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Using technology to engage in the new-age

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Event planners, curators and sponsors, these days, want to experiment with technology; most are just toying with the idea, whereas the application of technology and digital innovation at events can literally transform the level of audience engagement. These days the audience at an event, want the planners, curators and sponsors to deliver beyond their expectations, which can be done with the use of technology. According to a Frost and Sullivan report, mobile event applications tend to increase the audience engagement by a third and such audience are not interested to listen the industry’s best practises but experience innovation.



Usually, the people who attend B2B conferences or corporate functions are left feeling anonymous since the speaker sessions and their time at the various kiosks and business exhibits are not always relevant to their line of business. B2B events always appeal to the larger TG, rather than focusing on the individuals who attend it. With the use of technology, such as RFID tags/ bands, social media walls, augmented reality displays, interactive touch screen information centres among many others, can turn an event from a mass marketing activity to a personalised activation. The use of technology does not end at the event site, use of social media and digital avenues for pre and post event marketing can also be used to engage the target audience generating interesting content.



Digital



Corporate e-mailers or a personalised event social media page can keep feeding the audience pre and post event. Before the event, it can be used to talk about the agenda, schedule and activities that the audience can participate in. Post event the same platform can be used to generate feedback and conversations, making the people who attend the event, loyal customers to push related content, products and services. Through social media, event curators and sponsors can create features that can engage the audience in relevant groups, which can also be used to network and connect with their peers before, during and after the event. A current example is of conferences, which are creating digital resource pages or microsites for registrations. These registered users can get customised content and information which matches their business line and profile. Hence, adding a personalised approach, which not only works on a larger scale to enhance the overall event status in the industry but also is an approach of pinpointed delivery of content to the event organisers as well as the audience that registers.



Mobile



Event mobile applications too are slowly replacing event brochures and leaflets which talk about the event agenda, speaker sessions etc. Since the engagement game is all about personalisation, a mobile app that gives easy access to personal agendas, displays relevant content, allows interactivity among peers and participants, displays maps that tell the participant about the exhibits and touch-points of interest, have real time updates about the event, is integrated with social media to foster relationship building and lets the participant tweet and post pictures and topics of discussions. These mobile apps go a long way in creating interactivity and engagement between the audience and the curators. An example of this is a Vancouver-based mobile technology solutions company known as QuickMobile, which created an application called the MobileEvent, which was scalable from 1 to 1000 events. The app offered an array of tailored components that would help event sponsors, curators and planners engage and interact with their target audience on-site and outside the event environment and most of all it also offered analytics to help measure ROI. The app would act as a catalyst for discussions, show topics, timings and build a community that could later be used to push related content, products and services.



On-site



In the past couple of years, events have been boosted with the use of technology. The fact that sponsors, curators as well as participants can now create content around events has been boosted by the use of technology. For example one of the best ways of engagement that started a while back and is in use as of today is through YouTube, where one can create active audience engagement with innovative, informative and structured content. According to an event consultancy service in the UK known as Gallus, curators and sponsors can motivate their event participants to create content on YouTube, which in turn helps them increase audience attendance since it works as a Word of Mouth publicity as well as fosters engagement among the prospective consumers.



Smartphone Integration




According to a report from the UK events industry, more than three quarters of the audience that attends events own smartphones, which have social media connectivity and out of that number, half own tablets and carry them to events. The use of smartphones and tablets with social media capabilities allows the participants of the event to generate content and make their points on site, which is often today published on social media walls in conferences and trade events. This increases the social scalability of an event as more and more people know and get connected by Tweets, Instagram-pictures or new Facebook Shares.



Innovative ‘Fun’ elements



Technological innovations for events have also taken an interesting turn; the use of off-beat products to engage people at conferences and trade shows is picking up. For example, to get rid of the boring microphone that is passed around for audience questions and talks was replaced by something called ‘CatchBox’, which is claimed to be a ‘throw-able’ microphone. A box shaped soft covered microphone, that can be tossed from the panellist or the speaker to the audience to create a ‘fun’ environment. Or ‘Poken’ which gives a suite of products and software that can be used to exchange digital information in the real world with a touch. Conference attendees have been using this to exchange, coordinates, addresses, virtual visiting cards and other sharable company and corporate information at trade events with a simple touch or collect data through tags and stickers by touching them.



Wearable Tech



Taking a step further, a company called Wearable Experiment has recently created a jacket that participants of large conventions such as the CES or Comic Con, can use to navigate themselves to the places they would like to see. Post wearing the apparel, one can type in the exhibits they would like to go to, onto their smartphone. The apparel will tap the wearer on the shoulder for turning left or right and double tap when the location has been reached. By entering this application in the smartphone and putting it back in the pocket, the attendees get their eyes back and don’t have to look into the phones for directions.



Though it has been a while since it has entered the events industry, an interesting wearable technology that is popular, especially pertaining to entertainment and technology conventions are RFID bands. Radio Frequency Identification technology has been in use for several years. It uses an electromagnetic field to transmit identification information. In concerts, there are many people to keep track of especially when it comes to security. RFID ensures that concert audience can come and go without trespassing and unauthorized entry cannot happen with RFID identification. Furthering to this, RFIDs nowadays are being used to transfer information, though basic, but data that can help the sponsors and curators of events generate prospective consumer data or even link it social media to create a community platform for further engagement. RFIDs are not only a boon for the event planners but also the audience that attends the event. Like Poken, these RFID tags/ wearable can be used to transfer data crucial for networking for a participant or data crucial for the organiser in terms of ROI.



Look and Feel



Holographs and Projection mapping is another technical innovation that is being used in a lot of events around the world to initiate the wow factor and engagement. For example in June this year a truck manufacturer in the United States used projection mapping over hoover dam to convert the dam’s wall into a huge screen that debuted its latest vehicle launch. Similarly to celebrate the start of the US Open Tennis Tournament, American Express curated an event where it used holographic projectors to illustrate the movement of an actual tennis court and urged the event participants to step into the holographic court giving them interactive and responsive tennis rackets that would create a real-time imagery of the sport, thus creating excitement and engagement among the audience.



Return on Objectives and Return on Investment



Event sponsors and curators claim that the only way for a trade event to know its ROI is when pre registrations get converted into clients. According to a talk at EventTech Live, the industry standards are somewhere from 30 to 40 per cent when it comes to conversions of pre-registered customers. But bringing in the tech aspect, things like event mobile apps are more capable of reaching out to the audience and sponsors and curators can track the conversations, number of downloads and how the audience is using it, to get a better data analytics. This data in some cases is the ROI that they require; data as well as a platform for keeping their consumers engaged.



Another method of relating ROI to event engagement is through the use of celebrity speakers or industry professionals who can influence people to go to the event. Curators and planners are getting industry professionals on board who can strike a conversation on social media, tweet about the event and share their thoughts on a community blog, which in turn lures their followers to the event show. Thus, with a community following, one can ensure numbers as well as engagement. Talking about community, the purpose of an event is to get buyers and sellers from different walks of life onto a single platform to interact and do business. Hence, sponsors and curators have also devised different digital and mobile networking tools and platforms to facilitate the same. These platforms use the right communication tools to the right community and also help build communities that create content and engagement before the event. The audience can talk about their anticipation for the event; interact and see if there are valuable people on-board during the event and create a chain of feedback and conversations post the event.



One of the oldest and most conventional ways of getting to know ROI is through surveys and polls. By collecting event feedback, sponsors, curators and planners can know what was good, what went wrong and what can be improved. It also highlights the participation as well as attendee interest. These days, apart from calling, most surveys are either online a mobile application. A lot of trade events send out online and app based surveys right after speaker sessions so that they can capture the thoughts of the audience while the topic is still fresh in their minds.



Summing up



With events becoming an ever more integral part of the marketing-communication mix, brands are seeking to engage with their customers and partners and technology has raised the expectation of the audience for an event. What used to be brochures and freebies, is now a full technological package outside their tickets and passes. Be it a product or a service launch, conference or trade exhibition; the event attendee in today’s digital era is connected all the time. And being online is only going to grow and hence events are going to evolve. For sponsors curators and planners, technological evolution is a method of innovative ways to communicate with their target audience with intriguing content.



Industry professionals cite that the future of event technology is the use of large scale holographic, wearable and mobile technology. There was once a time where people were told to switch off their phones and turn down any instrument that could interfere, nowadays brands want their audience to be online tweet and generate content sitting in the events centre. By using wearable technology, curators and sponsors can track and generate business leads and with holographic technology and projection mapping, event organiser can engage and entice the audience.


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