This Just In
Engagement is critical to conference and meeting success, but a growing number of cutting-edge tech tools make it difficult for event planners to narrow down the options. Which ones are best designed to increase attendee interactivity? James Morgan, founder of Event Tech Lab (a partnership community for event-technology providers and users) and senior lecturer in tourism and events at the University of Westminster, shares his suggestions.
Social-exchange theory tells us that engagement success comes when we maximize benefits (e.g. learning something new) whilst minimizing costs (wasted time or effort). Attendees will weigh up the potential benefits of giving their full engagement to the message. When the benefits are too small, attendees will look for distractions, such as emails on their mobile devices. The following technology can assist in making engagement worthwhile.
- Interactive screens — Most people know how to use a smartphone, and using London-based Giant iTab’s smartphone solutions — giant interactive screens that look like smartphones — is no different. Planners can add event apps, and native apps from the Google Play Store or iTunes to the interactive screens for attendees to engage with. The giant screens also allow photographs to be taken, so attendees can snap away and upload posts to social media. The value for attendees is that the novel format allows on-demand knowledge and fun at their fingertips.
- Using mobile phones as microphones — A great way to engage attendees is to have them use their phones as microphones and polling booths. Lots of attendees don’t like to speak into a roving microphone — they’re shy. Phoenix-based Tap To Speak has developed technology that enables people to use their mobile phones as microphones for Q&A sessions. The application is implemented through a weblink and interfaces with the sound system. The application also allows interactive polling and quizzes to create deeper engagement with attendees. The value is that there is greater participation in Q&As, and attendees have the satisfaction of knowing that their opinions, questions, and comments has been heard and are valued.
- Crowdsourcing content — When it comes to engaging audiences, pre-event crowdsourcing ideas is a new development in content creation.
Crowdsourcing content allows potential attendees to start engaging with an event long before the programme is announced. London-based SharedXP allows organisers to consult with their networks and get ideas on the best and most relevant types of content they want to experience. The value to attendees is feeling a sense of belonging and ownership because they have contributed to a programme of content.
- Facial-recognition technology — Engaging attendees can start at the front door. Facial-recognition software is common at airports, but until a few months ago, was rare at meetings and conferences. Enter Houston’s Zenus Biometrics. Its API (Application Programming Interface) has been integrated with European-based Field Drive, and other event-registration partners, such as the U.K.’s Ya Ya Regie. The outcome is award-winning facial-recognition software for meetings and conferences, enabling a frictionless entry process that takes just seven seconds. Entry for attendees is efficient, quick, and non-evasive. The value to the planner is easy entry with an extra layer of security. All data is deleted immediately after the event.
- Virtual and augmented reality — Gamifying VR and AR experiences improve knowledge recall. That is why lots of brands use virtual- and augmented-reality experiences at events and conferences. However, just providing an off-the-shelf gaming experience to an attendee is not going to get your brand in front of them. Creating brand-specific VR or AR content does. But how do you measure how attendees have engaged with brand-focused content that is aimed at education or behavior change? Melbourne-based Play2Lead is a gamification platform that facilitates quizzes and leaderboards. Its API (Application Programming Interface) can easily integrate into gamifying a VR or AR experience. The value to attendees is competition and fun whilst being immersed in a VR or AR experience. Planners get actionable insights from the experience.
- Autonomous robots — Robotics are a relatively a new phenomenon at conferences, but they’re here to stay. Vilnius-based MIO Technologies has developed MIO, the autonomous roving robot that can deliver merchandise for promotions, snacks, and many other items to attendees. There is also the “cute factor’” — and the value to attendees is the novelty of engaging with a machine.
These technologies can facilitate a bond between the attendees and the brand message and content, and between each other. Aiding the value exchange will resonate with attendees, but keep in mind that the technology is there only to facilitate social engagement. It is up to you, as the event planner, to make sure that the brand message, content, and networking opportunities you provide are relevant and valuable — fair exchange for the time attendees are taking out of their daily lives to be at your meeting or conference.