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An Events Pro Finds the Future at CES

Autonomous Events? What tech developments from CES mean for event organizers.

It's a bit ironic that the largest collection of digital technology is displayed in a traditional trade show setup at CES LINK each year. Even as technology advances, robots become more human, and the most talked-about innovation is AI that can't be seen, it still takes a human touch to put together the right display to market these products.

I believe that events can never be autonomous—it takes a skilled planner to understand every nuanced detail and decision that goes into producing a well-developed event, and adapt quickly when it doesn't go as planned. However, there is an opportunity to look at the technology on display at this large consumer technology show and consider the future of the event marketer's toolkit. 

Here are a few products from CES that should get organizers thinking.

Technology that makes connectivity easier.
The number-one question I hear from attendees is, “Where can I charge my tablet/computer/smart watch?” Gone are the days when event attendees can be offline. It seems like an easy problem to solve, but thinking through where power can be dropped—with the cords hidden but the outlet accessible—is sometimes a lot of extra work. Enter Wi-Charge, a beautiful ceiling light that delivers power over long distances using infrared. Through the company’s multiple types of transmitters and receivers, it charges wearables, phones, and other devices. The technology is not there yet—there are extreme limitations to the numbers of devices that can receive a charge (for example, each light can only host up to four devices, depending on the application), and its three different products are currently in beta, but I’ll be watching Wi-Charge to solve my power-access problem in the future. 

Technology that moves attendees more efficiently.
Another event-planning pain point is moving attendees throughout a venue or experience, whether it’s for check-in at the entrance, or for moving around a city for a multi-venue conference (like CES). With ridesharing companies like Lyft test-piloting autonomous cars and partnering with mobility-tech-solutions company Aptiv, we could see autonomous vehicles efficiently moving attendees in the near future. This could mean easier access to cars or easier ways to track pickup and drop-offs when it’s crucial to be on schedule. 

Technology that keeps attendee data safe.
Wi-Fi hacking is a real vulnerability at conferences and should always be part of risk management planning. Products like the Bitdefender Box, a cybersecurity device made for at-home use, can potentially be brought into event environments to protect attendees from phishing attacks and encrypt their data.

Technology that makes us more global.
According to Ethnologue, there are more than 7,000 languages in the world. Given this statistic, it’s more than likely that you’ll have to solve for at least two at your next event. Travis the Translator is not the first of its kind on the market, but it might be one of the easiest to use, putting the ability to seamlessly translate 80 languages right in your pocket. Say goodbye to booking that professional translator.

 There's a quote from Jeff Hurt, executive vice president, education and engagement with Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, that has stuck with me since last year's Professional Convention Management Association Convening Leaders. When talking about innovation, he said, "You need to know the why before the what." I completely agree, but if CES is any indicator of how technology is going to change the event industry, the ‘what’ is pretty amazing.

Melissa Feinman, CMP, is vice president/director of corporate communications events management lead with Digitas, and a 2017 MeetingsNet Changemaker.

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