To app or not to app? To use VR or AR? To employ a chatbot or a robot? With technology advancing at warp speeds, it’s no easy task for meeting planners to keep up with it all, let alone make sense of how it can best add value to their events and, most importantly nowadays, drive engagement. 

Stepping out of their comfort zones and conquering their fear of the unknown is key for planners to understand how event tech can work to their advantage, according to Tahira Endean, event producer for #BCTECH Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Planners everywhere are losing their fear and embracing digital, mobile, cloud-based solutions across every area of both planning and meeting, creating more interaction, connection and engagement with the tools now available to us,” Endean said. “It means we have to understand the possibilities from our basic planning tools and the reams of data they can produce for us, to facial recognition and biometric tech and how this is impacting access and security, and the fun we have available to us with everything from mixed reality to gaming to robot bartenders and of course, the data coming from the devices everyone carries. Then we need to understand that data available to create even stronger, more personalized events.” 

Endean was prominently present during IMEX America 2017 in Las Vegas, which offered an Event Tech Track for attendees that delved into nearly every trend, fad, slick new tool and crystal ball of the event tech of the future. Endean led several “Event Tech and a Tour” sessions at IMEX, escorting 15 planners to companies that are blazing new tech trails.

“Each of the companies we visited had something new,” she said. “Groups360 has a very interesting model for sourcing hotel rooms and rates. Evenium has great new visualization methodology that is audience-controlled. Expo Logic and the partners in their booth have very interesting facial recognition technology for tradeshows and conferences. Attendify has a new way to integrate and analyze data from their platform and others the events are using in one place with easy visualizations.” 

Evenium, an event technology company that is utilized worldwide, did an IMEX presentation entitled “New Technology for Impactful and Decisive Meetings.” Current best technology under the presentation included visual collaboration products, for which the company offers Evenium Net, an event registration and promotion system, integrated with its highly intuitive mobile app, ConnexMe, which has unique features around networking and visual collaboration. 

Evenium predicts the future of event tech holds everything from artificial intelligence (AI) to augmented reality to data that informs event experiences from wearables and cameras that detect emotions and body language.

There’s a Bot for That

“In 2018, AI-powered conversational interfaces will be a big trend, and we will bring that to the market,” said Eric Amram, CEO of Evenium. “You know chatbots are the hottest thing on the market in terms of AI—you have things like Amazon Echo and Siri. The idea is to transfer that capability into meetings, so for example, with ConnexMe, you can ask, ‘What did Paul say at the conference about driverless cars the other day?’”    

Meanwhile, Endean was one of the judges for #IMEXpitch, in which five tech startups competed. A messaging platform company named won, particularly for its Event Bot, which offers event app messaging features in a text messaging experience.

“There were five startups competing—a networking technology, an influencer marketing technology and others like,” she said. “Everything presented was excellent, but if you look at the things that are going to be implemented rapidly now, I think the next big things are the integrators—integrating our data on a platform we can analyze—and Freeman and Attendify have come out with new ones, and chatbots. Look at South by Southwest. Last year they said they answered 56,000 attendee questions by chatbot rather than via a human.”

Meanwhile, Endean says nearly everything planners do is now based in the cloud. 

“We’ll save hundreds of hours just by utilizing one cloud-based platform,” she added, citing Attendease as one example.