Although business events are the ultimate in face-to-face engagement, their immediacy and impact is being reshaped by the availability of new digital technologies.
Both mobile internet and smartphone use allows event planners to deliver events that are highly personalised for delegates, whilst using technologies that allow rich data about attendees to be gathered in real-time. The benefits of this extend across every event touchpoint; from facilitated and automated check-ins, through to mid-event experience Tweeting, voting and commenting and extending to post-event content sharing and networking.
In fact, far from reducing the popularity of events, it seems as though the explosion of new digital channels is actually making face-to-face engagement all the more important; offering real opportunities to businesses looking to extend their brands through experiences.
So which technologies are offering these gains?
Perhaps the most obvious transformative technology, social media has changed the landscape of event marketing, allowing hosts, attendees and other stakeholders to interact across all points of the event. These platforms allow professional and social elements to interact and allow even the most traditional of firms and industries to bring cutting-edge engagement and communication methods to their events and to create far more personalised and meaningful event experiences.
Social platforms can create an event buzz and link with those who couldn’t attend. An easy starting point is to create an event LinkedIn or Facebook page, encouraging those involved to post videos, images and comments and to network online. Similarly, a Twitter hashtag allows for real-time social media conversation.
Event Registration Software
A smooth and simple event registration process is one of the hallmarks of a well organised event and there are now a ton of software solutions out there to help attendees sign up and register. Some companies offer free versions, which are fine for smaller events, with other vendors and event agencies offering far more integrated and robust solutions that use an API to feed data directly into CRM and marketing software. Not only does online event registration software lighten the load of taking payments and issuing tickets, but at the event itself it can feed into print on demand badging and onsite registration, which gets attendees into the event far quicker and without hassle.
With sensors and wearable technology, event organisers can get a clear picture as to the way in which their delegates experience an event, move through it and interact with other attendees. This helps to create a rich picture for future event plans and gives marketers are clearer view of the things that their audiences want. The information can then be uploaded into a CRM system for later targeting of prospects. This degree of insight was simply unimaginable only a few years ago, demonstrating how quickly technology is reshaping the world of events and face-to-face experiences.
Event planners are using mobile event apps in fresh new ways, with their adoption looking set to grow rapidly. Already in 2015, 75 percent of events had their own app. These come in a variety of forms and offer bespoke information, features and tools, such as live polls, speaker profiles, floor plans, digital registration, live streaming, branding and more. They also allow integration with social media. If all event attendees use the same app, there is a superb opportunity for data collection and analysis, content sharing and networking, creating fresh content that can then be leveraged across the brand’s social and website channels for further reach.
Digital signage has come along in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Many event hosts now use social media walls to complement the speaker and live events happening on the stage. This allows delegates to see all of the Facebook posts and Tweets being made in real time about the occasion and also provides the chance for people who aren’t at the event to feel involved and to see what is going on. Sensor technology can be incorporated into digital badges, and digital signage can then deliver personalised attendee experiences as they navigate the event floor.
VR and AR
Virtual reality and Augmented Reality are both bringing the experience of an event to a new level, allowing those spectators unable to attend in person the chance to feel as though they were actually present through rich and immediate experiences.
One example of this technology is a 360-degree video which can be played on a smartphone or tablet, providing a wealth of sponsorship and branding opportunities along with richer engagement. At larger events, VR and AR are used to make displays more exciting and memorable and to bring gamification to the event experience, for competitions and new ways of experiencing a brand. Virtual Reality can also be used for functional tasks, such as carrying out venue and site inspections.
Future trends to look out for
Of course, these are just five trends that are changing the game. Other hot new technologies include drone-based live streaming, hologram projections for gamification of speakers and big data to create highly personalised experiences. And it’s certain that new technologies will continue to emerge and change the events game still further, offering exciting new opportunities for brands to communicate and engage with their audiences in ways that bring even greater meaning and value.
For those brands that are ready to combine the best of face-to-face experience with the enhancements of digital tech, the gains could be substantial.