Industry Innovation & Infrastructure:
Discover the latest trends in event technology
Last week, we had the honor and privilege to present on Emerging Trends for Technology in Events at the annual Industry XChange in Chicago. Here at CEI, we’re always looking forward; trying to see what is coming around the bend and finding ways to make our games, activities, and programs more fun, engaging, and interactive. Long before 2020, we adopted new gaming platforms to start offering team building activities for remote teams.
This simple move helped save our company during the pandemic. As large gatherings were shuttered, many events went virtual. Concerts, trade shows and expos, and even Burning Man were held over the web. A few innovative platforms started creating immersive virtual event experiences. And this trend isn’t going away as the world comes back together; rather, a new kind of hybrid event is emerging. People are coming back together after spending so much time apart, and we need to craft experiences that are compelling and engaging. Anyone can sit through a zoom presentation or TED talk… what’s going to make people want to attend your event? Understanding that technology can be confusing and difficult for some, and practically second nature for others, we are looking ahead at what new tech we can integrate into events in the years to come.
In line with that research, let’s take a look at some of the latest tech already in use and how it could improve the event experience for attendees, sponsors, vendors, and producers alike.
1- The Metaverse, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality
The concept of a virtual reality world isn’t all that new, at least as it relates to modern technology. Second Life launched in 2003 and saw some immediate success as a virtual space where people can interact, build, play, and spend money (including crypto). Indeed, Second Life is a pioneer in this space and a metaverse of its own. In truth, there are many Metaverses, each with their own unique world, property, protocols, etc. Sites like Decentraland and Sandbox are two of the biggest right now with celebrity buy-in, massive amounts of trade, and some land grabs going at an alarming rate. While there are already a ton of users on these metaverse platforms, and many events are already taking place there, the next iteration of The Metaverse expands beyond that in some pretty profound ways.
Current proposals involve bridging the gap between the virtual worlds and the real world around us, combining concepts of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). A couple of examples are Seoul creating a virtual replica of the city in a Metaverse and the island of Barbados buying virtual land and setting up a virtual embassy. Interactions that start from VR goggles could transition to real world AR scenes that mirror the virtual world through a viewpoint. This kind of experience already happens when you use street view in google maps or play Pokémon Go! The blending of virtual worlds into the real one will soon transcend what you can see on your phone.
2. Data Collection and Safety
This elephant in the room rightly deserves pages upon pages of discussion, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll just dip our toe into it. Data collection and safety present opportunities and concerns for everyone in the event world. Information is power, and access to various points of data is now easier than ever. The more data you have, the more you can engage people and shape their experience at your events. While data collection isn’t necessarily new or emerging technology, the means of gathering and protecting information are constantly evolving.
Data collection and analysis can foster easier methods of connection and communication. By linking social media to the sign up and ticketing process, for example, you can gather key information about the demographics of your attendees directly. Using forms and questionnaires to collect more info before and after your event gives you the potential to create more powerful interactions between your attendees, vendors, and sponsors. Knowing someone’s profession, preferences, likes, intentions, interests, and more means you can maximize their event experience. You could tailor your event apps, maps, attendee tracking, networking, engagement, and future outreach potential to attendees’ demographics and preferences to make a personal and lasting impact.
The safety and protection of data are crucial to your integrity and that of your organization. Encryption, de-identification, anonymization, and other methods to keep this sensitive data secure and usable are essential factors for your attendees. Make sure all your data is safe, especially if you are gathering personal information of any kind. By ensuring data security, you can extend the lifespan of what you collect beyond the event itself.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Algorithms
It’s kind of a no-brainer (pun slightly intended) to add this to our list, as we all encounter AI and algorithms regularly. You’ve probably chatted with a customer service AI on a website, over the phone, or if you’ve ever asked Siri about something. Every time you’re using social media, a computer brain is guessing what you want to see based on your previous interactions and patterns. The more you use those platforms, the better the algorithms and AI get at pushing content that you’ll want to engage with. The advertisements you see are more likely to catch your attention or be of interest to you. In response, you spend more time on the platform, and they make more money as you keep engaging.
In the same way, algorithms and AI analysis can help you craft a more enjoyable event experience for your attendees, ensuring that you connect your vendors and sponsors to participants in more meaningful ways through targeting key demographics. You can help them find activities and programs that fit their interests, connect with other like-minded attendees, and over the life of your data, get them to attend more events. By selecting specific data points and matching them up, you can foster more targeted engagement for brands, sponsors, and vendors too. Letting AI and algorithms do most of that legwork saves you time, energy, and money.
This is already in practice at many events and has been a key factor for a number of recent virtual programs. Whether it’s speed networking, targeted trade show suggestions, or post event suggestions, AI and associated algorithms are helping people connect to events and other people with similar interests, helping producers curate programs and events of personal value, and expanding brands’ reach to and beyond a target audience. Like all machine learning, AI is contingent upon the parameters you set, the data you feed it, and the vision you deploy when harnessing it.
4.Wearable Tech, Geofencing, and Positioning Systems
When you think of wearable technology, you probably think of the Apple Watch, Fitbit, or maybe even Google glass (if you’re fancy). But simpler tech can be a major game changer too. The phones we carry with us are already being used for events through apps, scheduling, and even virtual business card exchanges. The same near field communication (NFC) used by Apple Pay or Google Pay could be used for event check-in. Many hotels already offer contactless check-in and even room access; other venues and events use disposable wristbands embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID).
If you’re unfamiliar with geofencing, it means setting up a virtual perimeter around an area. This can be done via Wi-Fi repeaters, RFID receivers, global positioning systems (GPS) outdoors, and interior positioning systems (IPS) indoors, where GPS may not reach through the concrete and steel of the building structure. As a producer, geofencing allows you to see how many people are in a particular location or program within your event in real time. You can get data on when they enter, how long they stay, or even their demographics, if you tied their data to their RFID or their mobile NFC signal. Add in augmented reality, and you add an immersive layer to the event experience: pointing attendees to their next program or booth; generating suggestions for nearby vendors or programs that may be of interest; or, as they move through the event, embedding information in the augmented virtual space. Post event, you can use attendance, movement, and other data to calculate the popularity of programs, track metrics with more accuracy, and get a clearer picture of your event’s overall impact and success.
5. Holographic Projection
We’ve all seen holograms on security labels, money, IDs, etc. Now, instead of the illusion of a 3D object on a 2D surface, the creation of a 3D visual effect in a 3D space is happening – it’s holographic projection, and it’s one of the neatest and most spectacular advancements made in the past few years. Sometimes it’s done using metal mesh curtains, screens of microscopic water particles, or a series of laser embedded fans on rotating gimbals (incredibly fun)! This technology is currently being used by billboards, museums, circus shows, parties, and concerts. They are eye-catching, fun to see, interactive, and sometimes also reactive to user input. Holographic projections are so cool and, while we haven’t yet harnessed the full potential of their impact, we know they are going to be an incredibly engaging element at events in the future.
This list is more than a rundown of separate concepts and possibilities: it’s an interconnected web of features. So how, you’re asking, does it all work together? As we envision the future with this new technological landscape, we can see something truly remarkable. Let’s stretch our imaginations and think about some upcoming events:
Picture getting directions and concierge service from a 3D holographic avatar at a trade show information kiosk.
Suppose your sponsors could find the perfect clients through data points, and know if and when those clients spent time at their booth, presentation, or even their afterparty.
Imagine participants making organic connections through virtual suggestions.
Visualize waving your phone or wristband (or Google Glass, natch) to check-in, exchange contact information, and find the VIP area, where you’re instantly acknowledged and admitted.
Foresee yourself following real-time directions to a vendor booth when you get a notification that two similar vendors are nearby. On your way, you pass an interesting display and just click on your map to get more information.
Say you’re at an afterparty, and your event app suggests you connect with 5 people there because they attended the same presentations you did, work in the same sphere, are from your hometown, or made sales similar to yours.
Imagine that your hosting capacity doubles because there’s a real-life event floor and an exact copy of it in a virtual metaverse.
This is our future. We can shape it together using this new technology and our imaginations. At CEI, we’re just starting to investigate the possibilities to craft more engaging team building and interactive experiences. We look forward to exploring with you.