Charlie Wright is a 25-year veteran of the global events fraternity. He founded a leading events business in the UAE that is today part of the Arena Group, one of the world’s iconic event groups. His extensive experience has made him recognize the need for a transparent global platform that can connect a fragmented events industry.
TSNN, a leader in the trade show, exhibition and events industry, has released a study about technological advancement in the events industry, and the overriding message is this: Event managers want easy-to-use technology that will provide them with the right data, and if you can show them the value, they are willing to pay for it.
From Netflix, to Amazon, the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies are putting “data driven decisions” at the core of their strategies. Harnessing the information from millions of users allows companies to make safer, more cost-effective decisions, and keep on moving in the direction that keeps them popular with their consumer base.
With more than one-third of event managers interviewed by TSNN stating that they plan to spend $50k or more on an upcoming event, technology could help managers spend their resources in the right ways, to get the right results. While event technology is still in its infancy, effective use of event data has been proven to improve management decisions, attendance marketing and communications, and offer insights into attendee behavior that can be used to make overall improvements.
So how quickly is event technology maturing, and what are the current benefits of harnessing the new tools?
Smartphones and social media have dramatically changed the event landscape. While in the past, having event attendees glued to their cellphones would have been a bad sign, now apps collect data from attendees, “pushing” them to interact with other members, attend certain event activities and share content via social media. Research from Guidebook reveals that 88 percent of event professionals believe that the use of event apps greatly improves attendee engagement.
Smartphones and social media offer more value for event organizers and attendees alike, allowing event organizers to improve the user experience for their events, from convenient ticketing via mobile payments and using e-tickets on smartphones, to increased audience interaction.
Whereas in the past events were quite one-sided with attendees watching, listening and handing out business cards, apps now make the experience more inclusive and interactive, offering real ROI, and allowing attendees to connect with one another and follow up with people they might have met at a previous event or during a social activity.
Especially for startups with low budgets and limited resources, this direct ROI can be a determining factor in the decision to attend events costing thousands of dollars.
Trust and transparency also are key factors. New technology offers a previously unseen level of digital visibility and the ability to offer impartial reviews, which establishes consumer trust. With Facebook having changed its algorithms to reduce organic traffic to business pages, it has become more difficult for event organizers to display client feedback. Through the use of apps and other third-party review sites, organizers are able to share experiences with past and potential attendees like never before.
Big data is king in most industries, but until recently, the events industry has not harnessed its potential. In the last few years, leading events organizers have jumped in with both feet collecting the right data to get the right results.
Sixty-seven percent of the event professionals who participated in the TSNN study consider the most important development in event technology to be how it enables the use of event data to make better event management decisions.
Event tech expert Mike Piddock argues, “Event tech that gathers data, both during live events and presentations, and dipping into social media profiles to understand event communities, will be a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.”
From collecting the target-audience information needed to create an effective communications strategy before, during and after an event, to tracking attendance to improve content and speakers for future events, to gathering real-time RSVP data that can help ensure events are adequately stocked with minimal waste, event data can dramatically improve the way event producers manage their resources, plan an event and make overall business decisions — and prevent an event from turning into a disaster.
A study from Enterprise Event Marketing reveals effective use of event technology can create a 20 percent increase in event attendance while reducing related costs by up to 30 percent. However, despite the considerable potential savings on offer, studies indicate that one of the main reasons events organizers have been slow to integrate new technologies is cost.
Before the event tech revolution, events — especially if the first of their kind — involved a lot of guesswork. How many people will attend? How many people will RSVP but not come on the day? Who is interested in some events but not others? Is there enough demand for this expensive keynote speaker? What food and drinks will be most popular?
Not only does social media marketing make it easier to involve potential attendees in the planning process with questionnaires and surveys, nowadays, by comparing data from previous events with social media RSVP figures from platforms such as Facebook, it is much easier for organizers to make more accurate estimates about who will actually attend an event.
This is especially important when choosing a venue and organizing catering, two of the biggest expenditures for event organizers. Organizers can make safer estimates about attendee numbers, which will allow them to book the right size of venue, hire the right number of staff, and also order the right amount of food and drinks for the numbers required. Event organizers also can lean on online reviews to make sure they bring on the right catering company and partner with the right venue, too.
It is clear that adapting to new technologies will offer a competitive advantage to event organizers in the years to come. However, this requires becoming familiar with and testing new technologies to find tools that offer value for the right price. Extracting event data from the many digital outlets out there, assessing this data in an efficient manner and then leveraging it to make an event a success is not as easy as it sounds, but those who take the leap will find themselves leagues in front of the competition.
Charlie Wright is a 25-year veteran of the global events fraternity. He founded a leading events business in the UAE that is today part of the Arena Group, one of the world’s iconic event groups. His extensive experience has made him recognize the need for a transparent global platform that can connect a fragmented events industry. AC&F