The Internet of Things has invaded our homes with smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart toothbrushes. It has invaded our offices with smart assistants, data security, and connected devices between remote teams.
And corporate events are the new frontier.
Whether you’re unveiling a new product at SXSW or hosting your own expo, interconnectivity can and should be an integral part of your next big business trip.
The following four technologies allow for the best of both worlds: retaining the beloved tradition and human element of real-world events while leveraging the efficiency and slickness of the latest devices.
Mobile Event Apps
Ninety-one percent of event planners say that the use of a mobile event app has yielded a positive ROI. According to Eventbrite, the event technology platform, mobile apps have also been shown to increase attendance by 20 percent while lowering costs by as much as 30 percent. Those are the kinds of numbers that can turn a marginally viable event into a roaring success.
But to compete in this market, you have to look beyond the current event and plan for the future. Fortunately, these apps provide the most robust and efficient method of doing just that. Not only do they allow attendee engagement through the service, but they also provide valuable insights into your attendees’ motivations, values, and backgrounds. That’s critical for longer-term planning; mobile-first data companies like Zoomdata can use large volumes of accumulated or real-time data to visualize trends and pinpoint not just what’s happening at your own events, but at others’ as well.
You might be familiar with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags from large retail and grocery chains. In 2017, RFID Journal reported 39 percent more retailers using RFID over the previous year. Estimates put the number of devices in apparel alone at more than 8 billion.
But you might be surprised to learn that the technology is now booming in other sectors, including the events industry. It’s natural when you consider that a brief physical contact of one’s phone to an event poster is enough to exchange information. This is a step up in elegance and convenience from unsightly QR codes that require aiming phones at a black-and-white square. Clemi Hardie, founder of Noodle Live, sees RFID as a big part of the future of event information exchange: “Instead of installing hardware at the events, it will be preinstalled on our smartphones, so it will be perfectly normal to put up event posters that simply say ‘tap here for push notifications’ or ‘tap here to exchange contact details.’”
Virtual Event Attendance
As engaging and powerful as events are, there are some drawbacks to the traditional structure. The overhead and costs can be cumbersome, and getting the details of event planning perfectly right each time is always a challenge. But there’s no choice: When large numbers of people are traveling and taking time out of their hectic schedules to attend, getting things right is critical. Another drawback is the challenge of tracking attendee behavior, but that insight is useful for planning future events.
There’s now another option to complement the standard model: virtual event attendance through VR headsets. The approach has some key advantages. First, it greatly reduces overhead (by more than half) because no one has to travel, book physical space for the event, or consider other logistical details. It also allows distant community members to attend easily from their homes or offices. Finally, this paradigm is the big winner in gathering intelligence about the behaviors of attendees because their “movements” can be tracked and analyzed through the virtual attendance software.
Events have two main functions: opportunities for networking and learning from speakers. But augmented reality is now even enhancing what speakers can deliver. For example, the Microsoft HoloLens headsets are glasses that overlay imagery and information over whatever the event attendee is viewing live. It was demoed in 2017 for set designers from Cirque du Soleil, helping them better visualize their sets.
Imagine the richness of information available to attendees who can view speakers through such devices, with information overlaid at key times in their presentation. To fully take advantage of this technology, the AR models can be made available to speakers to allow them to plan how they could best exploit what this platform offers to enhance their presentations.
The good news with all these approaches is that the companies behind them want nothing more than to support customers in easily adopting their platforms. That means there is no excuse not to dive in to integrate some or all of these technologies, at the very least on a trial basis for your next event. But, like smartphones, chances are that once these options are available, event attendees will never want to return to the old-fashioned way of running events.