Ask the Experts: Top Event Tech Trends for 2019

We saw a lot of interesting things happening in the world of event tech this year.  From the likes of LinkedIn and Airbnb making steady inroads into the events space to the much-anticipated applications of AI-enabled technology such as chatbots and facial recognition. The EU GDPR was another big one.  Not only did the legislation have a massive impact in the way we look at privacy and data security, but it also changed the way event planners use tech like registration systems and apps when it comes to collecting the personal information of people coming to their events.

But what technology trend really stood out in 2018?  And what should we expect for 2019?

EventTech Talk spoke to some of the industry’s well-known tech experts to find out what they felt was important in 2018 and what they think will be the next big thing over the coming year.

Have a look at what they had to say:

1) Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, Corbin Ball & Co.

Facial Recognition (FR) is an emerging trend that stood out for me in 2018. The technology is rapidly becoming part of our everyday lives. iPhone X users open their phone using FR as their passwords. Airlines and TSA are starting to use FR as a faster and more secure way of check-in and boarding flights. Apple, Facebook, Google and Snapchat have made recent significant investments to build their FR capabilities. It is likely, in the next few years, that FR will help to eliminate passwords and provide easier and more secure ways of protecting our online identities and data. And now, FR is coming to events. Powered by Zenus, onsite registration providers are in the early stages of using FR to reduce event check-in/badge pickup time with many additional options for event improvement in the future. Companies such as Fielddrive in Europe and ExpoLogic in North America are making significant headway for a cutting-edge event check-experience. This trend will be an exciting one to watch as it develops.

Read: Facial Recognition – The Next Step to Streamline Events

I think that the top event technology trend for 2019 will be significant advances in data integration and analytics from the event technology providers. Major player are making substantial advances in integrating their wide range of product while smaller, cloud-based companies are putting effort into interoperability and analytics with other event tech companies and with CRM systems such as Salesforce. The result will be that the attendees’ likes/interests before, during and after the event can be precisely quantified and then brought back into a customer/member record. On a global basis, this can be used to improve future events and make mid-course corrections during existing events. On an individual basis, this will lead to much better personalization for marketing to an attendee or for improving an association member’s event experiences.

 Follow Corbin Ball on Twitter: @corbinball

 2) Adam Parry, Editor, Event Industry News

For me AR and VR (XR) really stood out as a leading topic in 2018. We saw many uses of this technology across all event types and I think we as an industry are now wrapping our head around how we can use this effectively at live events

During AW 14 fashion week, Topshop created a pop-up shop where users could pretend to be Anna Wintour for a minute or two. By putting on a VR headset, fashion fans were transported to the first row of a fashion show an experience they would more than likely have no way of accessing. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t live, it easily could have been but it was the first step in an exciting direction.

What technology will stand out in 2018? Facial Recognition. We have seen this technology gain ground and be used eloquently for a simpler registration process on many events however the technology has so many advantages and applications that it can be used for many scenarios at events such as.

  • Speaker and Session Feedback
  • Security and Access Control
  • The Personalisation of Wayfinding Screens and Content
  • Contractor and Exhibitor Control
  • Lead Retrieval
  • Automatic tagging of speaker pictures for social media
  • Locate friends and colleagues at large scale events

We could even see events and venues adopt the same use case as Amazon where an attendee can have a virtual wallet for an event and rather than queue to pay for F&B.  They can simply take what they like for a designated area and automatically pay for what they use or consume. I think this particular technology will touch many aspects of events without it seeming obvious.

Follow Adam Parry on Twitter: @punchtownparry

3) Hellen Beveridge, C­IPP/E CIPM FIDM, Privacy Lead, Data Oversight

The year has been topped and tailed by data protection legislation. From January to May the focus was on the impending GDPR and on 18th December we will see changes to PECR in the UK that will enable the ICO to fine Directors as well as organisations. In between we have seen more robust data protection laws being enacted globally including GDPR type legislation in Brazil and CaCPA in the United States.

With such focus on data protection, it was no surprise that two event tech breakdowns made it into the national news: Ticketmaster’s failure to identify and stop a major security issue that affected up to 40,000 customers in the UK alone was described as ‘a perfect storm of bad communication and bad IT’; the Conservative Party were rightly ridiculed for specifying an app with such poor security for its annual conference that it enabled anyone who could guess an attendee’s email address to access personal data (just for the record, this wasn’t a ‘glitch’ as described by some, but a pure design failure).

The latter illustrates the naivety of many event organisers when it comes to tech. As a vibrant, energetic and forward looking industry, it is not hard-wired to take a considered approach to data protection and governance. Rather like the child with the construction model on Christmas morning, the emphasis is on getting the brilliant thing built, not in understanding the environmental impact of how the pieces were made. This leaves event organisers catastrophically exposed on many fronts to potential data protection issues: from not answering requests from data subjects correctly to contracting non-compliant suppliers; entrusting unqualified staff to manage compliance to ignoring warnings about possible data breaches.

For anyone in compliance, the description of technologies such as facial recognition as ‘the next big thing’ or a ‘gamechanger’ for the event industry sends cold shivers down the spine. Facial recognition for the purposes of specifically identifying an individual is sensitive data that requires explicit consent, and the maintenance of a (very secure) database of pictures. The technology is beguiling, but the paperwork to make it legal from a data protection perspective is ferocious (DPIAs, records of consent, security protocols). It is important to remember that privacy by design is embedded in law for the first time, so thoughtlessness will now get you into just as much trouble as bad actions.

Read: Event Marketing Under GDPR – Consent Vs. Legitimate Interest

The message for 2019 is – by all means embrace the new – but give yourselves the time to take a privacy geek along with you to make sure you understand the risks and how to avoid them.

Follow Hellen Beveridge on LinkedIn

4) George Sirius, CEO, Eventsforce

What stood out in 2018?  Definitely a much bigger focus on data security and data management – something that perhaps was always considered important but not so much of a priority for many people involved in planning and managing events.  The EU GDPR came into effect in May and has since had a profound effect in the way organisations manage their data, especially personal data. And consequently, I would say event organisers are now a lot more aware of what personal information they’re collecting from attendees, where this data is stored, what they use it for and more importantly how this data is kept safe. They’re also a lot more aware on the role of event tech when it comes to meeting the new requirements.

Read: Will GDPR changes the rights of your attendees?

Traditionally in our industry, the issue of data security was always something that was typically dealt with by IT and operations teams.  But if there’s one thing that GDPR has achieved over the past few months is that the ownership and responsibility for protecting attendee data now rests on everyone. Data breaches are now a common occurrence – and what we’ve seen this year with companies like Facebook has really shaken up people’s trust in the way organisations manage their personal information. The data breach incidents with Ticketmaster and the Conservative Party conference app has also made it clear to everyone that our industry is not immune and we need to be prepared.

Over the next year, we expect event professionals to take a lot more control in the way they share and manage event data both across their organisations and other parties like tech providers, venues, hotels and so on.  We expect people to be less reliant on spreadsheets when sharing things like delegate lists and more reliant on tech systems that allow them to manage access a lot more securely.  We also expect them to rely more on data collection tools (reg systems, apps etc) that make it a lot easier for them track, manage and delete any personal information they collect from people coming to their events.

We also expect GDPR to drive a push towards data integration in our industry. Integrating management systems with other business solutions like finance, marketing and CRMs can bring real value to events. Integration between your event management system and CRM, for example, ensures any personal information you collect from registration forms (and make changes to) is automatically updated in your CRM (and vice versa).  This makes sure that anyone who has access to both systems has real-time insight into what personal information you hold from people coming to events, what consent you have and how their data is being managed and by whom – all of which are critical to GDPR compliance. This kind of integration will also greatly improve the security of event data by eliminating risks associations with email communications, sending unsecure spreadsheets, manual transfers and having printed documents lying around.

Follow Eventsfore on Twitter: @eventsforce

Do you agree with these trends?  Are there any you’d like to add to the list?  Share your thoughts and we can add them to the article! Or sign up to our weekly EventTech Talk newsletter for tips, updates and research reports on all the latest technology trends shaping the events industry today.