This article originally appeared in Engage Magazine:
Today we sit on the crest of a new wave of ‘smart’ events – complete with interconnected technologies, loads of data and insights and new ways to prove ROI.
For years, since the post-World War II generation, people created, hosted and attended events because it was a way to demonstrate their status, share new innovations, and network.
We now find ourselves in a vastly different world – people have easy access to an abundance of information online, they have much less time and budget to travel to and attend events and their expectations of a ‘smart’ experience is driven by their customised online experience.
Events have undergone an evolutionary process over the past 15 years. That said, there are some fundamental building blocks that most industry participants overlook in the quest to ensure that the face-to-face marketing channel maintains supremacy.
Phase I: Information access
For as long as most people can remember, the events industry has published event guides for attendees. Pre-internet, the only way to obtain the guide was to show up at the event. And even then, it was up to the attendee to figure out where to go and
what to do.
In the ‘90s, information about events migrated online – helpful for making decisions and comparing conferences, but attendees still largely had to figure out where to go and what to do.
Phase II: Information mobility
The launch of the iPhone ushered a new era of mobile apps. Companies like QuikMobile, DoubleDutch, Core-Apps and hundreds of others were created to make information accessible through apps. But for all the accessibility, the core offering has remained largely the same – although location based directions, messaging, in-city activities, gamification and social networking increased functionality.
Attendee and exhibitor experience remained largely untouched. Until now.
Phase III: Dawn of the intelligent event
We are now on the precipice of intelligent events. Key facets of the intelligent event are:
• Curated attendee experiences: Instead of providing a catalogue of speakers, sessions, networking and exhibitors, events increasingly pre-screen attendees, set appointments and recommend sessions or meetings. Gartner Inc is one company
that does just this.
The Future: Asking attendees three to four questions at registration and then recommending an experience while at the same time proposing appointments.
• ‘Intentional’ random encounters: Today, pairings are either wholly intentional or wholly random.
The Future: New technologies such as Poken, E-180 Brain Dates and Proxfinity enable encounters and then provide rich analytics.
• Event partner ROI: In its heyday, the events industry could do no wrong. Those days are gone – today, companies scrutinise every dollar, expect metrics on event success and willingly channel money away from events.
The Future: Event organisers are deploying technologies that gather insights, produce event and sponsorship reports, and in certain cases deploy real-time interventions to improve exhibitor or sponsor performance. N200|GES, for instance, collects the goals of every exhibitor at select shows and then distributes lead capture apps to all exhibitors and monitors progress towards goal in real-time.
The dawn of the intelligent event is here, and with it the opportunity to know how to spend time, with whom, and how to measure success – in real time. Competition for professional and idle time has never been so fierce – with so much on the line – and for those who choose to invest and learn, the pay-off will be the continued leadership of face-to-face as a marketing channel.
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