This past year was certainly an interesting one in the world of technology and events. We saw some very impressive use of pyrotechnics, lighting and 3D projection at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. We saw how video has become a very important marketing tool for event planners with new live streaming tools like Instagram and Facebook Live making their mark in the industry. We also saw the use of new kinds of engagement tools that are radically changing the way people experience events – not to forget some much-anticipated applications of AR and VR technology.
But what really stood out in 2016? Which event technology made a difference? And what should we expect for 2017?
EventTech Talk spoke to some of the industry’s well known event tech experts to find out what they felt was important in 2016 and what they think will be the next big thing over the coming year.
Have a look below to see what they had to say:
Michelle Bruno, Publisher, Event Tech Brief
Most of the technology that I have observed over this past year represented incremental changes to existing apps and platforms or the use of existing and familiar technology to address new markets. There was clearly one exception: chatbots.
For those who are unfamiliar with conversational bots, picture Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, both machine interfaces with which to carry on a dialogue, make requests, or ask for information.
A chatbot works on the same principle, but instead of speaking to a device, the user texts commands and questions to the bot using a smartphone. The bot replies with answers, menus, or links to information.
The technology stood out for me because of how it works and what it represents. There is virtually no learning curve. It is as easy as picking up a smartphone and texting the word hello. After that, an attendee can begin asking questions like, where is the session on human anatomy? How do I get validation for parking? Are there vegetarian options on the lunch buffet? These are all simple inquiries that cannot be addressed as quickly or at all by the mobile event app.
In the absence of a bot, attendees have to walk to registration, call or email show management, and/or waste a considerable amount of precious time getting a response.
Chatbots allude to the next big thing for 2017 – personalisation. The accumulation of data will intersect with a number of technologies, including chatbots, beacons, and networking applications. For example, chatbots powered by artificial intelligence and supported by cloud storage can learn attendee preferences and begin to anticipate their needs.
Beacon receivers can detect wearable technology and cause devices to react to them (digital signage with a personalised welcome message). Networking applications and devices can bring two specific attendees together (at their mutual request) based on their profiles, stated preferences, and proximity.
Follow Michelle Bruno on Twitter: @michellebruno
Brandt Krueger, Speaker & Consultant, Event Technology Consulting
Overall, 2016 was an evolutionary year, rather than a revolutionary year. A lot of the technologies simply evolved, rather than anything really jumping out and being new and exciting. That being said, we’re finally, after decades of promises, seeing VR and AR solutions that actually make sense in events.
From promotional materials, to 360-degree site visits, to product launches and game stations, VR is coming of age, and AR will be right behind it. Audi has been investing heavily in VR, creating dynamic group experiences at their events, so it’s not all about going into your own little world anymore.
I think 2017 is the year to re-evaluate your tech. For those who’ve been waiting to incorporate technology, now’s the time. Event apps, audience response systems, registration and event management software, livestreaming and hybrid events – all these technologies are mature and ready for you to implement.
For those of you who’ve been on the leading edge and are ready for the next big thing? Time to start moving forward with attendee-tracking and interaction technology using beacons and smart floors, augmented reality and virtual reality. “AI” and “IOT” will be the buzzwords of tech in 2017, and we’re already starting to see them being attached to the latest #EventTech startups!
Finally, keep a close eye on security. “Soft targets” – hotels, convention centres, festivals and the like – are going to be the favoured targets of the malicious, both physical and digital. So once again, it’s time to re-evaluate your security and protect your attendees/guests!
Follow Brandt Krueger on Twitter: @BrandtKrueger
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Adam Parry, Editor, Event Industry News/Event Tech Live
What really stood out and I saw proof of in 2016 was working with Konduko at Event Tech Live (ETL) to outfit each exhibitor with touch-to-collect points. This turned lead generation into a two-way street between exhibitors and visitors. It also allowed us to capture data for speakers, which has been invaluable to them.
Around 66% of leads generated from ETL came from the interaction between visitors and exhibitors using Konduko – this is a real game changer for expos. And as deployment costs come down, I can see this filtering in as a standard to all types of events, both big and small.
Looking at event tech trends for 2017, it is hard to say for sure as there is so much “industry” technology being developed as well as external technology which can then be used for events. I think we will see the Internet of Things (IOT) take a larger role in the delivery of content at events, based specifically on the attendee.
An example of this would be digital screens that we already see at most events and shows turning into more “connected” screens, which can display content that’s relevant to each attendee. This can be based on time, sessions they have attended, their network of other attendees and even their preferences on food, music etc.
Follow Adam Parry on Twitter: @punchtownparry
Marin Bright, CEO & Editorial Director, Smart Meetings
Poken was our biggest event tech win for 2016. It’s an innovative platform of tech tools for event professionals to use to organise and manage their events and create unique, engaging experiences. It allowed our attendees to check-in, network and collect information all in a fun, gamification-style format that our attendees loved. It truly is a complete event engagement experience.
With today’s attendees needing to feel engaged more than ever, event tech solutions like Slido will really take flight in 2017. Slido lets you crowdsource the best questions from your audience and keep your guests engaged with live polls. We’re excited to see the level of audience interaction skyrocket and what new event attendee opportunities will be introduced.
Follow Marin Bright on Twitter: @marinbright
Paul Harris, Event Technologist, Eventsforce
As the significance of events continues to grow for organisations, so does the importance of managing the data around these events. We’ve seen event planners doing some great things by integrating their data with check-in systems, payment gateways and event apps. However, this same concept of data sharing is now being applied with big back-end business systems, like CRMs and finance solutions.
In fact, we’ve seen a 40% increase in the number of customers working on integration projects over the last year and we expect this trend to grow significantly as event planners try to automate processes and make better use of their event data. If this is something you’re considering, have a look at this industry ebook that gives a good introduction on the topic and whether or not it’s something that makes sense for your events.
More time, less work and better data sharing around your events? Find out how by getting your FREE guide to data integration here.
We’re also seeing some interesting trends around event apps. The concept of having a fancy-looking event app is slowly dying. Event planners want mobile apps but only if it benefits their attendees. Attendees want apps but only if the features really help them achieve their attendance goals. When they do, native event apps are very popular and successful.
However, planners no longer want to spend thousands on designing apps and re-keying data. Either the app works well with their existing data or its considered an expensive luxury. Event programs change. Sponsors change, agendas change. Event apps that are not integrated with other event systems don’t reflect the latest information and are obsolete to attendees.
Aside from data integration, I think custom packages will be another focus area for event tech in 2017. Offering attendees a selection of pre-defined package options for your event is a lot like a restaurant offering customers a selection of set menus. Both are easy to set up. Both offer the same set of choices to everyone.
Yet registration software has the ability to help attendees personalise their own packages. In the same way that a restaurant can offer both a set menu and an a-la-carte option, event planners are going to increasingly use their registration systems to offer attendees the option to pick and choose what they want to ‘consume’ when registering for an event.
Follow Paul Harris on Twitter: @PaulHEventProf
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