Important questions about event technology

Are we using technology for technology’s sake?

Discussions in our office are often lively, frequently technology-related and always interesting, so when the subject of interactive polling solutions came up recently we pricked up our ears. As technology evolves and almost every conference delegate carries some sort of smart device, polling solutions have increasingly gone app or browser based, making full use of the benefits of the cloud. Sounds great? Well, our team has some reservations.

The data talks

We run a significant number of meetings, conferences and symposia for our clients every year, and one thing the team has found is that as soon as you encourage delegates to get out their mobile phone (or other device) for a poll, you lose their attention. We’ve all done it – picked up our phone for a specific purpose and then been distracted by a notification, an email from the office, or a funny message from a friend. Before you know it, ten minutes has gone by and you’ve forgotten you’re even at a conference, let alone what the poll was about. We’ve compiled data from recent events we’ve facilitated for clients to illustrate this below. The pie chart clearly shows that traditional keypad, click systems used to capture a delegates opinion has nearly 3 times more success when compared to typical web-based or bespoke systems.

Interactive Polling System Comparison - Percentage of Total Usage

Total number of delegates, 4565. Total number of votes, 2430. Highest and lowest average delegate participation, 60% and 12%. Number of questions per event range between 6 - 35 questions.

In fact, a recent study has shown that people’s ability to focus and perform cognitive tasks decreases when their phone is nearby, even when it’s switched off.

And this is the other potential problem with using brand new technology – you can often come across problems in venues with firewalls blocking particular apps, the wi-fi not being good enough to support it, or delegates having problems downloading or accessing apps. In an industry where it’s vital that things work on the day, this can be a significant risk.

So should we all be Luddites and stick to the old ways? Absolutely not. But there are some questions worth asking before you embrace the latest, shiniest piece of tech on the block.

 

What problem are you solving?

Moving to a new technology involves change, and that always comes with a cost, so you have to have a clear idea of what the benefits will be to outweigh it. To use our polling solutions example, what’s the drawback of the standard keypad approach? Not having to transport separate hardware might be one benefit, and fewer restrictions on the number of people who can participate might be another, but whether those are enough to warrant the change is worth considering carefully. On the other hand, the huge sustainability benefits brought about by something like paperless ticketing, for example, make embracing it well worth the change involved.

 

Whose problem is it?

Some event technology makes life easier for event organisers, while other tech is designed to provide something of value to the attendees. Some technology even manages both – but as people become more cautious about how their personal data is used, make sure that if you’re asking attendees to use something that will make your life easier, there’s a clear benefit for them as well.

For example, if you want delegates to ‘tap’ into sessions with contactless badges (such as in this Spigot video) to provide you with more powerful data, ensure that it also makes life easier for the delegates in some way. And the more you want your delegates to do, the greater the benefit needs to be. No-one is going to spend the time or give up space on their device to download an app unless there is a very compelling feature or service provided within it.

How much data do you really need?

There’s a misconception that the more data you collect, the better, but this isn’t necessarily the case. As Craig Mills, marketing analytics lead at IBM, explains in this article on modern metrics:

“Like everybody across the marketing spectrum and the business world, the more information we can collect along those [event] touchpoints, the more we can do with it,” Mills says. “But we’re also finding that the more you collect, the more complex it gets, and if you collect too much, you drown in the data, so you’ve got to be careful about what you collect along that journey.”

GDPR, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a growing awareness of the privacy implications of technology means that our default approach is always to use anonymous data unless there’s a compelling reason to collect personal information. For example, some venues and event organisers are experimenting with tech that reads facial expressions in the audience as a more sophisticated replacement for the traditional feedback survey. No personal data is collected, the results are instant and genuine, and you don’t have to persuade people to fill in a questionnaire: what’s not to like?

 

Does this help people connect?

At their heart, events are all about making, building and strengthening human connections, whether that’s delegates connecting with each other or organisations connecting with potential customers and suppliers. Some event tech, such as facial recognition for registration, is designed to create more time for those valuable connections by streamlining the administrative elements such as registration: this can be brilliant for larger events where the staff at registration are simply there to get the job done. But if you’re hosting a smaller event, you might not want to pass up the opportunity to greet your delegates at the door, so look for ways of using the technology that support and enhances that interaction.

 

A crowded landscape

Every year, American brand experience company Cramer reviews the event technology landscape. Between 2018 and 2019 their review grew a massive 82%, with 199 new entries in the last 12 months, bringing the total to 444. As they point out, this is “a great embodiment of the rapid growth happening in the entire event and experiential marketing industry”, but it makes it all the more important to consider carefully which technologies to use, and how. Where they can help us foster and deepen interactions, technology can be a powerful force, but it must not become an unwelcome distraction.

We have lot’s more insights to share on the topic of event technology, but we’d like to do that with you in person. Get in touch with us today and/ or share your comments below.


 
We’ve found that even the most interested audience loses focus as soon as they pick up their phones. The traditional keypad polling technology might not be glamorous, but it doesn’t distract anyone. Not only that, but it works every time.
— Paul Girdler, Project Director, Ignition
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