When it comes to business events, including new technology presents one of the biggest challenges for event organizers: it needs to be an integral part of the event experience while, at the same time, easy to use.
The technology environment is laden with opportunity, suggests a study on “The Present and Future of Technology in Business Events,” funded by the PCMA Education Foundation. However, the overwhelming options and fast evolving tools present their own barriers to adoption.
Virtual and augmented reality are having their moment right now as new and visual, but for the near future these technologies are hard to align with business event goals. Particularly for event professionals on a budget, the entertainment or novelty value can be difficult to justify. However, as new technologies collect more data from attendees’ use of platforms and applications, event organizers are finding these insights to be the best way to customize the attendee experience.
From the outset, if you begin by establishing the goal(s) of how your attendee experience should feel, you can choose the right new technology platform. This post will look at achieving the 3 main goals of using event technology from the PCMA study: improved attendee experience, a more engaging event, and a customized experience.
An Experience with a Purpose
Wi-Fi at a conference is considered a foundational tool, and PCMA suggests that behind the scenes technologies will eventually fall into this category as well. Tools like scannable badges and apps that track attendee movement will fuel better event experiences. Gathering information about attendees in real time, tracking their movements and where they collectively spend the most time results in actionable data that attendees benefit from indirectly. Traditionally, these tools use Bluetooth low-energy beacons placed around an event. Attendees opt in by downloading and using the application. The drawbacks of this model are that it only acquires information when users are actively using the application, which can leave patches of missing collective data.
The event industry has been working on the limitations of Bluetooth based apps and now offers new options, including a tracking system, Eventbit by Experient. Eventbit places small tracking beacons on each badge, and during the registration process, attendees can opt in to this badge system and receive customized suggestions based on their behavior.
Event organizers gain access to reports on the type of people visiting certain booths, which sessions they attend, how long they stay, and where they spend most of their time. Attendees benefit too when Eventbit generates recommendations of booths and sessions matching their interests. After the event, organizers can send detailed information from how much time attendees spent on the show floor to which sessions they attended with links to the content. An attendee benefits, explains an Eventbit creator, because the device tracks “not only the 12 booths where you allowed yourself to be scanned in, but also the other 52 where you spent at least 10 minutes but didn’t give them your contact information. Now it puts the power in the hands of the attendees to reach back to those companies.”
The Making of a Fun Event
New technologies are making meaningful engagement more fun. Whether as part of your own event application or a 3rd party app, or even social media, you can incorporate engaging technology. A game, a challenge, or a poll gives attendees the chance to learn about activities and grants planners insight into attendees’ personal and professional network. A 2014 study from Guidebookreported that 86% of event attendees found an event app among the top 3 ways an event became more enjoyable.
Most attendees will be on their phones and tablets anyway, and you can help them join the event conversation with real time polls, or incentivize them to use your event app by offering a prize if they download by a certain date. Attendees use mobile apps primarily to access last minute changes to the schedule, while organizers use apps to message attendees. The ROI of an event app depends on your attendees’ adoption rate, so if you’re audience is more tech savvy, it’s a worthwhile option. Even utilizing channels like Facebook and Twitter are ways to keep connected attendees up-to-date for free. PCMA estimates that 71% of attendees use social media during networking or social events — posting photos, updates, and using hashtags. Cultivate engagement organically by curating quality content and polling fans on which sessions interest them most. Live stream a quick video update to Facebook to allow potential attendees to be involved in real-time Q&A. Whichever engagement technology you choose, providing multiple avenues to learn, share, and even compete in a shared space; will boost your event’s fun factor.
Technology that Fits Like Your Favorite Pair of Jeans
Great event content deserves to be shared. Once you’ve identified the top-performing event content and the mode of delivery that your audience craves, you can choose the right tool. What PCMA terms” Content Communication Technology” are channels like live streaming, remote participation, and expanded access to event content.
Event planners expect the demand for virtual events to grow rapidly, which makes for a compelling content opportunity. Partially responsible is the phenomenon called the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Almost 7 in 10 Millennials say they experience FOMO, an anxiety about missing experiences if they don’t log on to social media. While events that overlap or hold simultaneous sessions make FOMO hard to avoid, providing a virtual event component can fill that missed experience gap.
In addition to benefiting your attendees directly, recording and sharing your content adds value to your event and allows you to expand your audience without the constraints of a conference room. Many virtual event platforms allow for remote participation, and second screen technology extends content accessibility to mobile devices. Live streaming is another technology that pushes your content to more people. According to Event Manager Blog, “Internet users now are demanding all possible content to be available wherever they are and on whatever device they are using. Video is not excluded from this and you only need to look at your Facebook, Twitter or any social media timeline to see that live streamed video is becoming commonplace.”
To facilitate remote participation (and help attendees with their FOMO), live streaming allows you to capture the most important moments of the conference. Participants can feel like they are there through live chat, live polling, and speakers answering virtual attendees’ questions. Saving these streams as recordings make packed schedules seem less daunting. Attendees can log on later to re-watch and see which sessions really were the best (incentivizing a return next year). The longevity of this content ensures that the event and the engagement stay relevant beyond the conference dates. Not to mention, subscription based live streaming benefits not only subscribers, but also adds a revenue stream for sponsors.
Whichever event technology you choose, the same considerations factor into your decision. You first set a goal, whether that is an improved attendee experience, a more engaging event, or a customized experience. Second, you must match the technology that best fits your audience and budget. Some solutions include upgrading tracking technology, an event app or fostering engagement through social media, or a content communication tool. Technology doesn’t need to be complex or daunting, rather it can add value to your event and contribute to an educational and enjoyable experience for your attendees.
If you are interested in adding a technology component to your event, get connected virtually to our responsive Sales & Success Team.