How to Optimise Technology Adoption at Events

The events industry has been extremely successful over the past 20 years in terms of revenues and margins so there has been 'no reason to change what is not broken’. However, our customers are changing, their businesses are evolving and event organisers are in catch-up mode. We have seen more focus, investment and commitment towards the digital transformation in other industries than we have our own.

Technology is a significant industry disruptor,  which can be hard to see until it is too late. Success in business can sometimes cloud the business horizon. It’s no longer a case of build it and they will come. This is not just a relevant statement for exhibitions themselves, but also for the technology designed to enhance event experiences.

Using the latest cutting-edge technology to book meetings, capture leads or track visitors to name just a few applications, is only as good as the results they provide – be that improved experience, greater visibility of behaviour or increased revenues, for example. Whatever the proposed outcome of the technology, it only really matters once the technology has reached a certain level of adoption and success can be seen and measured.

The topic for discussion for our panel at Event Tech Live this year was about exactly that. How can we increase adoption of technology at events? It’s a challenge, asking people to break from the norm and embrace something new.

I was joined by industry experts, Alison Church (Marketing Director at Easyfairs UK & Global), Ade Allenby (Global Head of Digital Innovation at Reed Exhibitions) and Mike Sealy (Customer Experience Director, EMEA at Informa Markets). Between us, we share decades of experience in the exhibition industry, and Mike, as a relative newcomer to the sector, was also able to share his experience from other industries, too.

Three main topics were discussed.  Participant education, gamification or rather incentivisation and where does the responsibility of adoption lie? Is it marketing? Sales? The tech provider themselves?

The first question we need to ask ourselves is why. Not why are we behind other sectors, but why aren’t we using tech to make our lives better, to enhance our experiences, to generate greater revenues? And then, what. What can we do to improve participant adoption?

Simplicity is key

Innovation requires people to think, wait for it… innovatively. We’re asking people to break away from apps they’re using every day, to engage in portals  they may only use for the three, five or ten days of our event durations, so we need to make things simple for them. We need to enable them to see the value of using the technology and how it will help them generate greater returns on attending, exhibiting or speaking at the event.

Simple for them to use. Simple for them to understand.

We discussed how creating content in bite-sized chunks can make it easier for people to follow or digest. Don’t make visitors sit through a 30-minute webinar about how to use something at your event. Instead, give them a 60-second, personal roundup of the benefits of them using the solution. Or, a super short, sharp and straightforward benefit image of why they should use it. What will it do to help them have a better event? At Visit, we created a very simple, visual postcard for ETL, so anyone who missed the comms pre-event could quickly and easily understand how to use their smart badge to collect digital content at the event.

In this age of omnichannel marketing, we are competing with a lot of messages, so we as a sector need to ensure we are providing relevant content at the right time, to the right person, to ensure they engage best with the technology. We all have marketing and customer experience specialists in our ranks now, so there really shouldn’t be a reason we’re not doing this.

Once a customer bites, they are in, you have them. Then you can get them to do more, e.g. encourage them to complete their online profile, so they receive more relevant meeting requests, for example.

Trust is key

The personal approach in our face-to-face environment is crucial. People still like people. People trust people.

Whether it’s the first time a prospect interacts with your sales team or if operations are discussing the placement and building of their exhibit, all teams should be aligned with the same key message about why the customer should be using the tech solution. What will it help them do? Save time, save money, make money? Talk to them about their needs and how the solution can help support them.

Greater adoption comes from a combination of simple technology, a simple onboarding process and in many instances, simply speaking to your customers to ensure the benefits are communicated effectively.

Gamify shmamify

Gamification is a word that feels like it is often over-hyped. People are afraid of it. They think they have to change their entire event to make points mean prizes. Do they really though? Of course not…that little percentage bar on registration forms? Gamification. Complete a survey to win an iPad? Gamification. Have you looked at LinkedIn recently? One of the first little widgets you see is “how complete is your profile?”. Okay, so I don’t know anyone with 100%, but that simple effect of seeing you have more to do, could encourage you to…do more!

FYI, you’re about 73% through this blog

You don’t have to buy gamification software to gamify…many of the existing tools at your disposal already utilise this technique to encourage use. If you want exhibitors to use your exhibitor invitations, incentivise not only the company, but the individuals within the team to drive registrations. Give them a prize they can take home if they bring the most visitors to your show, for example. They’ll forever remember that box of champagne, night on the London Eye, dinner at some fancy restaurant and they’ll likely do it again, too. Most importantly? You have them using your technology.

But who is responsible for driving adoption?

In the panel, we had experts in marketing, technology and customer experience. A spectrum of expertise at our disposal and all essentially in agreement; the benefit of the technology needs to be clearly communicated at every interaction a customer has with your event. Who then owns that relationship? This was crystal clear, too… the person/company which owns the event, also owns their customer experience. Every team in an organisation needs to understand the value and impact the technology adoption will have across their business, so  whenever they speak to a customer, they can fully support this process. When any new tech is introduced, kick-off meetings with all departments (sales, marketing, ops) to get engagement and buy in from the outset is vital.

Overall the panel agreed that the key to optimising adoption lies in education - starting internally to ensure buy-in from all teams. The development of a strategic on-boarding process, where the benefits of the the tech are broken down clearly into simple, bite-sized chunks, is crucial for success.

Watch the panel session in full at

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