Ask the Experts: The Next Big Thing in Event Tech 2018

This post is updated each year – check out our latest one: Ask The Experts – Top Event Technology Trends for 2019

This past year was definitely an interesting one in the fast-evolving world of event technology.  We saw the arrival of AI-enabled chatbots with events like SWSX and the Wimbledon tennis championships using the technology to create more engaging and personalised event experiences. Apple changed the rules around branded event apps while Facebook made VR technology more accessible for our industry with the launch of Oculus Venues.

But what application of event technology really stood out in 2017?  And what should we expect for 2018?

EventTech Talk spoke to some of the industry’s well-known tech experts to find out what they felt was important in 2017 and what they think will be the next big thing over the coming year.

Have a look at what they had to say:

Adam Parry, Editor, Event Industry News

Facial Recognition for me really stood out.  Tech companies, Zenus and fieldrive went out and proved that it is viable and practical for our industry.  The two companies worked together to successfully check-in attendees at a number of events this year.  Speaking to other technology providers, they are also heavily looking in to facial recognition as a way of providing and personalising information to attendees – even as far as getting live feedback and sentiment on what they think of speakers and sessions.  It will be really interesting to see the applications this type of technology will have on our industry over the next two to three years and I am sure it will be a mainstay of the industry.

As for the next big thing, that’s the million-dollar question! It’s so subjective, to be honest, as events all have different needs and their attendees all want different things. One thing is for sure, and that is the interest, adoption and investment in technology by our sector will increase. Integration will become more apparent, enabling us as organisers to get a clearer picture on our event data.

Follow Adam Parry on Twitter: @punchtownparry

Sue Pelletier, Editor, MeetingsNet

If I had to pick one, I’d say the big game-changer in event tech is attendee intelligence technology that enables host organisations to track behaviour and personalize every interaction with individual participants from soup to nuts. There’s a giant heaping mound of data available now; the challenge is finding ways to harness it and make it work for you so you can create truly individualised marketing campaigns, onsite and online offerings, as well as follow-up actions and content that will really ring with each person the meeting organiser ‘touches’. It’s pretty cool, albeit ironic, that cold, hard data now can help us provide that human touch that all too often is lacking, but there you go.

Follow Sue Pelletier on Twitter: @spelletier

Brandt Krueger, Speaker & Consultant, Event Technology Consulting

This year was all about audience engagement, in all its various forms. From in-app polling and surveys, to stand-alone apps, to the continued use of throwable microphones like the Catchbox, it seemed like every show I worked on had an emphasis on getting audience feedback. When the CFO of a major financial company looked out and saw the traditional two mic setup, he asked from the stage, “Hey don’t we have one of those throwable microphones?”

As for 2018, it feels like this could be the year that virtual and augmented reality start to take the spotlight. While I was initially quite sceptical of these technologies, I’m starting to come around and see their potential – for attendees, planners, and venues. You’re also going to be hearing the words “AI” attached to almost everything, for better or worse. My personal wish list is to see greater creativity and use of projection, screens, and displays, but that’s my wish every year!

Follow Brandt Krueger on Twitter: @BrandtKrueger

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Michelle Bruno, Publisher, Event Tech Brief

Chatbots were the highlight of 2017 for me. They are one of the most understandable applications of artificial intelligence, which has been heavily discussed and dissected for the past year. There is no learning curve unless you have never sent a text message in your life. Plus, they are platform agnostic and will only become more intelligent and more useful as the technology matures.

What’s next? I believe that Blockchain technology will be a very popular topic in 2018. There are already a few event-related applications built on the Blockchain and the intense interest in Bitcoin will drive curiosity. That said; it is a technology that runs in the background (much like cloud software) and excitement about it is likely to be somewhat restrained.

Follow Michelle Bruno on Twitter@michellebruno

Tahira Endean, Author & Event Producer of #BCTECH Summit/BC Innovation Council

What stood out in 2017? No one application of event tech – this was the year of integrations. Digital marketing and remarketing, website to mobile meeting schedules, beacons and wearables all in play; all providing reams of useful data. Content delivery using emotion-evoking, scaled technology for events, entertainment, sporting and life experiences is our new norm – mixed with touchable, human elements; a formidable design combination.

As for what’s next in event technology, I would say cognitive meetings, where we create an ease of access to information and use data to enrich the human experience. This means for each event, a unique combination of AI (artificial intelligence), chatbots, social wearables, augmented reality, robots and machine learning true integration with personal devices will create more useful, worthwhile, transformative, memorable experiences. You can read more about the many ways technology and human experiences can be integrated in this book, titled Intentional Event Design, Our Professional Opportunity’.

Follow Tahira Endean on Twitter@TahiraCreates

George Sirius, CEO, Eventsforce

There has been a growing focus on event data this year as it starts to take a more prominent role in the way organisations plan, market and manage their events: from website traffic and social media to registration and attendance.  From on-site engagements and the quality of attendees to feedback and evaluation.  From the revenue generated to conversion rates and sales leads. Putting all this data together to get any meaningful insight is not as simple as one would hope and as a result, many organisers are now making it a priority to have a clear strategy of what data they want to collect from tech systems and how this data is going to be used.

This is also driving a push towards integration – and not just between the different systems used around events but with other back end solutions too. We are starting to see a lot more organisations integrate their event data with CRMs like Salesforce to help them better understand their attendees and make it easier to track and attribute things like sales deals to events. We expect this trend to continue well into the next year.

As for the next big thing – I think the main focus will be around GDPR compliance. The EU General Data Protection Regulation which is coming into effect in May 2018 is probably one of the most important changes facing our industry today.  For event planners, it will change the way they decide what data needs to be collected from attendees in things like registration forms and apps and how that data is used for marketing and personalisation. It will change the way attendee data is shared with other third-party organisations like venues, sponsors and tech providers.

The regulation is also going to force planners to play a bigger role in securing all the data they collect from attendees, as well as making sure that third party suppliers like agencies and event tech suppliers are also compliant to GDPR, as not doing so can result in big fines.  And that is one of the big things about GDPR.  Compared to current data protection regulations, non-compliance comes with serious financial consequences so event planners need to be prepared.

It will be a challenging time ahead but it’s important to note that GDPR will also bring about some big opportunities for our industry too. Those that can show they’re dealing with personal data in a transparent and secure way and have respect for the privacy of individuals will succeed in building a new level of trust.  And this will be key in deciding which organisations people choose to deal with in the future.

Follow George Sirius on Twitter: @georgesirius

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Paul Cook, Writer & Researcher, Founder of Planet Planit and Head of Global Events at Hansal International

There is a lot of good technology around that can be extremely helpful for clients and delegates. However, this year I saw a lot of technology that stood out for the wrong reasons. Technology wasn’t used to its maximum as some organisers had not taken account of how delegates would use it at events. For example, an exhibition organiser that wants everyone to use their show app to understand all that is going at their event faces several challenges. Not everyone will want to add the app to their phone and not everyone will have the time to set it up before the event.

Too often it seems to be all or nothing when it comes to technology at events. Some people just want a simple printed floor plan and education schedule.  One exhibition I went to had just a piece of A4 paper with a schedule printed out which was stuck to a post. There was nothing else in terms of a hand out. The only way delegates could understand what was going to happen throughout the day was to take a photo of the piece of paper. This became a challenging task when delegate numbers started to increase.   If you are investing and using technology at events, I think it’s worth having an understanding of the behaviour of users to ensure that your tech becomes integrated and is a success.

As for the next big thing, it will be technology that can be used to help with GDPR requirements. For example, A CRM or project management system that has GDPR embedded in it will be valuable. Helping organisations remember what they need to do to be compliant will overtake those systems that haven’t moved on. It’s not a fad, GDPR will impact almost every organisation. How a tech provider helps clients will be important.

Associated with the data protection issue is that of Wi-Fi connectivity. Encouraging people to immediately access a network because it’s free will have to reduce. The key question to venues from organisers will be how secure is your network. The catalyst for this will be the risk of hacking and cyber-attacks which is mentioned in detail in the GDPR requirements.   Whilst these risks are with us already, the highlighting of them in the forthcoming regulation will accelerate their importance for many organisations.

Follow Paul Cook on Twitter: @planetplanitbiz or contact him at

Do you agree with these trends?  Are there any you’d like to add to the list?  Get in touch as we’d love to hear your views.  You can also sign up to our weekly EventTech Talk newsletter for tips, updates and research reports on the latest technology issues shaping the events industry today.