2018 is going to be a big year for the event industry. As attendees become more demanding and technology options abound, event organizers and marketers are under even more pressure to create memorable experiences. But it’s important to remember that you’re not going to score many points by just adding technology to your events. Instead, focus on understanding your attendees’ interests and preferences, and use that information to personalize communications and individualize conversations.
For the past few years, the industry has been focused heavily on the rise of event technology and making it fit for each event in conference. However, in 2018, we’re going to see attendees driving the way events operate like never before. And this means organizers need to adopt event technology tools that enhance the attendee experience, not get in the way.
Let’s take a look at a few technology trends through this lens, and explore how they either enhance or detract from the attendee experience.
Go Mobile First
There couldn’t be a better fit than live events and mobile apps. By their nature, attendees at in-person events and conferences are “roving,” so mobile devices can be meaningfully integrated into their experience in a natural and unobtrusive way. Mobile apps can become a core component of the attendee experience by recommending the best sessions, helping attendees get around, and encouraging them to connect with fellow attendees.
One of the big reasons event apps should be the epicenter of your event-tech strategy is their ability to collect attendee engagement data. Because event apps collect scores of data, it becomes much easier to listen to your attendees. By measuring social engagement, speaker ratings, session reviews, poll responses, and topic interests, you will be in a much better position to personalize the attendee experience.
Attendee Experience Matters
In today’s tech-laden society, there should no longer be a one-size-fits-all mentality, where each attendee has the same experience. Leading up to the event, it’s important to reach out to the your target audience to create an enjoyable experience right off the bat. Offering them the opportunity to weigh in on sessions or activities prior to the event will help you ensure you are giving attendees what they want, and also show them that you’re personally invested in their event-related happiness. Additionally, you can work wonders for the quality of attendees’ experience by using their interactions and interests to personalize suggestions for activities they might enjoy.
Post-event, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Making the effort to personalize outreach to attendees after the conference or event is over will help you further build relationships with them while generating incremental revenue for your organization.
Choose New Tech Based on Your Audience
There are a myriad new tech trends that are just waiting to descend on your events. Between virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and business intelligence, you have to ask yourself “WTF?”—what’s the fit? Will new technologies enhance the attendee experience or detract from it? Are all new trends appropriate for every audience demographic? Will your target market happily take part in photo booths and wearables, or will your attendees only adopt technology that’s comfortable to them?
The bottom line is that it’s all about the attendee experience, and your attendees will dictate the extent of which event technology will be adopted at your events. Most people, regardless of demographic, are actively using smartphones. So that means that centralizing their experience around that device is of utmost importance, while carefully testing new event technology based on your specific attendee’s needs and profile.
With all the technology trends and applications to the event industry, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. However, by focusing on the attendee experience first and foremost, and then aligning your event technology to each step in that journey, everyone wins. There is no doubt that 2018 is going to be the year of the event attendee, but we will also see the event organizer and marketer be empowered and elevated like never before.
Michael Balyasny is a product- and design-driven serial entrepreneur with more than 10 years of experience, Currently the CEO and founder of mobile event technology and engagement company Attendify, he drives the company's strategic direction, including product vision, user experience design, customer development, and partnerships.