Navigating the ‘technology jungle’

Steve MacKenzie
Steve MacKenzie

By Steve MacKenzie, vice-president, global channels, etouches

In the ever-competitive world of attracting and engaging delegates to our events, technology is by far one of the areas planners look to in order to gain that competitive edge, or to create a truly memorable experience for the delegate.

So what should you be considering in this area? We are constantly bombarded with adverts and sales people pushing the “must have” technology on us. How do we differentiate between the relevant and the “marketing fluff”?

Having been around the event tech space now for 22 years or so, it never ceases to amaze me just how many technologies make their way into our space. But the over-riding factor I would suggest always applies – regardless of the technology – is to ask yourself this question: “By using this technology how are my delegates going to benefit?” If you can answer that, you are well on the way to being able to sift through the technology jungle out there.

There is no way in this article we can cover every option out there, so I have picked out four of the biggest trends right now:
Mobile. If you haven’t factored attendees using mobile devices into your event strategy then you’ve been living under a rock. Only five years or so ago, we used to have the MC tell everyone to turn their phones off at the outset of an event. These days it’s the opposite.

I would encourage every planner to look at the option of a mobile app for their event and to offer functionality within the app that is relevant to the conference and types of delegates you will have. Mobile apps allows delegates to interact with you and your speakers instantly, giving feedback as it happens, not waiting for the traditional survey at the end of the event. And they also allow you to widen the event engagement, using the likes of social media so others not at the event can follow hashtags or other instant updates made by the people that are on-site. A word of caution though, W-Fi and Internet connectivity go hand-in-hand with the usage of apps, so make sure the venue offers you good connectivity options.

Beacons. Looking for a way to push messages out to the delegates smart phones other than adding to their already overflowing e-mail inboxes? Beacons are starting to come into their own as a cost-effective and “cool” way to do this, especially for exhibitors trying to attract delegates to their stands. They work on low frequency blue tooth and can be programmed to push messages (including graphics) out to people within a certain radius of the device itself. Again, the challenge can be around connectivity (seeing a common theme here?) and also the fact that most beacon messaging will require the delegate to have some form of app on their phone to receive these.

Data and personalisation. You’ve probably heard people talking about “Big Data” by now. The challenge for us is to understand what is meant by that term, because it is pretty broad. What it comes down to is harnessing all the information you are collecting about your delegates so you can understand them better. By collecting this information and aggregating it (tools to do this are starting to appear more frequently), you end up with a much better understanding of what each individual delegate likes and dislikes. Having this information is invaluable to the marketing team to be able to target people with other events or items that we know they will be interested in. Think of it like the event equivalent of the Amazon “you may also like xxxx product” based on your buying patterns. Data is really being seen as the next big technology area for events, just like mobile was five years ago. After all, everyone is time poor and I take the approach that if I am going to get bombarded with marketing, please make sure it is about things I am interested in, and therefore not wasting my time. But a word of caution, don’t just take the approach you must now start to collect a lot of data. If you’re not doing anything meaningful with it, then you’re not going to be able to take advantage of this trend.

Of course there are many other trends but hopefully these four give you an insight into what is happening globally, and gives you some ideas that will help you in deciding which technologies you want to learn more about.

Here’s to a great next event.