What is next on the menu of offerings from technology providers is in your hands. You decide. You are the professional that understands what you need to keep evolving your event experiences. It’s really not down to the tech companies to decide. They will, of course, be doing their own research and developing products but as you are the user and buyer, a lot of power to influence them is in your hands. And the closer that tech companies and buyers work together, the better for everyone.
Event technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. It was already going pretty fast even before Covid-19 came along and disrupted the events sector. The impact of the coronavirus meant that event tech companies had to look at what they were offering and address just how relevant their products were. It was the same for event planners across the globe. Could they produce virtual events which their clients wanted, as, in-person events were no longer viable? Was the technology available and would it be robust enough to support them?
And whilst there were technology companies providing online solutions for planners to run virtual or hybrid events, the number now providing solutions has been massively accelerated. To give you an idea of the scale of the technology available, the Event Manager Blog published a guide that reviewed 94 platforms. But that was just on virtual technology. Imagine how much tech is available for events of all types.
What will future tech look like?
With the pure volume of technology available, it’s unclear as to what future tech will look like. My belief is that it will be pretty much the same as we have today but with additional benefits and newer features. For example, registration systems, payment collection, content management and analytics are always going to be needed. But how refined these event management building blocks become and what new ones are added are down to you. You can guide tech companies on what you need and what would be good for the future. Talk to your delegates, your sponsors and your exhibitors. Find out what is missing and then decide how important it is to your event. If it’s really important and not being provided by tech providers, then now is the time to discuss it and help develop the tech.
This is where the hard work begins. Planners really need to understand the different flavours of events and how they form experiences for delegates and stakeholders. The same applies to technology companies. If they don’t understand the event flavours of in-person, virtual and hybrid, how can the sector go forward?
How do in-person and virtual events differ?
This is really where we have a problem. The big mistake that I see time and again is that the in-person event is somehow required to be delivered in exactly the same way online. Why? There is no sense to this. Take, for example, the idea of making networking online the same as it is at an in-person event, can never be achieved. It’s impossible (to me at least) to have serendipity online.
But what you can do online for networking is use the technology tools that can easily assist with matching people of similar roles or interests who can then be put together. Planners can create important, buyer-supplier meetings and facilitate more meaningful conversations than is possible at a large in-person unstructured style networking event.
How can event tech help in-person events continue?
Big change comes from unforeseen disasters and that is what we have with Covid-19. If the crisis doesn’t change the way event professionals deliver events, then nothing will. Hygiene safety is now as important as risk management and data security. Events cannot go backwards. And it’s this change that technology can help with.
Some delegates will want your in-person event to be contactless. In fact for them, the more contactless the better.
It’s likely that there will be more demand for facial recognition at events, security bag scanning that can be done without the need for human touch and more technology that helps move people and keep congestion points clear. These are just three examples that spring to mind, based on the needs of hygiene safety alone, that help to incorporate the social distancing measures that are likely to be around for some time.
Technology now and in the future, needs to be simple to understand, simple to operate and simple to integrate with other systems. It must be absolutely secure and it must have good customer support in case of any issues. But above all, it must solve the challenges I have as an event professional delivering one of my events, whether that be an in-person, virtual or hybrid event.
When it comes to the future of event tech, it is in your hands to say what you need. My instinct is that the building blocks of the tech needed to deliver great events are already available, but the need for event tech refinements will always be ongoing.
Paul Cook will be moderating a panel on The Future of Venues at IBTM World Virtual this year as part of our IBTM TV content stream.
Find out more here.