AI, AR, IoT … Event technology is a fast-moving landscape.
It can be tough to keep up with the pace of change. The latest innovations promise to make events more personalized and predictive, delivering a higher return on investment for all participants.
But with so many new technologies available, how do you know which ones will have staying power to enhance your events now and over the longer term?
Meetings Today reached out to Brian Friedman, vice president of digital innovation at event management software company Aventri to get his forecast on the top event technology trends.
Meetings Today: What are the leading event tech trends for 2019 and beyond?
Brian Friedman: We see four major trends now in motion and poised to take off in a big way over the next few years:
- Artificial intelligence will transform events.
- Personalization will soar, thanks to advances like the Internet of Things (IoT).
- Data integration and analytics will take a giant leap forward.
- Holograms and augmented reality will disrupt industries across the board, including meetings and events.
MT: How is AI a game changer for our industry?
BF: For the past three-to-four years, event technology has focused heavily on data capture. Now companies are saying, “We have all this data. What do we do with it?”
AI gives event professionals the ability to unlock the potential of data. It makes events more predictive. It helps organizers anticipate problems and resolve issues fast. And it enables companies to gain a deeper understanding of their customers and deliver more personalized experiences.
MT: What are some ways AI is being incorporated into events today?
BF: Advanced event management software platforms use AI at different points in the event lifecycle. For starters, these solutions make relevant recommendations to attendees as they fill out their online registration forms.
The technology leverages AI’s ability to instantly process vast amounts of information from attendees and exhibitors. Then, it creates a recommended agenda for the attendee, including sessions, exhibitors and other attendees to connect with based on common interests and business objectives for the event.
MT: Where does AI come into play during the event?
BF: On-site, using Bluetooth technology, attendees can find like-minded prospects within 30 feet. In other words, recommendations are relevant and convenient right at that moment. Attendees can also create customized notifications. When a great connection is about to walk by, attendees will receive an alert with a photo of the prospect and prompts for things to talk about.
AI helps attendees make the most of their time at events in other ways, too. For example, if they’re running late, the recommendation system can let them know they’re not going to make their next session because it’s too far. What’s more, the technology can offer a closer session likely to be of interest. It can even suggest other attendees with common interests to connect with there.
It’s all about using technology to add value and guide a more personalized experience.
MT: How does AI help event managers?
BF: AI enables them to save time, while making their events more successful. Take the latest chatbots, for example. During online registration, attendees can type questions about the event agenda and logistics directly into the form and get immediate answers.
There’s no need to comb through the event website, download an app or shoot off an email to busy organizers and wait for a response.
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AI-powered chatbots deliver instant answers 24/7/365 to all sorts of common event questions, from “Where can I find parking?” to “What are the nearest Italian restaurants to the venue?”
One of the beauties of chatbots is you can have hundreds, even thousands, of participants receiving answers to different questions all at once.
This frees up planners to focus their time on the other jobs that go into creating an epic event.
MT: How can you use AI to solve emerging problems onsite?
BF: Let’s say organizers set an event goal for effective networking. The Aventri EMS solution, from my company, relies on AI to let them know if networking is too low with their target group.
Armed with this insight, organizers can create an additional opportunity and deploy it instantly on the event website and mobile app to improve networking on-the-spot.
It’s all about unlocking the potential of data before it’s too late. With AI and other technologies, attendees spend their time at events where it matters most. Exhibitors connect with high-quality prospects. And organizers boost efficiency, while improving event outcomes for all participants.
MT: How does the Internet of Things (IoT) enhance events?
BF: Wearables, biometrics and mobile event apps play a vital role in the IoT. They’re like fitness trackers for events. They track activity and provide a good reading on event performance in real time.
With the IoT, you passively track actions and collect data to better understand the event journey of attendees who opt in. For example, you can capture data on traffic in sessions and across the show floor. Other common metrics include attendee engagement and satisfaction.
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Monitoring real-time activity dashboards, you can see how things are shaping up across your event. Simple data visualizations show what attendees value most about your event based on metrics like dwell time and repeat visits to exhibitor booths.
Data also reveals sessions and exhibitors drawing the most (or least) traffic. You can leverage these insights to resolve issues as they arise and customize content for attendees.
MT: What else can you learn from the analytics and the IoT?
BF: The IoT also helps increase the value of sponsorships. For example, heat maps show traffic patterns in sessions and on the show floor. Event professionals can finally know the value of their floor plan based on hard data. The latest analytics tools house all the key data points in one place, ready to pull up at a moment’s notice. Event profs can produce data-driven reports in mere minutes.
They’ll boost sponsors’ return on investment with metrics like: booth traffic, repeat visits, dwell time, number of leads generated, visitor interests, year-over-year gains and more.
MT: Events capture a vast amount of data. Where does data integration come into play?
BF: Event tech providers are making great strides in integrating their own platforms and improving interoperability with other event tech and CRM systems like Salesforce and Marketo.
You can gain valuable data-driven insights from events. Examples include: products attendees like, companies they want to do business with, problems they need to solve, as well as content they prefer and want more of.
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With integrated data and analytics, event profs get a comprehensive picture of attendees’ likes and interests before, during and after the event.
They can use this business intelligence to enhance existing events. They can also bring event insights back into a customer record. The goal here is to make data integration easy, so planners and marketers quickly find trends and insights that make future events and year-round marketing stronger.
MT: After decades of false starts, you maintain that holograms are making a comeback. Can you tell me more?
BF: The entertainment industry has advanced hologram technology to a level where it’s nearing practical use for business events. While the cost is still prohibitive for most B2B events, this technology is advancing to the point where it will soon be cost-effective.
In the next couple years, many more companies and associations will be able to use holograms to present otherwise unattainable speakers or entertainers in a way that delivers maximum impact.
Imagine sitting at an event, and a holographic Warren Buffett appears out of nowhere on the stage.
As the technology continues to evolve, it will become difficult to tell whether you’re looking at the real Warren Buffet or a hologram. Holographic speakers will provide an elevated experience … for example suddenly displaying additional holographic presentations in their hands out of thin air.
MT: How do holograms and augmented reality enhance the way brands interact with attendees?
BF: Hologram-based AR allows brands to further personalize experiences.
One of the beauties of AR is it requires only a smartphone. I recently attended an event where BMW displayed the newest addition to its luxury line. Attendees could view stats like engine performance simply by holding their smartphone over the body of the car.
In the next few years, attendees will become used to holograms, and organizers will find the platform presents innovative opportunities for sponsored content. Expect to see this technology not only at events, but also in retail stores, airports and elsewhere. Hologram-based AR will become a major marketing channel, offering an exciting new means of content consumption.
MT: With so many new technologies available, how do meeting leaders know what to focus on and where to start?
BF: The important thing to remember is technology is hired to do a job. Meeting leaders should start by asking themselves what are the most important jobs their team needs to get done.
If a job is taking too long or pulling the team away from other responsibilities that go into producing a successful event, then that’s where it makes sense to reach out to technology for help.
The key is always to focus on the technology that will enhance the event, boost efficiency and address the needs of their customers best.
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