CSE Live Spotlight – Tech Talks, Attendee Engagement

An Interview with Anthony Vade, Event Designer and Account Manager, FMAV

In honor of CSE Live last week, FMAV.ca asked Anthony Vade, who spoke at one of the event’s sessions, some questions about using technology to engage event attendees. Here is what he had to say.

“There is much talk about creating an experience, not just planning events. These kinds of statements come and go in fashionable waves. Remember in the mid-2000’s when we were all embracing “creativity” or a few years ago when we were looking to create “engaging events?” Live events have always been about creating experiences. Designing experiences isn’t new, what I think the industry is trying to say is: let’s be more intentional in the way we plan and execute our events. Let’s ensure that attendees are guaranteed to walk away with brand messaging and event experiences the event stakeholders are looking for. How do we do that and what technologies are in place for that task?

Inevitably we were going to talk about technology because it has a huge part of our everyday life. I could start rattling off the new and exciting technologies that are available today. VR this, AR that, Facial tracking, AI and Chatbots. What I would rather do is start a dialogue and present the true role technology must play in helping event professionals design better experiences.”

 

Q: How can solutions be used to create event connections?

Anthony: “In my role developing Technology Design and Engagement Strategies at FMAV, I am responsible for understanding the industry and predicting the solutions we will all need in the future. To do this my team at the FMAV DesignHub has segmented our solutions and services into three impactful pillars:

Environmental.Now, this isn’t about being Green and sustainable, as important as that is. This is the traditional elements of Event Technology. Audio, Visual, Lighting, and how we integrate and enhance décor and scenic elements. It is how the attendees receive information and how we make them feel emotionally through the aesthetics of the event.

Immersion. No, we are not investing in MK Ultra style Stranger Things technology. Immersion is solutions that create unique experiences normally not seen at live events. These include Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Holographic technology, Projection Mapping, and the creation of Immersion rooms.

We also put Webcasting, Virtual Events and Hybrid Meetings in this category. Normally we think of these existing as engagement solutions. However I believe the future of virtual events will be about immersing the remote attendee in the live event experience. These solutions will include, 360 steaming and streaming in VR.

As virtual attendees become more common, planners will need to think about how they are immersing their remote and virtual attendees in the event environment. Furthermore, how are they engaging with those attendees.  Smart planners will stop tacking on webcasting as an after-thought. FMAV is excited by the opportunity to explore the tools and strategies we employ to achieve that.

Engagement. – Some of the solutions that support event engagement include:

The most successful events turn event attendees into event participants. The days of the presenter talking at attendees are numbered. Attendees want more personalized experiences, they want two-way conversations and to contribute to the discussions. Engagement technology tools are designed to be the conduit to enable these connections.

  • The Event App and Web App
  • Event Marketing Website and Social platforms
  • Second Screen and Audience Response technologies.
  • Attendee tracking
  • AI and Chatbots
  • Creating Games that obtain data.
  • Webcast enhancing engagement tools

 

Q: How do we enable data collection into our event connections?

Anthony: “Data is the arches over our pillars and is fundamental to supporting the success and longevity of the events industry. We cannot judge the success of any of the technology activations without collection and analysis of data associated with our activities. You have to improve attendee experience and stakeholders outcomes otherwise you risk underservicing and losing both. Without analysis of data, you don’t know what you don’t know. But data is a tricky thing to collect; there are privacy considerations, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) and security risks of the data storage.

Just because it is daunting, it does not mean we can ignore it and avoid it.

I’m going to give you a rapid overview of three engagement technologies that have me very excited and talk about three technologies to enable Data collection expanding on Data security and GDPR.”

 

Q: What are some engagement technologies available today?

Anthony:Glisser. – Glisser is an award-winning presentation and audience response software platform that engages attendees through live slide sharing, digital Q&A and Polling, while providing digital note taking and allowing real-time feedback on content.  Then after the event, it exports all the data for analysis to help planners and presenters make better decisions in the future.

If you are basing all of your planning on your post-event survey, you are probably working with some flawed data.  How often have you gone to an event and experienced something that has ticked you off, only to have that negative feeling ware off a few days later.  Now some might argue, that is a good thing, that the mellowed out emotion is more real. I know at my events, I want people to have positive emotions all the time unless of course, I am intentionally making them feel sad or angry.  But anytime someone experiences any emotion outside of the “planned” emotion I want to know about it in real time, not 4 days to 2 weeks later when they have mellowed.  Glisser does this.

A huge value in Second Screen comes from Integration with Webcast and Hybrid events. You need to engage your remote audience. You need to know if they are watching or logging in and walking away.  Are they getting distracted by emails and not paying attention? By putting engagement technology side by side with your webcast you can measure the attention of your audience. You can keep their interest and have them feel like they are contributing to the live event, not separate from it.  Look at Facebook live, there is a reason they give you a visual animation when you give a thumbs up or heart to a live stream and the visual heat map of viewership. They want to give you a visual reward for engaging, they want the broadcaster to be able to analyze what resonated with the audience.”

 

Q: How do we get data out of hidden opportunities?

Anthony: “We live in a world where our willingness to share data is following this trend.  Half the room is thinking, “Data collection, NOT ME, STAY AWAY BIG BROTHER” GDPR was partly created for you. The other half is either saying “Great I want everything more personalized for me to take my details and data,” or they are just ticking the accept box without reading the fine print.

The emerging generation is more interested in personalized content than the cold war surviving, conspiracy theory loving Gen X’er. They have grown up with access to more data than most of us had through our entire education. They crave data and importantly they make decisions and act on what they learn from it.

In the future, the companies that provide the richest data will be the company that wins the most business, and keeps the business the longest – did you notice I said richest, not the most data, there is a difference.

You can still get valuable anonymous data from attendees. To combat this we can play to the trait most GenX’er have.  They like to have a good time, they like to meet with their friends and share their experiences. They like to think they are breaking away from the status quo, and similar to everyone else, they want to tell everyone about it. We need to create experiences that play to this. There are many strategies that we can employ. You will have more success with anonymous data if they do not realize you are collecting it.  Now I am not saying steal their data, or employ some sort of mind control to extract it. What I am suggesting is deploying solutions that get them to actively participate with technology that encourages them subconsciously.”

 

Q: How do we encourage positive emotions through event engagement? 

Anthony: “We have been creating technologies that encourage participants to play a game that either plants a subconscious message in their minds or extracts an emotional response from them. These responses can help us gauge their feelings around a topic or event experience. For example, creating a Car Racing game that makes the attendee select a ‘Car’ that relates to a product or brand.  Let’s say a large beverage company has many different brands and flavours when the attendee walks up to the game they will inherently pick the brand or flavour they like the most. They do this because they subconsciously think it will perform better in the race. That is a very basic example of subconscious surveying.

Think of every game or online trivia game you have ever played at an event. Those games are designed to test your knowledge of a brand or product. Now imagine all the ways we can create custom game experiences that are even less blatant than a trivia game.

When we are having fun we let our guard down and reveal our true feelings. Positive emotions, don’t just open our hearts they open our minds. Get smart and use those activations to obtain data and metrics to improve your future planning and stakeholder ROI.”

 

Q: What exactly is the concept of social currency?

Anthony: “If you have read Jonah Berger’s book Contagious you will know the concept of Social Currency.  If you haven’t and you plan or market events, get yourself a copy.  Employing its principals has resulted in mammoth improvements for a several of my clients and partners.

The condensed version of Social Currency is people like to be seen as experts and knowledgeable in their social and business circles.  Marketers and event professionals can leverage this tendency to encourage the sharing of brand and value messaging. Making event attendees spokespeople for products and services.

However, we can also use this concept to extract feedback from attendees at live events. Encouraging attendees to share their discoveries and connections at live events through measurable platforms. That information can be used to evaluate everything from content relevance, delivery success, to tradeshow layouts, and event scheduling.

By building digital and social communities or activations that allow attendees to collect and curate their take away’s from an event experience we can encourage them to put that data in a centralized location that we can analyze.  The return on engagement (ROE) for the attendee comes from the Social Currency, ie being seen as contributing to their peer group or obtaining information that they can share with the boss or colleagues. By providing these solutions we are giving them a big reward for their engagement. This extends the life and reach of the content, it promotes the content and experience as relevant – driving future attendance, and of course, the benefit of their consent gives you access to that data.”

 

Q: What do we need to consider about Privacy and Security?

Anthony: You thought CASL was a big thing wait for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations). It is in place in Europe and is approx. 66 days from being in place in the USA with Canada expected to follow. These regulations will change the way we interact and capture the data belonging to and about your attendees. You will need explicit consent to release that data for your use. Not only must you inform the individuals that you are obtaining their data and tell them what you plan to do with it, you will also be responsible for the safekeeping of that data.

You have probably heard about Cambridge Analytica scandal. How they used Facebook quiz apps to obtain personal data. I avoid these kinds of quiz apps; I don’t need Facebook to tell me which Sex and the City character I am, it should be obvious to anyone who knows me. When users click on these quizzes the creators are obtaining your data. It was often done with user consent, for you had to click approval for them to access your information. The ethically questionable activity they engaged in came from requesting release your friend’s data, which you have not right to do. GDPR will require data retrievers have explicit consent from the individual providing the data. Only that individual’s data will be released and data mining activities like Cambridge Analytica’s will be contradiction the regulations and open to litigation.

Security. – When you capture data, from registration, onsite engagement to surveying, you become responsible for that data’s security. Write all the GDPR disclaimers you want, threaten your AV Company you will never work with them again if there is a data breach. But know, if and when that data breach occurs the industry will not care that a box was ticked or a contract signed. You may avoid the legal costs, but people will quickly forget who the supplier was. Instead, they will remember the event had a data breach. The event and your reputation as an event professional will be in tatters. You will be left clientless muttering, “but they ticked the GDPR box…”.”

 

Q: What are some questions planners should be asking?

Anthony: “Where is this data living?Where is the server that stores the data? Is it in Canada, USA, offshore, some basement in Mexico?

If the service/product supplier cannot answer these questions, have second thoughts about partnering with them.

Decide if that server location is a threat or acceptable risk. Perhaps Germany is the best place for the data because the tech company has great security measures and is GDPR compliant. On the other side, if you are hosting financial or government data that should not leave your country you will want to find a host server that is within your country.

Who has access to this data? Is the service provider the one creating the software and collecting the data or is it outsourced?

If they are not creating it, who is and are they a reputable developer with security measures in place to safeguard the data.

During my 20 years in this business, I have encountered companies that get low-cost programmers in third world countries to create their software and do their data entry. Are your attendees ok with their information living on hardware in India or Brazil? Consider GDPR does not exist in many of those countries. It means they are not bound by the same regulations as you and I are.

What is the cost? In a digital world, it is always safe to assume, if something is free it is almost guaranteed that you, the user, are the product. Often the software companies provide limited access demonstration access in the hope that you will by the full package or even freemium options. You will also encounter software developers who are buying you as a beta tester or worse- they are accessing your users’ data and on-selling it. If you are engaged in this kind of activity, intentionally or unintentionally and the attendees are not aware of their data release and usage, you a contravening the GDPR.

If you are one of those people who buy “sales lists” from sales list spammers, stop it.  You are feeding this problem. Go out and meet people and build a network like the rest of us.

 

Q: How can professionals get in touch with you to continue the discussion?

Anthony: “If they have additional questions about anything discussed in this conversation, they are welcome to connect with me directly either on social channels or via email.”

 

About Anthony Vade

For the last 20 years, Anthony has been helping event stakeholders use technology to make tangible connections with their attendees.

Anthony’s consultative and collaborative approach to customer engagement has resulted in thousands of successful events traversing four continents.

He has contributed to many award-winning productions both in live events and the film industry.  He has been actively involved with ILEA and MPI on a local and national level since 2010 and is well known for his advocacy and support of the entire live event industry.

A Tech Nerd at heart he loves to talk about how our lives are now intrinsically linked by technology. He believes that events, meetings and experiential activations are only successful when produced a well-aligned team.  He believes that technology is important, but the right people, skills and experience is vital. With that winning combination, smart technology can create experiences that, not only, connect and deliver the key messages, but also achieve the event stakeholder’s business objectives.

Connect with Anthony

Twitter: @avconnecting | Linkedin: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/anthonyvade | Email: avade@fmav.ca