When I set out to write this blog post on event tech, my mind was living in the “during” phase of the event life cycle. Think virtual event spaces, live streaming, virtual reality…all of which are obvious hot topics and play a huge role in the direction of the events industry.
As I dug deeper in my research, it quickly became clear that for businesses that are really breaking ground, technology has a role in every phase of the event life cycle. The more creatively organizations can think about integrating technology with event planning, execution, and evaluation, the more progress can be made.
It’s awfully easy to compartmentalize technology. Even after all the progress we’ve made (I mean, hoverboards and holograms are practically commonplace at this point), most people are still slow to pivot toward the benefits and exposure technology offers for businesses. Changing ways is hard, but I think the key is to start with changing your mindset.
What I’m really getting at is a shift in first assumptions. Instead of first assuming the limitations of new technology, we should first assume that it really can do anything imaginable. To stay ahead of the curve and be an innovator in events, don’t hesitate to think the same way technical engineers do. Set the sky as the limit for imagining what technology can accomplish in business.
In this article, I’ll give a high-level overview of how different types of event technology trends serve event planners or businesses and apply to the entire life cycle of any event.
Event and venue management software
There are a lot of options out there for event and venue management platforms, and their power isn’t exclusive to the planning stage of event management. The right system can streamline execution and post-event evaluation processes, too. Included functionality varies, but some key benefits include:
Customer relationship management is a must for any event professional. One central source for business communication and contact information goes a long way in organizing conversations with clients, vendors, and staff – a key component both before and after events are complete.
From sending automated email/text notifications to auto-generating BEOs with data that has already been entered, automations are a powerful way to reduce time spent on manual processes. This is a game changer for event planners.
The last thing any event professional wants to sacrifice to busywork is a good quality lead. Event management systems with embeddable lead capture forms, centralized communication tools, visual sales pipelines, and integrations with other lead generation platforms have the power to fortify lead management processes while reducing time and energy cost.
Event management systems make manually recreating the same type of document for different clientele a thing of the past. Any software worth the cost should have a robust collection of templates, from contracts and invoices to itineraries and emails.
Client access to an event management system provides a central location for them to make invoice payments, sign documents, and communicate directly with staff and organizers about any other details related to an event – before, during and after it happens.
When it comes to business growth and progress, knowing the payoff of specific efforts is essential. Reporting features in event and venue management platforms can measure anything from which marketing efforts were most effective to ROI.
Virtual/hybrid event platforms
Perhaps the hottest topic in today’s event technology universe, virtual event platforms allow attendees to participate fully without the time, energy, and monetary costs of travel. Event participation can be measured at a granular level for folks attending virtually, leading to increased engagement, retention, and ROI. Virtual and hybrid events aren’t fading away as we transition out of this pandemic, so now is the opportune time to explore these platforms.
Surveys and polls
Digital surveys and polling can be used during the entire life cycle of an event to gather feedback. And why should that feedback be limited to event attendees? Surveying sponsors, donors, guest speakers, and exhibitors can also provide information of value. Transparently asking for feedback is a great way to enhance the quality of relationships with any of these folks, and doing it with technology makes gathering the data easy-peasy.
Digital event marketing
Social media and email marketing before, during, and after events allows event organizers to customize brand messaging based on buyer personas and drill down on the channels where they consume content. Trade show organizers and corporate event planners can even market individual webinar sessions and keynotes this way. In short, whether using search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising or social media promotions, technology makes for a strong marketing technique – more consistency in messaging and measurable connections with attendees.
Offering virtual event experiences has opened up international opportunities for business exposure. What’s more, over 20% of Americans speak a language other than English at home. Live translation can be a major carrot to offer during events if the goal is to bring in a diverse audience.
Chatbots are the ultimate level-up for customer care in virtual and hybrid events, and many chatbot programs are smart enough to field questions from attendees without pre-composed answers. This is a great way to implement event tech to deliver valuable information to attendees during an event in real-time without sacrificing the manpower needed to keep the itinerary on track.
Projection mapping is essentially projecting vivid imagery onto 3D structures during an event. Folks who really do it right also use audio (and even scent) to create personalized experiences and engage as many senses as possible. It has transformative power and can go a long way in creating an immersive experience for attendees, which in turn can amp up engagement and retention.
Adding game-like features to an event used to be something that required manpower – not anymore. Event technology makes gamification lower maintenance for staff and improves the attendee experience at the same time. This can be an excellent way to increase and easily measure attendee engagement.
Many organizations use facial recognition not just for the check-in process at their event, but as attendees arrive at individual sessions or areas of a venue. This is a game-changer in figuring out who wants to be where in a large event venue with a lot of things going on. The data that can be gathered from this can go a long way in future engagement efforts and retention.
Secure payment processing
In any event that involves transactions, ensuring a reputation for excellent protections around any sensitive information that might be exchanged is paramount. Be sure to invest in a secure merchant account with confirmation codes and/or electronic receipts, and encourage online sales for applicable transactions.
RFID chips are easily wearable as part of attendees’ wristbands and provide secure control over access to different parts of an event. This makes managing VIPs and foot traffic easy and effective for event organizers. These chips can also be used to gather data and even make event gamification a breeze. Oh, and they’re also almost impossible to duplicate, so no more worrying about counterfeit tickets or QR codes.
Where to start…
So the question is, where to start with event technology? When so many options are available to event professionals and with event tech trends changing so rapidly, sometimes the hardest part of innovation is taking the plunge.
My opinion is to begin with filling holes in operations. An event planner’s priority might be cutting down on busywork, in which case all-in-one event management platforms are an excellent option for streamlining processes. A corporate event organizer may want to amp up attendee engagement and could explore projection mapping and gamification. Professionals managing recurring events might be focused on increasing retention and could accomplish that with surveys and chatbots.
Once event professionals begin to successfully integrate technology solutions into their business and entire event life cycle, the door is open to explore more innovative concepts. The exciting thing about technology is that it never stops developing, and in turn there is no limit to the experiences one can imagine and create.