it to be amazing.
A second trend I've been talking about a lot on our webinars is the security aspect of technology. People are realizing they need to be more proactive about this. We talk about security vulnerabilities people just aren't aware of, gaps they hadn't thought about, and they are mind blown. It's not just related to event apps, but about personal security email, passwords, how you surf the web, and how you interact with WiFi.
And as much as I want to preach moving to more technology, one other trend I've been seeing and talking about big time is a move back to basics. Continuing to layer on more technologies can make events kind of convoluted. So, for example, instead of looking at how to incorporate video, start with your event's messaging. Then build video content around that first.
The biggest topics of discussion are augmented, virtual and mixed reality; proximity technologies; artificial intelligence, data analysis, and block chain technologies. Of that list, I’ve observed that wearable beacons and other proximity-based technologies, as well as artificial intelligence are getting the most traction from planners looking to try something new. Data analysis platforms are not far behind.
Evolution of content capture and amplification. Live-streaming and scheduled replays are continuing to evolve. Organizers are realizing it’s less about trying to monetize and more about growing one’s brand and value to the profession.
Secondarily, we’ll learn that event tech suppliers who’s primary product is a mobile app will be disrupted by the "catcher mitt" companies who deliver value throughout a major conference’s life cycle.
I'm in danger of being swamped with the amount of participant-driven and participation-rich design and meeting facilitation I've already booked this year. Slowly but surely, the meeting industry is learning that the old lecture-saturated conference model is increasingly inferior to meeting designs that incorporate the active learning, connections, engagement, and outcomes that attendees actually want and need.