A very successful low-tech conference – on technology!

In our industry, we seem to be constantly told that keeping abreast of technology is essential; our industry conferences would seem antiquated without the obligatory technology streams. But who’s telling us that it’s vital to use the latest technology in events and where’s the proof?

I am a total geek and unapologetic techie with a ridiculous appetite for the latest gadgets and gizmos. I write this technology column for ITCM and I’m very much in favour of technology and the wonderful things it enables us to do. But as regular readers of this blog will have worked out by now, I believe technology should never be used just for the sake of it – it needs a valid business reason and must contribute positively wherever it is used. Frankly, I find our industry’s obsession with staying ahead tiresome and unnecessary.

As a techie, I attend a number of tech conferences a year so that I can keep up with the advances that are inevitable in the world of websites, coding, data protection and IT in general. I attended one the other day – along with a whole centre full of other techies. It was a tech conference about a programming language used by a huge amount of sites on the internet (including sites such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay and lots of others). Looking around the audience, there were more MacBooks than you could shake a stick at, lots of wrists were adorned with smart watches and technology oozed out of every pore. You could safely say that the audience was full of geeks, early adopters and tech-heads. And the subject of the conference was highly technical too.

So given the audience and the subject, using the latest technological kit must have been an essential part of the conference planning? The organisers must have planned their sessions using the latest tech?

Nope. The most advanced “tech” at the event was a perfectly normal digital projector. There was no event app – just a printed programme, there were no voting pads or any other gadgets that I could see. A few attendees used social media but it was nothing major and it wasn’t really promoted by the organisers.

So in short – one of the geekiest conferences around didn’t use any tech and was no poorer for it. In the break-outs, I didn’t hear any grumbles about the missing app – which is obligatory for events from what we’re constantly told. I didn’t hear anyone mentioning the lack of audience voting pads, nobody was hunting for the missing iBeacons or wondering when the augmented reality presentations would start!

The audience was happy, engaged and educated. In short, it was a great day – primarily because the speakers were delivering excellent presentations at the right level to an interested audience.

So next time you read a headline that states ‘Staying on top of technology trends is a must for event planners’, please question why. If tech genuinely enhances the delegate experience, then use it by all means as long as you’ve got all of the really important stuff (such as great speakers) covered – but don’t be fooled into thinking that this stuff is in any way essential.