Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, right? But what if we did the same thing time after time and expected to get the same results?
For example, say we threw the best conference there ever was in 1980. If we repeated the exact same conference in 2016, would we get the same results? Of course not, because a lot has changed since then. While expecting different results from doing the same thing may be insanity, doing the same thing over time and expecting the same results is called “getting stuck.”
Think of meetings as hairstyles. You may have rocked that mullet in the 1980s, but if you kept getting a mullet for the next several decades, well, there’s only so long someone should have a mullet (and that time has ended). The event technology you use could be the difference between your meeting sporting an analog mullet versus a man bun. (Of course, don’t expect the man bun to last forever, either.)
I’m not here to preach about how technology should take over everything, however. It’s much more complicated than that. You don’t need to replace everything you’ve ever done all at once. You do need to integrate technology that will enhance the experience of your audience and align with your goals and objectives.
Here’s how I see it: Eventually (and I stress eventually), the standard presentations, speakers, and infographics we rely on now will become extinct. These will no longer be the most effective ways to receive information, nor will they meet the expectations of attendees. We’re not there ... yet. But how are you bridging the gap in the meantime? What ways can you use technology to achieve your event’s objectives?
For example, think about data visualization. When data is presented to you, the presenter determines what data is important—the presenter owns the data. But when we can interact with data, we get to cherry-pick the data that’s most important to us—we get to own the data. No one goes to Google to learn everything. You type exactly what you need in the search bar, and learn just that piece of data. Why shouldn’t meetings work the same way?
Imagine if there was a globe in the center of an expo floor, or in the meeting app on your smartphone. You could touch the globe and learn how many people at the conference are from that area. Now it becomes your data, not someone else’s. It’s customized and tailored to fit what you want to know. Imagine the networking opportunities that could spring from having this information at your fingertips.
3 Steps to Get You Started
You need to carefully balance the integrating and the innovating if you want to use event technology to help drive your bottom line and relate to a modern audience. Here are three places to start:
1. Meet them where they are.
There is no one answer to integrating technology into events, because every event is different. Start by asking who your audience is—and don’t stop with their demographics. What about the psychographics of your audience? What are their likes and dislikes? Are you talking to coders and programmers or retired educators? The coders and programmers will tune out a sit-and-listen-style conference. On the other hand, the retired educators might protest if you ejected that style of learning altogether, and instead would learn more effectively with an incremental integration of technology.
2. Understand that the conference model needs to change.
Like everything else, it needs to evolve. It’s not just in our industry, either: Look at how Nintendo brought Pokémon back from the dead through augmented reality. I understand that augmented reality could take up some serious real estate on your budget sheet—again, I’m talking about making small changes that will still move the needle. But don’t forget that there also is an “opportunity cost” associated with becoming irrelevant. How long can you get by before you lose the attention of precious employees and customers? In an ever-evolving industry, the “just getting by” mentality will not set you and your team up for success.
3. Consult with the experts—and engage them from the start.
Let them be your partners in integration and innovation. Be transparent with your budgets and let your production partner’s creativity soar. Be open-minded to stepping outside of the norm, outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be that guy with the mullet.
So, you’re ready to make the jump? Awesome! Let’s go. Are you ready for more of a step than a jump? That’s great, too. I know that not everyone has massive budgets or the attendee mindset needed to change the game all at once. It’s not a great practice to dramatically vary from the expectations of your attendees, anyway. What slow and steady steps can you take year to year? Sometimes it’s just a slight change that can make a huge difference in the way your attendees feel, learn, and, therefore, become your event’s brand ambassadors.
And it’s not just attendees who may need to be brought along incrementally. Earning buy-in for this type of change from your leadership can be tough, even if it’s just a small change. You know your boss best. How big of a risk-taker is he or she? And when you talk with your event production team, help them to understand your event’s end goal so they can help you gradually work it in over time.
What do you think? How has event technology helped you be a game-changer?
Niki McKay freelanced in the events industry for over a decade before launching her own event productions company, Blue Danube Productions, in 2007. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management from Seattle University and was the International Live Events Association Seattle Chapter President for the 2011–2012 term. Learn more at the Blue Danube Productions website.