Event Technology Trends to Expect in 2019
We recently held a webinar with our partners at BizBash focused on 2019 event technology trends - what we learned in 2018 and how it can be applied to 2019. (In case you missed it, visit bizbash.com/webinar to catch the slides and the recording.)
The group attending had lots of great questions, not all of which we were able to answer on the call. We've gone back to answer those questions here, as we think they could be helpful to all event professionals.
2018 saw some planners embracing this technology as a way to enhance their meeting experience. We've had clients who used AR combined with gamification to help educate attendees about unique attributes of the brand or product, essentially training attendees as brand ambassadors in a fun, interesting way. We've also had clients who used Augmented Reality to display personalized video messages to attendees.
In 2019, we will see this technology providing solutions to wayfinding. Imagine holding your phone in the event space and having it serve you dynamic directions and signage. We are also seeing the use of digital signposts - where you hold your phone up to an actual signpost - and by using Augmented Reality, personalized directions point you toward meeting locations, attendees with which to network, or speakers you want to see.
Q: Are there mobile apps with the AR built in? Or is it mostly a stand alone product?
A; It can be either built into an app or a stand alone product, but we do have a POV on what’s best. At MeetingPlay, AR is part of our feature set. You don’t want to put hurdles in front of users; they simply won’t download multiple apps or tools. And having multiple pieces of technology won’t allow for a personalized experience. This is why it’s important to find out if your provider includes these features or to ask about how they integrate with other technology.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
A lot of the AI buzz in 2018 was all about chatbots but there are more applications to AI to be aware of like Attendee Matchmaking and Content Recommendations.
Q: How is AI different than an algorithm (to provide personalized content)?
A: The biggest difference is that an algorithm is run on a predetermined set of instructions whereas AI continues to learn from preferences and other data intelligence. AI changes algorithms as more is learned about the information being processed.
A matchmaking algorithm is used for attendee networking where smart decisions are made based on data calculations and other problem solving. This provides a personalized experience for attendees because the algorithm is used to make recommendations on the best connections for each app user. Essentially, you can take a meeting of 1,000 attendees and distill down the few most beneficial, impactful people for your attendees to meet within that group. This makes networking more efficient.
For AI, think of the traditional Netflix model that makes recommendations based on your viewing history. As you continue to watch new shows, your recommendations change. In the event space, content matching is an AI solution that learns from information received before and during the event to provide personalized recommendations on sessions to attend. Attendees typically view agendas by track, especially at large events, which only shows a selection of sessions and speakers available. With our Content Matching AI we can custom-cater content, initially using an algorithm to make session suggestions that are relevant to each individual. Then, we can enhance these suggestions as attendees take additional action at the event. For example, as they join certain sessions, we continue to make new recommendations of things the attendee may like through AI
Facial Recognition is staying on the event trends list into 2019 and while the technology is still advancing, we've used it at recent events with great success to help expedite check-in, as well as to seamlessly associate photos with attendees.
Q: Does facial recognition technology actually speed up the check-in process? Can people walk by and get recognized immediately or do they have to stop and tap the iPad screen?
A: Facial Recognition can work either way, and it usually comes down to bandwidth availability and the number of attendees at an event. If the right bandwidth is available on property, the attendee isn’t required to click on a button to check-in, if that’s what the planner prefers.
Other Questions from the Group
Q: Could you please define what GDPR is.
A: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU).
This has implications to your company if you have any attendees from the EU attending your events. It doesn’t matter if you are a US based company with an event taking place in the US. It has to do with the citizenship of your attendees. And EU regulators are able to authorize enforcement of this regulation in the US.
As a meeting planner, you are defined as the data controller, and it’s your job to ensure you have secure measures in place to obtain appropriate consent for communication with your EU attendees as well as proper data management of their information. And it’s also your job to ensure that your vendors do the same. To learn more, click here.
Q: Have you identified any technology trends to help environmental sustainability? Any ideas on how any of the trends you identify can support sustainability or environmentally friendly events?
A: The simple answer is that mobile event apps help to reduce printing, which supports sustainability. The more interesting answer encourages you to think about the environmental impact of printing large signage (often using foamcore) vs. using digital signage, or using wayfinding or AR instead of printed maps.
We just attended a great Twitter Chat on this topic last week. Follow #expochat on Twitter to see the discussion.
Q: Moral or ethical or additional privacy concerns or comments on these tech trends? Any more problematic than others?
A: Any provider worth their salt will adhere to strict opt-in and opt-out policies related to this technology. As part of opt-in, they’ll also make it clear exactly how the technology is being used so it’s obvious to the attendee what they are opting into.
Further, at the end of the event, all data related to the attendee around these new technologies is permanently deleted so it doesn’t have a life beyond the event.
This question brings up another relevant concern around using new technology. It’s natural for there to be hesitation when adopting new technology and new behaviors. Concerns about data and privacy are legitimate. However, when handled responsibly, these changes can be safe and beneficial. Imagine if someone told you — just a few years ago — that in the future, a stranger would arrive in their car and you would hop in for a ride. It would have sounded far-fetched. Today, with Uber and Lyft, this is a common, everyday occurrence for many. In fact, most people can’t imagine life without this on-demand service. As our culture adopts new tech, our behaviors and expectations change as well. New technology is coming; it comes down to it happening with or without your involvement. It’s important to ask this original question – talk to your providers about it, and cross check for buy-in. Nothing is worse than rolling out technology in a silo.
Q: What would you say is the most useful/impactful for the baby boomer generation whom are still the primary demographic for our events? Or any tips to have them accept new technology?
A: A good place to start is to ask your attendees what they might be interested in. This is where survey tools show their merit. Then, make sure your technology delivers on the feedback that you receive.
Research has shown that baby boomers attend events so they can connect with others. Offering technology that will help them to have a more meaningful networking experience (like attendee matchmaking) should be a priority. They also enjoy group activities, again because connecting with others is a priority. Group gamification is another feature worth considering.
A general tip for any attendee is that if they don't find the technology useful, they won't use it. Don’t just tell attendees to download your app or to use the technology; be sure to market the value of the features you included so the benefit is clear.
During the webinar, we gave more in depth examples of the event tech trends listed above. We also spoke about Virtual Reality, Live Streaming and Upgraded Experiences. To see the full presentation, visit bizbash.com/webinar for the slides and full recording.
If you would like to learn more about ways these event technology trends might help solve your meeting goals, please drop us a line. We're happy to share examples of how we've helped other clients achieve success.