Christie Lee
Jun 11, 2019

What we learned from the 2019 HKECIA conference

From the potential of 5G to the glaring power of festivalisation, some key takeaways from the annual conference.

Beyond registration, facial recognition has the potential to engage audiences
Beyond registration, facial recognition has the potential to engage audiences

On June 6, event planners and marketers gathered at HKCEC to discuss two key issues confronting the industry: the role of tech in creating smart events, and the ‘festivalisation’ of events. In many ways, the two are connected – the rise of AI and cloud technologies helps streamline event logistics, allowing marketers and creatives to focus on user experience.

Smarter events are better events

Ian Chan, senior director of business development at Tencent, believes that AI and cloud technologies could “streamline the entire process, from drawing up marketing collaterals and guest invitations to registration and post-conference data analyses”.

In the future, guests will no longer need to dig up their business cards but will instead have their faces scanned at the registration desk. AI will able to able to perform simultaneous translation between any two languages. Cloud solutions allow participants to live-stream entire sessions while being in another part of the building. Hosts will also be able to see their guests’ industries and seniorities on their digital devices.

In the meantime, facial recognition tech allows for more interactive user experiences, said Chan. “Say, you have a lucky draw. If your face pops up on the screen, then you’ve won!”

Today, the ubiquity of the mobile phones means brands are increasingly speaking to consumers through their pocket screens. Yet, the idea of the screen shouldn’t be limited to mobile phones. Any surface can be turned into a ‘screen’, said Justin Choy, MD of Creative Technology Hong Kong. One way of going ‘immersive’ is 3D production mapping, which allows brands to wrap images on any surface, be it an opera house, postal house, shoe or airplane.

Choy also touts the rise of AR technologies. “With AR, you only need to point your camera to a product, and information about that product will be generated in real-time,” he said.

Michelle Cao, founder of event photography company VPhoto, knows a thing or two about the current hunger for ‘real time’. “First, you need quality,” said Cao. “Second, you need speed. If you get the image or video within five minutes [of taking it], you’re more likely to post it. Third is convenience. Instead of emailing you the photos, VPhoto provides you with a QR code to get the content.”

All of which, of course, relies on stable high-speed internet. At this point, the conversation quickly turned to the impact of 5G on events. According to Choy, 5G will impact MICE events in two major ways – events can go ‘wireless’, and live-streaming will no longer be bogged down by spotty connections.

But a bigger question confronting all marketers and event planners might be, are events still going to be important, because one wants everyone to know that they’re out there networking, doing deals, and taking photos with pop stars, or is everyone going to be participating in seminars and attending conferences in their own living rooms with their AR head-sets?

Choy sees 5G as a motivating force. He said: “We have to take that extra step to make something really engaging, immersive, and to do something that you literally can’t do in your living room.”

Festivalisation as an entry point

Groups sat in circles of chairs suspended from the ceiling at the C2 conference

Sarah Williamson, VP, creative director at Jack Morton, believes the ‘festivalisation’ of events is good way to engage audiences. She gives praise to C2 Montreal, a non-business-like business conference that’s blazing the trail for innovative thinking about networking sessions. At that event, groups sat in circles of chairs suspended from the ceiling, and donned umbrellas to walk under a canopy of fake rain.

“C2 really got me thinking: how can I make business more creative? Because it is,” she said. “[These days], audiences don’t just sit in a dark room quietly. They want to be more involved. Nothing we do stays forever – it’s there for one day or one week so we really need to make that impact.” She added that ideas need to be “simple, moving, original and effective”.

One effective way to capture jaded audiences is through music, according to Greg Crandall, director of brand engagement at Pico+. “Music is a key point to Gen Z. According to Billboard, 32 million people went to at least one music festival [in the United States],” he said.

He gives the example of HP’s activation at popular music festival Coachella this year where festival-goers watched a 360-degree music video for Rufus du Sol’s Underwater, created customised drawstring backpacks and listened to electronic DJ sets.

In response to the question, ‘Where do you get the money to be creative?,’ Crandall says two things are key: relationships and consistency. “Coachella started small, but it started growing because it has consistency. We ask ourselves, what kind of things can we do that are clever, [gives the opportunity] for clients to build the relationships they need to, so they walk away thinking they’d want to come back for the next one?”

One for event planners and marketers to ponder on.


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