Keeping Up With Technology Tools

An academic with an entrepreneurial streak offered edUcon participants insights on how technology can elevate events and boost productivity — now and later.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

smiling man in dark jacket and blue print shirt

ChatGPT users should verify its responses, and work toward getting better results by improving the way they structure their prompts for information, said edUcon speaker Recep “Richie” Karaburun.

Recep “Richie” Karaburun, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of hospitality at the NYU School of Professional Studies (SPS), talked with the edUcon audience in Detroit about technologies including virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, along with what he called “the 800-pound gorilla in every meeting I go to — AI.” But the overarching message in his presentation on Monday — “Navigating the Future: Implications of Emerging Technologies for Me and My Organization” — was a timeless one: “Once you stop learning, you start dying,” Karaburun said, quoting theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. “Whether you are a doctor, a meeting planner, a destination marketer, or a teacher,” he told Convene, “one of the most important things is being up to date with your profession and with your industry.”

Karaburun’s talk was designed to update and prepare participants on the current and future uses of the latest technology tools in the context of the meeting industry, as well as guide them to resources to help them continue to learn, he told Convene several weeks before his presentation. At NYU, where Karaburun is director of SPS The Tisch Center of Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator program, he requires his students to read for 20 minutes every day about what’s new in the hospitality industry, he said. “If you’re not up to date, you are obsolete. And nobody wants to hire an obsolete professional.” Karaburun, who has won numerous teaching and industry awards, worked for 25 years in the travel industry, including at hospitality-based start-ups.

Part of his intention in his edUcon presentation was to demystify the metaverse, by helping participants understand what the technologies within the metaverse — including augmented, mixed, and virtual reality — actually entail and their potential for events, Karaburun said. “Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, this is a gamers’ world.’” But younger generations already shop, talk, and engage in other recreational activities, like watching movies with massive audiences, in virtual reality, he said, where they are “all looking for interactivity and gamification.” To engage them and other audiences, including digital audiences, event professionals “can create fun, unforgettable experiences utilizing some of these tools,” he said.

About AI

Among the most important tools for event professionals to embrace is the one everybody is talking about — generative AI, Karaburun said. Gen AI can boost an event professional’s productivity and performance in a range of tasks, from making meetings more engaging through personalization to analyzing event data, Karaburun said.

The release of ChatGPT 5 by OpenAI — reported to be coming as early as this summer, but yet to be officially announced — “will be a game changer,” he predicted. “It’s going to be more emotionally intelligent and immersive.” ChatGPT is always improving, but it’s far from perfect and is still subject to “AI hallucinations” and users should always verify its responses, he said. Users also can get better results by improving the way they structure their requests, or prompts, for information, he added. “The more detail, the better the outcome. It takes practice.”

One of his own favorite ways to use the technology, he said, is to take a multi-page report and prompt ChatGPT to condense the content down to the top 10 takeaways. Compared with his own reading, he usually agrees with seven or eight, “but I may not agree with a couple of the takeaways based on my expertise,” he said. He said he’s always surprised by the number of event professionals who use the free version of ChatGPT instead of the paid version. The latter “generates so much information that I feel like now I finally have a smart assistant,” Karaburun said. “And I’m only paying $20 a month to be that much more productive.”

Karaburun also talked with Convene about the role of cybersecurity in event strategy. “Whatever the shiny new tools you are using, make sure the [way you use and store] data is legal and secure,” he said. Personalization, especially hyper-personalization, can only happen because consumers are giving you more data — “and the more data they’re giving, the more they are opening up their privacy,” he said. “Every company and every meeting planner has to protect themselves and their customers.” Cybersecurity is “not a sexy subject, like augmented reality,” he added. “But companies have to get cybersecurity into their strategy.”

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.

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