Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled chatbots, increased personalisation, live broadcasting on video apps and facial recognition tools are just some of the tech trends making waves in the event industry.
At Imex America 2017, hosted in Las Vegas in October, innovative products on display included tech start-up Sciensio’s product, Concierge EventBot. Attendees can text a question and get an answer automatically, with tech powered by artificial intelligence (AI), without the need for downloads or apps.
Sciensio founding partner Robert Caldwell believes AI allows businesses to automate routine, repetitive tasks, though he cautions that regardless of how AI is deployed, it is imperative that planners clearly identify the job to be done.
“It is important to think of deploying a bot like hiring an employee,” he says. “It will excel at those things for which it is trained, but it will not do well on tasks outside of its intention or training area— though it is a quick learner.”
David Haas, director of digital solutions at FreemanXP, says event-personalisation platforms such as Feathr are one technology to watch out for.
“It possesses proprietary technology that allows marketers and event organisers to leverage data by combining sources like registration, CRM, social followers and website analytics, and to launch multi-channel campaigns,” he says.
By showing the right ad at the right time, Haas says organisers can enhance audience experience and appeal to individual interests in new ways. He gives the example of how MCM Comic Con’s website has a section on Marvel superheroes. “We can show the user ads about The Avengers and use bespoke messaging, then we can send personalised emails and social with landing pages.”
David Becker, co-founder of event management software provider Zkipster is also keen to point out why data from events will be an increasing focus.
“Data is all around us, but it’s still being processed poorly—event professionals are overwhelmed with the opportunities [it presents],” he says. “There are a lot of online and offline data points that get captured at events. We will see increased integration while data science will start influencing the way events are strategised.”
Facial recognition integrated with smart technology is also on the rise, spurred on by the availability of more cost-effective solutions. “As facial recognition systems become less expensive, use is more widespread,” says Neil Wang, greater China president at research consultancy Frost & Sullivan. “Systems are now compatible with cameras and computers that provide speedy security screening for event participants.”
On the apps side, Wang singles out Chinese photo app Meitu’s video-editing app Meipai, which enables users to create, edit and share videos in minutes.
Auditoire Asia’s managing director, Antoine Gouin, points to how the agency used Meipai for a Maybelline China event last year. The top 75 social influencers on the Meipai app were invited; during the event they broadcast their videos while putting on make-up, participating in both on-stage and backstage moments.
“They got hundreds of likes and followers every minute,” says Gouin. “This increased the popularity of the event, connected all the influencers to the brand experience and contributed to brand recognition.”
Adds Wang: “WeChat is also particularly well-suited to events as it can hold online stores with POS, post online interactive modules or games, and has an embedded QR scanner, “ he says. “Event exhibitors can also use WeChat’s functions to share photos, videos and contacts, which allows for straightforward photo-sharing.”
Snöball, another tech start-up featured at Imex America, is also looking to capitalise on event influencer marketing. The technology generates branded landing pages for speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees, populated with their custom information to promote their participation at the event. This, says Rachel Stephan, chief snöballer at the business, gives event professionals access to untapped potential participants and can help increase event brand awareness at scale.
It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that events are all about gathering people together—the underlying message from start-up Mixtroz, which was also showcased at Imex America. Its platform is aimed at matching people at events in real-time and gathering them for networking purposes.
Mixtroz’s co-founder, Ashlee Ammons says that in the current hyper-digital world, organisers still recognise that one of the primary reasons people attend live events is to make meaningful connections.
No discussion on event tech trends would be complete without a nod to virtual reality and augmented reality, with the next big shift in this area being mixed reality. The blending of physical and digital worlds has opened a myriad of possibilities for creating new event experiences.
While most head mounted devices (HMD) are still a little cumbersome, Jed Mok, general manager, creative and strategy planning at Pico Singapore, believes they will only get smaller and better.
“The brilliance of mixed reality is that it can also be used without an HMD, with some of the newest mobile phones featuring the technical capability to run mixed reality apps,” he says.