New and Improved Tech Labs at Convening Leaders 2024

Tech Labs, a format that launched at EduCon 2023, is returning to Convening Leaders in an updated version.

Author: Magdalina Atanassova       

woman posing to be made into hologram

Some of the technologies explored during the Tech Lab sessions at EduCon included augmented reality, virtual reality, holograms, and facial analysis. (Whatever Media Group)

Tech Lab sessions were first introduced at EduCon 2023 in Montréal, Canada, with the goal of transforming the traditional technology showcase into a more engaging and less salesy format, spearheaded by Anh Nguyen, founder of Spark Event Management, and Shawn Cheng, event strategist at Curious Bear Management. Now, Nguyen and Cheng are taking things up a notch by turning the tech labs into a tech playground at Convening Leaders 2024.

smiling woman

Anh Nguyen

The duo, along with Sina Bünte, are behind the initiative #EventProfsBreakShit, a community of event management professionals who come together to test and experience event tech platforms as a group. Bünte, hybrid events producer at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will help with the tech playground’s on-site execution. Nguyen and Cheng shared with Convene how the new approach will “break the mold,” according to Nguyen.


The dedicated, standalone space each tech company had at EduCon has been changed into a large, shared playground — a “big, open space,” Cheng said, meant to encourage companies to work together. This will part ways with the typical trade show, as companies will cooperate rather than compete — or engage in more of a coopetition by doing a “comparison or a side-by-side showdown,” as Nguyen put it. The rationale for this, Cheng said, is that in this industry, “you usually will be more successful if you help other people.”

There won’t be any exclusive categories, as seen in traditional tech showcases, where you can only have one representative from each category, and “[we] would never pit them against each other,” Nguyen said, as the goal is collaboration. Each session with the companies will be intentionally designed and include the planner’s perspective — and will be moderated by Cheng or Nguyen, further ensuring a salespitch-free environment.

PCMA 20 in Their Twenties alumni

Shawn Cheng

Who’s Playing

For Convening Leaders, more than 20 companies applied, including two that had presented at EduCon. Kristi Casey, CMM, education strategist at PCMA, said they all “are bringing innovations to our industry.” According to Cheng said, they all aimed at helping planners work smarter and more efficiently. After a rigorous application process, the companies chosen to participate are:

Gevme’s Spark AI, developed in collaboration with PCMA, will make a return appearance after the “overwhelming interest” it generated during EduCon, Cheng said.

AI Showdown

Spark will be part of a competition inspired by IBM Watson’s historic 2011 event, in which the computer system with natural language processing capabilities used machine learning algorithms to compete on TV quiz show “Jeopardy!” against the show’s two biggest all-time champions and won.

In a similar spirit, Cheng and Nguyen will orchestrate a competition in which planners can choose a side to solve a real-life event case — opting for either the “purely human side,” Cheng said, or embracing the “planner plus AI side.” The competition, which is currently being defined by Nguyen and Cheng with input from PCMA, will present a real-life industry challenge. Who will have a more creative solution — the solo planner without any help from gen AI or the one using the tool as a copilot?

Magdalina Atanassova is digital media editor at Convene.

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