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The technology of now…and the future

(Editor’s Note: Please contact Dean West, president of Association Laboratory Inc., for more information about the report.)

I’ve written a few times about the role of technology during events, especially focusing on how it can enhance – but also complicate – the experience.

As technology constantly changes, another report recently came out, this time from Association Laboratory, conducted on behalf of PCMA Education Foundation.

While technological tools make events more compelling and fun, the study found such tools can also create challenges. For example, the majority of the 400 industry professionals surveyed said they feel overwhelmed by options, and don’t know where to focus resources or how to integrate platforms to support goals.

When surveyed, participants ranked the top three reasons for incorporating new technology in their events: improving the attendee experience; making the event more fun/exciting; and customizing the attendee experience.

Association Laboratory says to achieve desired outcomes, organizations must take a market-centric approach, in which they define attendee markets; assess what each audience segment considers engaging; and develop strategies to link the aforementioned to the content, location and cost of the event.

“Successful technology adoption requires carefully balancing the contribution of the technology application to the attendee experience with the cost of the application and the culture or learning curve of the attendee,” Association Laboratory writes. “Thus, assessing the awareness, use and familiarity of attendees with regard to technology is critical.”

So how do organizations currently use technology for events?

Most organizations report using email and websites to create awareness. At the same time, associations use external channels, such as speakers’ promotional channels or social media, to raise awareness.

Perhaps not surprising, websites and email are the two most common registration platforms.

Onsite, organizations depend on fast, reliable Wi-Fi as the foundation for events. They also rely on engagement technologies, such as event apps and personal and professional networks, such as social media. Interestingly, only half the survey’s respondents who are millennials report their attendees use social media during networking sessions.

Looking to the future of events, Association Laboratory has identified potential technology trends organizations should be prepared to address:

  • Virtual or augmented reality and gamification can create more involved onsite experiences, allowing for post-event engagement.
  • In addition, remote participation can fix the problem of overcrowded rooms.
  • Artificial intelligence could be used to automate registrations.
  • Attendee tracking can help identify popular sessions.

“As the provision of content continues to expand beyond the space and beyond the live event, the job of a convention management executive will require professional competencies well beyond event marketing, space and logistical planning and evaluation,” Association Laboratory says. “Competencies will need to include content archiving and organization; technology identification, selection and integration; and multichannel content provision.”

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