Digital technology has reshaped the way we see a modern business event. The ubiquity of smartphones and mobile internet is allowing planners to create events that feel personalised for each attendee, whilst at the same time collecting unprecedented amounts of real-time data about those attendees. The benefits can be seen at every level, from easier check-ins to the facilitation of easier networking and content sharing between delegates and clients.
This digital revolution in the events industry can be seen in its growth despite all this social and communication technology. As Jon Card puts it, writing in the Guardian, “one of the paradoxes of the information age is that far from lowering the popularity of face-to-face contact, it appears to have increased it.”
In this article I want to explore some of the ways digital technology is reshaping the events industry for the better.
Social media has become an essential channel for event marketers and has redefined the way organisers, delegates and clients interact before, during and after an event. “One thing we’ve seen that has been really impressive is how technology is bringing social and professional together at events,” says Uzai Dada of atEvent. “Companies that have traditionally been very old fashioned in their approach to events are starting to leverage social media and other new age strategies to connect with their attendees in a much more meaningful and personalised way.”
Social media is the perfect online forum for creating a buzz around your event and reaching out to those people who attended post-event. A good starting point is creating dedicated Facebook or LinkedIn pages for your event. This will allow attendees to post comments, images and videos and form connections. A memorable Twitter hashtag is also essential and lets people easily join the conversation.
All of this is dependent on a good social media marketing strategy of course. Marketing Land’s excellent guide to event marketing with social media gives some good pointers in this area.
Mobile Event Apps
Mobile event apps are a huge growth area in the event planning industry. According to research by Crowd Compass and the Event Marketing Institute, event app usage is predicted to rise from 44% in 2015 to 56% in 2016. Events that had their own mobile event app in 2015 stood at 75%, a figure that is expected to rise to 86% in 2016.
Event apps come in many shapes and sizes and provide delegates and clients with a host of features, information and tools such as event agenda, floor plan, branding, speaker profiles, surveying, live polling, live streaming and onsite registration. They can also link up to your social media presence by providing social networks sign in. With attendees all using the same app at an event, the potential for networking and content sharing is huge.
Wearable Tech and Sensors
Near Field Communication (NFC), Wi-Fi, GPS, iBeacons and Bluetooth are allowing event organisers to gather information on the way attendees experience, roam and interact at events. This all goes to help marketers form a much more detailed picture of attendees and what they want from the event, feeding this information back to a central CRM where it can be used to target prospects with relevant information at a later date.
“There is a level of sophistication and intelligence that your prospect brings to the event before he or she even steps foot in the showroom floor,” says Uzair Dada the CEO of atEvent speaking to Event Industry News. “So now it’s on you as the marketer to figure out how you capitalise on the interactions with the prospect once they’re at your event. You need a level of personalised and relevant communication that you simply didn’t need years ago.”
There have been huge developments in digital signage at events in recent years and much of this is linked to the huge uptake in mobile event apps and digital tech in general at events. We’ve talked about social media already, but one possible use could be in the creation of a social media wall at your event, where attendees can see Tweets and Facebook posts from other attendees in real-time. Through the use of sensor tech such as digital badges that utilise NFC, digital signage can be used to create personal experiences for attendees as the roam the event floor.
Far from causing people to eschew the value in face to face contact, digital tech is re-invigorating and re-defining what it means to attend a business event. The increased interaction and cross-compatibility of digital devices, platforms and channels has established a thriving market for app developers, who are using sensor and mobile technologies to create personalised experiences that actively encourage social interaction.
It’s perhaps a testament to the power of a handshake and real world interactions that digital technology has not caused the event industry to wither behind a wall of impersonalised communication, but to flourish.