Event technology is coming into its own. From apps that increase engagement and manage the registration process, to real-time audience response systems, this technology is defining more aspects of the event planning process. This evolution shouldn’t come as a surprise: Three-ring binders with contracts, menus, venue maps and seating plans have disappeared with that content now accessible in digital form.
Cloud-based systems allow for planning and collaboration with your clients and vendors in real-time, shortening timelines and reducing lag time. The tech industry is booming, and technology has become pervasive in the way we do business and conduct our personal lives.
Given the constant flood of new technology, it’s a challenge to keep up to date with the latest tools and gadgets. But client expectations for tech-savvy services are on the uptick. So if you are not engaging with technology and digital communications, you won’t be able to sustain a competitive advantage.
Here are five event tech updates designed to help organizers and attendees get the most out of the face-to-face experience:
1. Matchmaking 2.0
Whether it’s an industry event or private party, networking and engaging with influencers remains among the top three reasons why people attend. Custom mobile event apps, now in second and third generations, provide a single platform for accessing a number of services, from paperless navigation aids and itineraries to responding to polls and evaluations. Helping attendees to connect is a top driver for event professionals, whether you have people mingling at the bar, during breaks, or in the hallways. Making the app work for you on this front is a huge benefit, and can include calendaring, social media or social discovery features.
What’s been noted as lacking in most apps is context to create more meaningful connections. To make a sort of “orchestrated serendipity,” Topi is one example of a new networking tool where attendees can scan the profiles of other attendees and indicate an interest in meeting someone. If the person accepts the request, the app creates an instant chatroom to start the conversation. Topi has an option for customizable websites for events with the same data they upload for the mobile app, and a registration system—all reflecting the trend to consolidate event management tools.
How do event organizers encourage remote engagement and participation? First there was live-streaming, where event pros set up AV to broadcast the event live. They drive their marketing results beyond the event audience, and offer an event page with chat and interactivity. But there are pitfalls with the live-stream technology so a poor user experience can have a negative impact. Plus, it involves a significant investment of time and money.
Now there is crowd-streaming, a user-generated movement where content is created by guests at the event, using free apps on their smartphones to stream their experience. Anyone with an Internet connection can watch that live-stream for free. You want attendees to share pictures they take at your client’s event on their social networks. Now you can embrace the live-streams that communicate to people watching, don’t you wish you were here?
The proliferation of social media has confirmed that people are hungry for content, including your client’s attendees. Crowd-streaming doesn’t have the camera crew expertly filming and curating the look of the event, but it gives people direct access to the real attendee experience, unpolished and genuine, which holds weight. Companies on the cutting edge include Periscope (acquired by Twitter), Meerkat and Holyvent.
3. Social Ambassadors
Peer excitement and referral is one of the strongest drivers of event registration. A 2015 report from Nielsen says that social media is gaining traction as a common form of word-of-mouth marketing. In the survey, 26 percent of respondents use social media for information and recommendations about new products from family and friends. But sharing a random message on social media, like “I’m going to xyz event” is not enough to make an impact.
A social ambassador promotes your client’s event by offering a face and experience to remember on social networks. They create engagement and excitement with teaser videos, social giveaways or contests as a prelude to the event, for example. Much like brand ambassadors, they become the personification of the event, representing it in a positive, exuberant light. This allows the event professional to take full advantage of social networks and deliver performance indicators to your client.
4. No Cash
Cashless payments are becoming the norm in most large cities around the world. No one wants to wait in line to pay for anything! And the contactless technology people use to buy their morning coffee is now expected to work at parties and events. In fact, advocates (and tech developers) say the no-cash movement is revolutionizing the events industry with simplicity and security features for events professionals, and ease and convenience for guests.
The technology consists of platforms that allow a fast way to accept payments, whether that’s paying for venue entrance or beverages, cashless purchasing offers a solution to guests lining up and waiting. This happens with a smartphone, badge or wristband, linked to a prepaid account or credit card. Another bonus is these are rarely one-trick ponies.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) systems have the capability of integrating with numerous other digital platforms like Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, iBeacons, LED lights, and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), creating opportunities for sponsorships and event branding.
5. The Digital Swag Bag
Do people really get excited about a sample-size cologne or branded pen and notepad? With increasing focus on greening events with less waste and more relevancy, old-fashioned gift bags are on the way out. Just because an item is free, doesn’t mean it’s desirable or useful, so help your client turn swag into something people really want.
Digital swag is a great strategy to engage and satisfy audiences who are dependent on technology and environmentally conscious. Consumer trends dictate the popularity of online gifts, offers and virtual coupons. Or incorporate the digital swag with a couple small items, like mobile chargers that they’ll likely use or food items like little buckets of gummy bears.
Now is the time to be forward-thinking about swag. In addition, the digital footprint offers lead generation and analytics for event sponsors and your client. Digital swag companies on the rise are Virtualeventbags and Eventbaxx, for example.
With these tech tips, you’ll put yourself in the know to impress your client and navigate their event’s success. As people become more comfortable with digital innovations, there’s a greater willingness to try new tools and dedicate budget to digital interactivity and engagement. As an events professional, you need to be a part of that mindset to build your business and stay competitive.
About the Author: Karen Hawthorne worked for six years as a digital editor for the National Post, contributing articles on business, food, culture and travel for affiliated newspapers across Canada. She now writes from her home office in Toronto as a freelancer, and takes breaks to bounce with her son on the backyard trampoline. Connect with her on LinkedIn.