AR, AI Poised to Change Business Events Industry


Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are not new to the business events industry, but we have seen only a glimpse of the powerful influence both can have.

There’s much more to come from both of these technologies.

AI is one subset of the Emotional Intelligence trend identified in the new “The Future of Meetings and Events” study, funded by the PCMA Foundation in collaboration with Marriott International — the topic of this month’s cover and CMP Series story. Emotional intelligence — among five trends that will help define the business events industry — is key to designing optimal experiences and ideal environments for events participants.

How does AI enhance emotional intelligence? Kate Fairweather, lead researcher for the future trends study, shared a prediction in February at a Convening Leaders session in Pittsburgh: By 2022, consumers’ devices are going to know more about their emotional states than their loved ones, she said, according to Annette Zimmermann of Gartner.

The future trends study pointed out that the London Underground sampled tweets and analyzed them to better understand its passengers. It looked at the content of users’ tweets by time, location, and subject and then created music-related content for its digital billboards specific to those times and locations.

How might this translate to events? Using machine learning, we can sort through registration data to recommend relevant education sessions to participants based on their specific interests and needs. That can greatly improve their event experience — and when complemented by a human voice (“based on the sessions you attended last year, we think you’ll like…”), the recommendations can feel intuitive rather than intrusive. Technologies that provide real-time feedback — like heat mapping that tells business events professionals which areas or sessions are becoming crowded — can help them make on-the-spot adjustments.

When it comes to the transformational nature of AR, the sports industry has already led the way, adopting the technology to profoundly change the way audiences watch televised games and matches. A simple first-down line or ball tracker overlaid on the screen has brought a new layer of engagement and understanding for football, cricket, and tennis for the at-home audience. Fans at stadiums can now capture selfies with their faces painted in team colors via an app filter or standing next to an avatar of a team player.

Even the burgeoning e-sports sector has embraced AR when live audiences gather for tournaments. Physical buildings — including abandoned movie theaters — are being transformed into spaces that can host AR-enhanced events. Washington, D.C., is ensuring its new WNBA arena can be easily converted to host e-sports events.

How can AR transform our industry? Look for PCMA to be doing much more in this space, along with AI.