In 1899, Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of U.S. Office of Patents was rumored to have said that “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Over 117 years later, it is obvious that the world in which we live has developed many new tools, solutions, and inventions – and the events industry is absolutely no exception.
The future of technology is ever present. Every day we are introduced to more and more gadgets, ‘non gadgets’. What we thought was high tech, innovative, or cutting edge today, will be tomorrow’s history.
Perhaps it started with Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., who reportedly stated in 1977 “There is no reason anyone would a computer in their home.”
And perhaps that was more true than we give it credit for. After all, here in 2016, looking at the technology and gadgets that have replaced home computers – laptops, mobile phones, Fitbit’s and Apple watches, smart televisions (for those that even still own a television), and more – the reality is, why would anyone want or need a home computer, when you could merely glance at your cell phone or look at your watch.
Yes, I realize that’s not exactly what Mr. Olson meant when he made his original statement almost 40 years ago. And yet, how much foresight he truly held – if you only skip a decade or so ahead of time.
Working in the events industry – I have seen firsthand the changes that technology has made at events. Years ago an event attendee would expect to enter a room filled by smoke (of the tobacco type, not of the audio/visual/set your event apart type), with programs, agendas, and exhibitor fliers and brochures all across the floors and chairs. They would be seated in a chair, notepad and pen in hand, ready not to be communicated with or engaged with, but rather to be presented to. If the said event attendee had any questions, input or feedback you could potentially wait in lines long out the doors of the event, and maybe get a chance to engage with the keynote speaker or event presenter.
Networking included printing dozens of lead generating forms, business cards, and lengthy on site interactions and conversations that prevented you from meeting and engaging as much as one would have hoped.
Fast forward to 2016 – and what one may have seen or experienced at an event, even 5 years ago – is most certainly a different world and experience than what one would experience today.
Lengthy, costly, and environmentally unfriendly paper agendas, brochures and fliers have been replaced with interactive, engaging and mobile friendly event apps. Tobacco smoke is long gone, and instead events that were once merely chairs and tables in a bland conference center room, are now designed to look like you’re in a jungle, outer space, or anywhere but an actual conference center room. And the only smoke that fills the rooms is that of a dry ice machine filling the atmosphere to support that outer space feeling.)
Event professionals that once upon a time dedicated their time and planning via excel spreadsheets, are not utilizing all in one platforms that help them market, track, and collect data all in one single online “cloud based” software.
Keynote speakers are now no longer required to be ‘onsite’ – but can present their topic from a digital realm of video conferencing. Attendees who can’t be present in real time, can engage with live video streaming. On site attendees can actually engage and interact with the presenters with audience response systems and live polling. Event professionals can track and analyze the success and engagement level of sessions and events in real time with data analysis reporting.
With the amazing amount of technological changes that have already changed the world of events – what truly can be next? How in the world can events continue to surpass expectations, and truly rise above even what technological advances have already been set in place?
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
“Virtual reality is the first step in a grand adventure into the landscape of the imagination.” Frank Biocca, Taeyong Kim & Mark R. Levy, Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality
Augmented Reality is defined as “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” In lay mans terms, this means that one who engages with augmented reality devices – whether it be a head display via computer or other technological device such as a smart phone – enters a universe outside of where they actually are. There are many exciting new opportunities and examples of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality already happening within the hospitality world – Marriott hotels being a great example.
In 2013, Marriott Hotels brought an augmented reality opportunity to some of their hotel locations. Guests would engage with the tools and be taken on a virtual experience – almost feeling as though they were live in Paris, London, Dubai and other luxurious locations.
These augmented reality experiences provide an opportunity to engage and interact in a ‘world away from you.’ I propose that event technology will soon integrate this experience on a highly anticipated and expected level.
Wearable Technology Overtakes Mobile
“The wearable tech market could reach 385 million people and change how we ‘consume and use information’” Corey Stern, Business Insider
While event technology has certainly changed the way in which event professionals and event planners market, attract, interact and engage their event attendees – and mobile event apps have been one of the biggest game changers in that change – I imagine that with the increase of wearable technology, mobile devices will reach a height. At MeetingPlay, we have an over 90% adoption rate when it comes to event attendees downloading and engaging with our mobile event apps – however that isn’t always typical.
There are still those who are most comfortable (whether it be the event attendee or the event planner) with the ‘old school’ usage of paper agendas and note taking. While the amount of events that include mobile apps for their event, is rising – according to EventManagerBlog, it’s still less than 60%.
While I foresee that number overwhelmingly rising in the next year, I also presume the next ‘best’ and more innovative technological advancement that will come with event engagement tools will be wearable technology focused exclusively.
While technology quietly changes our lives seemingly overnight – what we begin to accept and expect also changes with time, without notice. Overnight drastic changes happen. What was once the most typical practices and approaches to something, could quickly be penalized and suddenly be a bad technique or tactic. Event technology is no different than the infamous Google Panda SEO update – what users expect is reliable, quality, and unique opportunity, information and experiences – whether it be a google search result or what happens when they register to attend an event.
Event attendees expect to be filled with an experience – and that experience doesn’t just begin when they plant their feet on the conference center doors. It begins prior to the event. It doesn’t end when they remove their feet – but rather far later. This before, during and after experience will be what revolutionizes the next event technology trends and innovations.
As event professionals continue to work hard to provide a unique and valuable experience, they will be looking to the event technology world for solutions – and it is essential that we continue to provide not only a solution, but an experience. It is our duty as creators of technology, whether it be within the event world or elsewhere, to create custom and dedicated solutions that surpass expectations, and truly delight the end users. For us in the event technology world that means we must continue to listen to both our hosts – the event planners and event professionals we work with – as well as the event attendees that engage, experience and interact with our event technology solutions.
The reality is that as minds grow and talent continues to infiltrate our world, expectations will continue to shift in every regard. What we may think be on the forefront of cutting edge, new and even worthwhile – perhaps could be wrong. Tomorrow’s event attendees could in fact crave an event of times past – paper agendas, non-interactive, simple conference rooms and all. What we must continue to do as technology and event professionals (and truly, any business) is continue to listen to the needs, wants and desires of those we help. By doing this – whether the next event includes augmented reality space stations, flying monkeys, or merely a simple coffee kiosk table – we know that we are giving, doing, and delighting what we must – our users, clients, and customers.