Has the Pandemic Changed How Planners Think About Event Technology?

Event technology has exploded over the last year — here are two views on what new tools will mean for planners in the future.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Convene asked individuals from inside and outside the business events industry to talk about behaviors and other changes brought on by the pandemic that are lasting, and in particular, to share which ones they think are likely to transform events. We offer their insights and opinions on this page and in the rest of our July-August CMP Series, What Will Stick?

Lisa Delpy Neirotti: ‘The positive results include more far-reaching events with often larger audiences.’

virtual events

Lisa Delpy Neirotti

The global pandemic forced event planners to think differently and to embrace technology to offer an engaging online experience. The positive results include more far-reaching events with often larger audiences and international speakers. The shortcomings of online events, however, are that they limit the amount of individual learning and networking [that can take place] due to online distractions (multi-tasking), video fatigue, and lack of engagement despite excellent technology solutions for networking.

Event planners must now find a way to meld best practices from online events with in-person to ensure access for all while rebuilding personal connections. Combining in-person and remote speakers on panels, offering chat discussions along with live networking, and streaming the entire event are some of the expected changes.

Although this hybrid design approach will increase technology costs, the increased revenue from additional participants should more than offset expenses. Registration price points for digital versus in-person participants should be carefully considered based on your demographic.

— Lisa Delpy Neirotti, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Director, Sports Management Programs, The George Washington University School of Business, 2020-21 PCMA Visionary Award educator honoree

EventTech800

The EventTech 800” infographic from MarTech 8000 demonstrated the 400-percent growth in event-tech companies in 2020.

Naomi Clare Crellin: ‘We did one 360-degree turn to virtual, and another 360-degree turn to hybrid.’

The infographic, “The EventTech 800,” which appeared online in May, revealed a fact that seems stunning on the surface but will come as no surprise to planners inundated with technology choices: It pictured 832 companies across 11 categories operating in the event technology space in 2021 — four times as many event-tech players as there were in 2020, according to MarTech 8000, which created the graphic.

Naomi Clare Crellin

Naomi Clare Crellin

Along with that 400-percent growth, event-tech providers also have shifted their priorities over the course of the pandemic, as event planners have gone from “scrambling for tech solutions they could launch quickly and unproblematically to a more demanding, purposeful, and strategic purchasing approach,” EventMB wrote in June.

“What’s fantastic about the surge in event technology is that it has the industry as a whole trying out ideas,” said Naomi Clare Crellin, founder and CEO of Storycraft Lab. “You know: Let’s try and break the internet. Let’s try and do all the things for a virtual event. Let’s try some participatory workshops.” Crellin said she prefers the term “pirouette” to “pivot,” she said. “We’re all doing it — we did one 360-degree-turn to virtual, and another 360-degree turn to hybrid.”

There’s “a very good business rationale for event technology companies to figure out the next innovation — and innovation drives business, right?” Crellin said. And “for the virtual attendee, that’s a good thing. In many ways, if you think about hybrid as being a mix of virtual and live, we’ve always done hybrid events. It’s just that the virtual events have sucked. We haven’t really paid much attention to them.”

In addition to new tools, Crellin sees a new collaborative spirit among event producers, brought together as they worked under great pressure and constraints to find solutions during the pandemic.

“As a result of COVID, I’ve built the kind of relationships with people where I pick up the phone,” she said, and asks for help. “I am a lot less shy about just pinging somebody on LinkedIn and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve seen the work that you’re doing. Do you have a point of view on [X technology tool]?’”

— Barbara Palmer