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Event Technology in 2016

04th February 2016
Old Movie Real

With a brave new year comes brave new technology, with profound effects upon the events industry. Both obvious, straightforward effects and more subtle or indirect effects are expected for 2016, with these being some of the trends with the biggest buzz.

Ambitious Sets For Smaller Events

As social media and sophisticated CRM platforms make it ever easier to set up, manage and organise the fine details (not to mention the many dedicated events websites out there), small and medium-sized businesses are unlocking the true power of events.

By making events easier to set up and manage, advances in the platforms and software designed for events mean that small and medium sized businesses can spend more time working on cool, attention-grabbing sets and more besides.

These platforms, and this software, has also helped to manage expectations and somewhat demystify events and event management. In 2016, we expect to see businesses mastering the basics of event management and increasingly moving towards more advanced and ambitious events that generate some real buzz both online and offline.

Customisation

Customisation of the event space is going to be a huge deal in 2016. As events technology becomes more modular, we're looking at a situation where you can create incredibly complex interactions with a relatively small budget – and where technical skill is not automatically necessary.

The big idea is the "Internet of Things", but really any size Network of Things will help your event stand out – and should be a good deal more secure than exposing your devices and infrastructure to the big bad internet.

As the basics of events have been well-established, and the discipline of event management starts to come up with some universal best practices to cover these basics, customisation is the natural next step for events. Fortunately, the tech is there and getting stronger all the time – so we can really benefit from unique, carefully planned events in 2016.

Experiences

Experiences are going to be one of the ways in which events cater specifically to individuals this year. Quite simply, directed experiences are more engaging and flexible than static events that you passively explore and observe. Experience design is huge, and has been for a great many years within the events space.

Once more, it's technology that makes the big difference. Augmented reality, location-based services and geo-fencing, wearables, even virtual reality all make story-driven, coherent, engaging experience design far easier to arrange. Best of all, you can design the experience with no breaks in flow and complete coherence from start to finish.

Sharing The Event

Sharing the event will become even easier than it has already been this year, as social media platforms mature further and respond to threats to their business models. By enabling businesses and brand advocates to spread the word, these social media outlets are able to ensure that paying customers stick around and see the value in social media advertising.

Further, the many ways in which we are, overall, increasing connectivity to the internet and decreasing the size of connected devices means that attendees have a lot more freedom in what they share. Event attendees can now share the little moments that appealed to them, personally, instantly.

Finally, with the growth of experiential story-telling events, the share-ability of all events increases drastically.

Bringing The Web To The World

One of the confusing features of the internet is how little online fame corresponds to the 'real world'. Twitter aficionados might expect you to know who the surreal ironist @dril is, and not to take them very seriously – but you wouldn't expect the average person on the street to respond the same way. There is an enormous disconnect between brand awareness among people who are deeply involved with various online platforms (whether that is twitter, tumblr or reddit) and the same approximate demographics without the same level of online engagement. Only the very largest companies (e.g. Amazon) or the most social (e.g. Instagram) can cross this divide reliably, and easily.

While we expect offline brands to make an attempt to conquer the digital space through viral videos, chatty social media, and content campaigns, we don't currently hold the reverse expectations for primarily online brands. We don't necessarily expect to see Dollar Shave Club, NewEgg or Firebox holding events. Why is this?

In 2016, we expect to see a lot more online brands using events to consolidate their online audience, to create a deeper connection with their fans, and to make significant inroads into increasing brand awareness among people who are members of different communities. Word of mouth has long been a powerful tool for traditional marketers, but it is definitely limited in some ways by the ways in which we tend to share online – we are unlikely to talk about a blog post with offline friends if we can share it on Facebook, and social media apps and websites are in increasing danger of becoming either 'walled gardens' or 'echo chambers', with few incentives for users to share from platform to platform.

It's about time that events (along with other tactics) enable digital brands and digital marketers to make use of the more unfettered, unrestricted word of mouth we have in the real world.

Small Businesses Running Their Own Events

As small businesses become empowered to do more with fewer resources, running their own events becomes well within the realms of possibility. Running your own event is really not as intimidating as it once was, with overall organisation and management of guest lists being just two example areas that have become far easier to take hold of in recent years.

This year will definitely be the year in which small businesses start to run their own events, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the year in which an event management app targeted at small businesses (perhaps a more featureful version of Foursquare) really breaks through.

As small businesses get more freedom to pursue their own vision, many event management services will be forced to move to larger companies or die off – so expect more elaborate, customised, bespoke services from event management companies in response to this threat.

New Platforms

Event websites and event-focussed intranet services definitely have to be 'responsive' in the sense that they are designed for a mobile platform as much as they are for a desktop. What we are seeing in the tech, however, is a surge in new and entirely unprecedented platforms that completely change the nature of how we interact with computers.

When we think of how we run a website or disseminate information to guests, we need to ensure that we're taking into account screen readers, touch-based feedback from wearables, wearables as a more general platform, geo-fenced services, augmented reality and even virtual reality. Holograms and virtual worlds, once the stuff of fanciful science fiction, are becoming a real target for designers to work to. This is a huge paradigm shift!

To be ready for the shift, everything from the event-specific website to the design and layout of the event itself needs to take account of these new, more physical, platforms.

Follow-up

In 2016, following up on your event will still be the best way to ensure people talk about it and share positive impressions – and it will always be important to analyse the data you got for actionable insight.

By combining the two approaches, you can ensure that you're tailoring your follow-ups to the right people, and not wasting time chasing leads that, statistically, will turn out to be cold – or worse, offending your hottest leads with impersonal and untailored follow-ups.

Takeaway

For 2016, our key takeaway is simply that you should get excited about the opportunities in events. While augmented reality, customised experience and unique sets even for medium businesses might seem like a tall order – it is! You don't need to take all that on, but finding something new that grabs you will also likely grab your audience.

Keep exploring, keep inventing, and keep engaging with attendees on a personal level. We know, from our own customers, that it's a tactic that works well. We know, from our own customers, that it's what you're great at!

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