Engagement is at the heart of conferences and meetings. Once attendees are in the room, planners have to compete for an attendee’s brain bandwidth that may be focused elsewhere. When attendees’ heads are down and looking at their phones or tablets, what are they looking at? Are they engaging with the brand message, content, each other, or something unconnected to the event? While we know that event apps are ubiquitous, there are other technologies out there that can enhance your attendees’ engagement and help them interact with your client’s message.
Social exchange theory demonstrates that in a social interaction people want to maximize benefits (e.g. learning something new) and minimize costs (e.g. wasted time or effort). Attendees will weigh the potential benefits and risks of their engagement with your content, and if the costs outweigh the benefits, attendees go back to their smart phones.
Here are some new technologies via the global event technology incubator Event Tech Lab that can help you capture and maintain attendees’focus.
Artificial Intelligence, or machine learning, has recently been incorporated into the event networking landscape with Grip. The London-based networking platform, launched in 2016, is the only application that uses AI to make sure that attendee-to-attendee engagement is the best it can be. The AI application makes sure that the best-matched attendees will get to meet at conferences and exhibitions. The application programming interface (API) can be easily integrated into event apps. Efficient networking is in everyone’s interest.
Crowd sourcing content is a new development in content creation. Popular in the tech industry at events such SXSW, crowd sourcing allows potential attendees to start engaging with an event way before the program is announced. London-based SharedXP, launched six months ago, allows organizers to consult with their networks and get ideas on the best and most relevant types of content they want to experience. The value to attendees is feeling part of something—a sense of belonging and ownership for the program content they have contributed to. Why not turn your attendees into fans?
Facial recognition software is becoming common at airports, but until a few weeks ago was not used at meetings and conferences. Enter fresh-faced, Houston-based Zenus Biometrics. Its API has been integrated with U.S.-based Eventinterface and U.K.-based Ya Ya Regie event registration websites. The software allows a frictionless entry experience for up to 1,000 attendees whose recognition data is destroyed after the event to protect privacy. The value to attendees is invisible, efficient, and non-evasive engagement at the point of entry. The value to the planner is fast and frictionless event entry with an extra layer of security.
Play 2 Lead
Gamified virtual reality and augmented reality experiences have been known to improve knowledge recall, that is why lots of brands use them at events and conferences. However, an off-the-shelf gaming experience won’t get your brand in front of attendees in the way custom VR/AR content will. Melbourne-based Play 2 Lead is a gamification platform that joined the Event Tech Labs in 2016 and recently launched an API that integrates leaderboard and quiz elements into VR or AR experiences. The value for attendees is competition and fun while being immersed in a VR or AR experience. The value for planners is the ability to measure the length and level of engagement in the experience by each participant.
Interactive screens that look like giant smart phones is a no-brainer idea. Everyone knows how to use a smart phone and London-based Giant iTab screens make the most of that. Planners can add custom content relating to the event, event-specific apps, or native apps from the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store to the screen for attendees to engage with. The giant screens also take photographs for attendees to share on social media.
Tap to Speak
Using phones as microphones and polling booths is a must to engage attendees. Lots of attendees are reluctant to speak up at a conference and roving microphones slow down audience participation. Phoenix-based Tap to Speak, launched in 2016, allows your attendees to use their smart phones as microphones for Q and A sessions. The application is easily implemented through a weblink connection to the venue sound system. The application also allows interactive polling and quizzes to make sure all attendees’ voices are heard.
Robotics is a relatively new phenomenon at conferences, but now autonomous robots are here to stay. Paris- and London-based Evotion provides small or large robots pre-programmed with custom content for your attendees to engage with and learn from. The robots can be programmed for attendee check-in or to entertain with drawings or even to lure your conference goers on to the dance floor. The novelty of engaging with a cute robot at check-in should make the process more enjoyable, even if it doesn’t make the line go faster.
All these technologies are aimed at facilitating a bond between the brand message and its target audience, increasing logistical efficiency, and improving engagement for everyone at your event. But however cute your dancing robots are, remember that technology works best when it is supporting the human connections your attendees came for.
James Morgan, PhD, CSEP, is the founder of Event Tech Lab, a virtual community supporting event technology startups and providing a network for event tech providers and users.