Top Tech Trends in 2017 and 2018

Innovative events and technology have become inseparably bound together. As audiences become more technologically sophisticated and savvy, so as Meeting and Event Professionals are forced to embrace new solutions. Moreover, as large multinational consumer brands release devices capable of complex data collection, information broadcast and featuring enhanced user experiences. Technology at live events becomes not only commonplace but vital. Fed by rapid advancements, 2017 saw a seismic shift in attitudes towards event technology and live event experience design.

We discussed the changing attitudes and new tech trends with FMAV’s own Anthony Vade. From his experience gained, designing event experiences across North America. He illuminates the key areas of interest expressed by our customers and industry peers.

Success fueled by data

According to Vade, one of the common thread connecting the most popular technologies is the collection and analysis of data. Starting at the very first connection with the attendees, smart solutions are monitoring engagement levels providing valuable marketing and communication metrics. Onsite arrivals and registration processes are being revolutionized with RFID and other near-field communications technologies. These technologies allow Event Professional to track and heat map the movements of attendees throughout their event experiences.

Second-screen software solutions are using audience smart devices to gather feedback and responses in real time. Allowing presenters and event organizers react to feedback during the event and in post-event analysis. Most solutions now offer these connections without requiring attendee to download an App. Recognizing App fatigue is on the rise, tech creators are staying in the web space to encourage higher uptake, with great success.

Technology-driven data collection provides the biggest value when it is used to shape and improve future events. Easier access to data allows Event Professionals to incorporate strategic improvements to the attendee and presenter experience, year over year.

On the bleeding edge of current capabilities, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition technology will forever change how attendees interact with event organizers and each other.

Chat Bots are answering questions and providing wayfinding support to event attendees already. But soon artificial intelligence (AI) will assist attendee to connect with content, exhibitors and each other. As AI better understanding the desired event outcomes and business objectives of individuals at events. It will prompt and guide attendee movements. Scheduling sessions and booking meeting opportunities. This will allow attendees to spend less time at agenda signage or heads down in apps and more time having a meaningful face to face conversations.

Facial recognition will increase security considerations in unobtrusive ways. Allowing for faster registration and further improve attendee attitude and tracking capabilities.

Reality plus

Vade remarked that the consumer applications of augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies are encouraging a more widespread use in event applications. As popular consumer brands make these experiences available on mass-market smartphones, event organizers are realizing their potential. Confident that their audiences understand the tools needed to interact with the augmented-reality elements.

Augmented reality is set to have far-reaching effects on the event industry. AR differs from VR which immerses the attendee in a virtual environment. Augmented Reality puts virtual content in the real world environment.

“AR is going to change the way we live our lives. I predict it will have a far-reaching impact on our day to day as social media has for many people. It is only natural that the events industry will follow this trend”

Event professionals will use AR to assist attendees with wayfinding, guiding them to their correct room or brand activation. In the future, by looking through their phone’s camera they will find a path to follow to their desired location making venue maps obsolete. Sponsors, exhibitors, and presenters will be able to provide additional content by making their activations, booths, and presentations AR scannable. Making the QR code look like a chalkboard name tag.

The virtual attendee

When asked about tech that’s coming down the pipeline, Vade stated that 360-degree video streaming will soon be far more common and prominent. Interest in 360 videos and streaming has been bolstered by improving tech infrastructure and social media’s influence. While current capabilities can struggle with some practical limitations, such as internet bandwidth and venue costs. Soon these challenges will be a thing of the past allowing for better implementation and most exciting a combination of VR and 360 live-streaming. This combination will enable remote viewers to become virtual attendees, dropped directly into presentations as if they were in the hall with the other attendees.

There may still be a few more hurdles for 360-degree streaming to overcome. Indeed, some of the resistance may come not from unprepared tech, but hesitance by organizers and presenters who wonder if their crowds may shrink drastically because of people choosing the virtual world instead of life. This attitude harks back to the early days of webcasting. A fear that has now been debunked with several studies showing webcasting actually increases live attendance numbers year over year. It is very likely the concept of the Virtual Attendees will follow suit. Attracting new attendees, with people able to “sample” events from home, and then attend in person the following year. Furthermore, it may open up the event experience to people in remote locations or without financial mean. Or even those in countries with restrictive travel policies. Broadening the audience to people who would not be able to attend otherwise.

New types of experiences

Recent years have shown a decline in bombastic, long presentations given by subject matter experts to vast audiences. It has long been suspected and now data is proving, this traditional method of information delivery does not have the required impact in the modern world. This revelation has lead many meeting professionals to seek out new presentation design strategies. With a key aim of creating more intimate connections between presenter and audience. Interest also extends to new and unique presentation spaces or more casual relaxed environments that encourage higher levels of engagement and conversation. Technology is following this trend allow for new and innovative delivery methods through devices, small group systems like knowledge pods and learning lounges.

“People crave a personal touch. We have slipped into a world where much of our connections occur over digital interfaces. These can be colder mediums by which to engage. Separating the audience from a presenter or entertainer with a stage and theatre style seating has a similar effect. Smart eventprofs will break this mold, creating intimate, personal experiences and therefore warmer more memorable connections”

Already we are seeing data results supporting higher content delivery success rates. Followed by higher use of social media, video on demand and smart devices bring about better personal connections and extension of the content life.

No one trend is a silver bullet

While observing tech trends is an essential task for all event professionals, serving the business objectives and preferences of all key event stakeholders is always the foundation of a successful event. Finding the tech and design tools that take events in new and positive directions must the true objective of forward-thinking organizers.

“The events industry needs to embrace the Design Thinking methodology. By empathizing, defining, ideating and prototyping we will be better placed to test and implement new and exciting strategies to improve the event experience for everyone.”

Combining all the trends past and present with the power of event data collection/analysis will continue to lead towards intentional technology integration. Moving the industry away from the aimless following of fashions, towards a goal of always improving event outcomes for all event stakeholders.