EventTech 2017 Overview
We’ve wanted to check out EVENTtech by EventMarketer for a few years now. With more clients interested in event technology than ever before, we decided this was the year, packed up the troops, and headed to Las Vegas for the show!
The first thing to know is despite the name and some very cool tech on display, this show is for marketers. It’s an experiential marketing-focused event through and through, with a side of #eventtech. Most attendees seemed to be in-house and agency marketing professionals (in fact, it says in the pricing section of the website it was designed for brand marketer and agency attendees) and the content was all about how to use event tech to create a memorable event, track metrics, and drive KPIs. There was not a technical deep-dive to be found.
Sessions were numerous, concise, and rapid-fire. They had useful information, including case studies, and the presenters were solid – though several sessions did veer quite a bit from the topic description.
The expo-floor was smaller than we anticipated. It was approx. 30% photo booths, 30% event metrics, marketing, and tracking, and the other 40% was comprised of branding/tchotchkes, AR/VR, and staffing, and furniture.
For an event about events, the production (set, lighting, sound, technicians) was lacking attention to some technical details in the breakout rooms, which comprised 90% of the event sessions. However, that’s our business, so we admittedly see things more critically.
All of that said, we got some great information and inspiration to share with you and our clients! In the end, I’d say that made this a successful event.
Top 7 Take-Aways
- VR/AR/MR is BIG!
- VR is headed to the realm of Sci-Fi
- Let Your Audience Pick Their Own Adventure – The Rise of Audience-Driven Design
- Unconference is the New Conference
- Don’t Use Tech for Tech’s Sake
- The Peak-End Rule Dictates What Impression People Have of Your Event
- Event Tech is Surefire Way to Increase Audience Engagement
Below we’ll go beyond the 10,000 foot take-away and cover the cool stuff we learned at the event along with some of our thoughts woven in for good measure (we always seem to have those).
#1 – VR/AR/MR is BIG!
Whether you’ve personally seen it or not, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality are penetrating many aspects of society. We’ve all seen VR headsets advertised for Playstation. But XR isn’t just for games. You might have seen AR (Augmented Reality) in action if you watched any hurricane coverage on The Weather Channel. They used it during both the Houston and Florida hurricanes as an overlay on the set to show how high 9 ft. of surge flooding would be compared to cars, houses, and the weatherman. The floodwater, cars, and houses were all augmented (virtual) next tothe real-life weatherman (reality). And artists, doctors, everyday people in social spaces, and more are using it too.
Despite a history that goes back to the 1950s and a couple of ‘VR is here’ false starts in the more recent past (the 90s and earlier this decade), this seems to be the time VR will truly stick – and grow. Global VR industry revenue is projected to skyrocket from $7B this year (2017) to $74B in 2021. The session we saw by Jeff Nicholas VP Creative Director and Director, VR Creative & Production, at Live Nation Network, chalks this up to several factors including:
- Big bets being made by the big players (Google, Facebook, Apple)
- Consumer awareness and desire (we want to try it!)
- 27M+ AR/VR headsets of all kinds (includes 7M Google Cardboard) already in market
SO! How can you adopt XR for a successful cutting-edge event experience? Here are a few best practices that were shared:
- Don’t get too complicated, yet.
- If you want people to interact, make sure they have time & space to do so.
- If you’re creating a passive experience, make sure it doesn’t feel like there should be more to do.
- Focus on Quality, Experience, Story, Ease of Use, Impact, Payoff
- Test, Test, Test, and Test
And remember – XR can be expensive, hard to produce, existing assets likely won’t work, and storytelling in this new format is VERY different than with traditional media. So if you go for it, think about hiring a professional to help.
Wondering what a VR experience at an event might look like? Here’s a cool case study that was shared in the EVENTtech session: When Budweiser activated sales reps at a National Sales Conference, they wanted to give them the St. Louis HQ ‘Brew Tour’ experience. To make sure it was true to life, they used a ‘Dark Corner Rig’ 360-degree camera that captured the low-light atmosphere and kept the look of the brewery true-to-life. For the virtual tour, the room was set with 6-8 comfortable seats and VR headsets. As the tour group ‘walked’ through the brewery and ‘entered’ the hops production room, the sense of smell was engaged with real hops wafting through the room. Then, once they ‘walked’ into the cold chillers, room assistants shot ‘cryo blasts’ of cold air at them to enhance the virtual reality. And at the end of their ‘tour,’ they were handed a cold beer. It was like they were truly there.
#2 – VR is headed to the realm of Sci-Fi
Though you won’t see it at events yet (and let’s face it, probably not in the next few years), we’re talking Brain Computer Interface where your body controls your VR experience. So far, CBI has been used to help seriously disabled people. But as VR becomes mainstream, neurotechnology that measures brain patterns like EEG are being used and explored for things like education, entertainment, and marketing. Talk about personalizing your event experience! You can learn more about BCIs here.
#3 – Let Your Audience Pick Their Own Adventure – The Rise of Audience-Driven Design
If you’re still designing your event in a bubble of what you want to tell your audience rather than what they want to hear, ‘outlook not good’ as the ole Magic 8 ball would say. The trend now is “participatory design” which involves a conversation between the brand and the attendee while in the design stage of an event.
Surveys from a prior year’s event are a good place to start. But with the rise of personalization and the speed of change today, you can choose to go even further too. Think about convening an event advisory board of people representative of your audience personas who can give you live input at decision points. Or poll registered attendees about everything from speakers, content topics, stage and room settings, F&B to entertainment. Take it a step further and poll attendees on-site and adapt the experience accordingly! (see the next big take-away – the Unconference) The success of your event should be defined from the point of view of your ATTENDEE.
In the end, not everyone will participate ahead of time. The session on audience-driven design, run by Ryan Hanson, Chief Visionary at BeEvents, suggested that your audience is comprised of 6 types: creators, critiquers, collectors, sharers, joiners, spectators. The goal is to find some way for every one of these types to engage. IMPORTANT NOTE: even though people often fall into types/categories, never forget your attendees are people first! Treat your customers like people, engage in dialogue, remember you’re on a journey together, and all will be well.
#4 – Unconference is the New Conference
Today’s conferences are more informal and participatory than ever. The popularity of the unconference started in the early aughts and has been growing ever since. That ‘birds of a feather’ roundtable you participated in at lunch at your last conference? It’s based on the ‘Open Space Technology’ format/method that Unconferences are built from. With no initial agenda and no formal speaker – though there is often a facilitator – participants in a session take the first portion of the meeting to set their own course (audience-driven design anyone?).
Erin Mills, COO of Michael Alan Group, who led a session on the latest in content delivery, suggested a move toward “engagement labs” which work perfectly for the Unconference format. These hubs can be set with more relaxed seating arrangements for smaller groups and new digital projectors that are tiny (the size of a kleenex box) and projected onto a wall. Erin suggested micro-sessions where no one speaker talks for more than 15-30 minutes are also critical to the Unconference flow. And following the less formal structure, she suggested being open to the use of video keynotes vs. live presentations. There’s no need to restrict yourself due to schedules or budget, to only speakers who can be there in-person. Finally, with a more flexible set-up, and ‘go-with-the-flow’ agenda, think about something like ceiling-mounted heatmap sensors to see how traffic is flowing and add signage or make minor rearrangements from day-to-day to get people where they need to go.
#5 – Don’t Use Tech for Tech’s Sake
When you see some of the new toys out there, it’s easy to get excited and want to start using them. But the principles haven’t changed; you need to map out your objectives and develop the strategy to deliver on them first.Brian Schultz, Chief Experience Officer at We’re Magnetic, delivered one of our favorite sessions of the show – ‘Matching the Latest Technology to Your Event Objectives.’ He pointed out that just because a technology is cool and promises great things, doesn’t mean it matches your event, is authentic to your brand, or will give your audience a truly delightful experience. You don’t want to get carried away with tech to the detriment of real life (funny video alert).
When looking for that amazing piece of “Wow!” tech to add to your event, make sure it:
- Is authentic to the brand you are representing.
- Is the right fit for the consumer.
- Enhances the experience.
- Is scalable to the event size and attendee groups.
- A smart investment (ROI).
#6 – The Peak-End Rule Dictates What Impression People Have of Your Event
The peak–end rule says people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. That’s not to say you can skimp completely on everything else. But for budget allocation, scheduling, etc., it’s good to know the two points you MUST make count – the “Big Hurrah” and The End.
Read this relatively brief article that illuminates the peak-end rule in business beautifully.
#7 – Event Tech is Surefire Way to Increase Audience Engagement
Adding interactivity to an event can increase retention by up to 60%. EventTech is a perfect way to do it easily since so much of it can be deployed as second-screen technology. If you’re not familiar with the term, the second-screen is the attendee’s phone (or tablet or laptop). Instead of letting them get distracted on it with email or work, interact with them in real-time about the event using apps for Q&A, polling, surveys, content sharing, social media sharing, or audience feedback.
Using second-screen technologies, engagement increases quoted at EventTech were impressive: from 5% survey response for traditional email/paper to approximately 70% response rate with real-time, contextual surveys. And Q&A participation increased from less than 1% to more than 20% when 2nd screen tech experience is incorporated.
We found some tech at EVENTtech. But this is a conference where you go not to see specific technologies so much as how to use technology in an event context to get the results you want from – and more importantly for – your audience. There was a big focus on metrics (of course!) which is critical to today’s audience. We recommend this show for our agency partners, as well as mid to large business marketing managers/directors.
About AVT Productions
AVT Productions is an independent AV & Event Production company, serving the San Francisco Bay Area for 30 years. We fuse strategy, design, production, and fabrication to carry your message throughout every component of your event. For a quote on your upcoming event or to learn more about how we can help you, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 408-748-8548.