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Technology in events is all talk and no action

Simon Clayton is still waiting for it to have an effect

Technology evolves at an ever increasing speed but when it comes to the implementation of the latest gadgets and gizmos in the events industry, I’m still yet to see the promised ‘massive impact’ or signs that it is a ‘game changer’.
Every year we’re told of the major tech trends to watch, as each is certain to revolutionise the way we set-up, hold and report on our events. In this article I’m going to go through five of the trends which were predicted for 2015 to see if they really did change the industry.


1. Event apps
We’ve been told by event app vendors for several years that these are a must-have for every conference, but I’ve yet to see an event app that provides any more than a good, properly mobile enabled HTML 5 website.

Combine that with the recent research that suggested a third of young professionals dislike event apps and it’s easy to think that they’ve got some way to go or that organisers may be better off investing further in a really mobile friendly website with offline abilities.

2. iBeacons
Originally pegged as a way for meeting planners to trigger attendee behaviours and send timely notifications at certain points around an exhibition hall, iBeacons haven’t yet really made an impact.

The attendees do need to have the relevant app on their devices and a lot of the iBeacon devices would need placing around the conference and linking to the sessions which will take time and onsite resources; so even if the beacons are inexpensive, the setup may not be. I do think these still have potential, but I’m yet to see anyone using them in the wild.

3. Augmented and virtual reality
We’ve recently seen hotel chain Marriott introduce its ‘Vroom Service’ offering guests a room-service delivery of a virtual reality kit, so they can view two-minute 360-degree 3D visits to a variety of countries.

Fun and curiosity-satisfying? Yes. Useful for a conference? I can’t see it yet. Virtual tours of meeting and event spaces should crop up in the near future and with Google Cardboard making big progress in lowering the cost and availability of it all, then I think it’s still definitely one to watch.

4. Wearables
The use of smartwatches and other wearables by conference organisers has started to become more prevalent. We’re seeing the 2nd generation of these devices, but they’re still not hitting the mainstream - and with security remaining an issue, there’s still a way to go.

Having played with various devices myself, I think that they’re still more of a novelty than an essential tool, but it will be interesting to see how they mature over the coming years.

5. Live streaming
Periscope, the live streaming app acquired by Twitter earlier this year, caused quite a stir in the events industry, but, in reality, it’s rather difficult to fathom a tangible use for it at the moment. Organisers could stream live their conference to remote delegates, perhaps to avoid the cost of actually flying and staying somewhere, but then the attendees miss out on all of the social interaction of being at the event - which is proven to be so worthwhile that people are ‘suitcasing’. They go to the venue where an event is held to network without paying to attend the conference.

I’d much rather see organisers make the speaker’s slides and audio available as a good quality video after the event for attendees. That may simple enough to do, but I’m not yet aware of conferences that do it. No doubt we’ll be bombarded with the next raft of things that are ‘essential’ for events over the coming months but it’s all just part of the hype cycle!

Mobile phones at events
Don’t distract with technology

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