Since the early nineties, cell phones, gaming systems, televisions, computers, cars, and even gadgets that were considered science fiction have either come to fruition or have progressed exponentially since their invention. As someone who grew up playing with Furbies and memorizing the lines to Voltron, sometimes the pace of technological development staggers me.
For example, the last decade gave us smartphones, virtual reality, hoverboards, the sharing economy, and the beginnings of artificial intelligence alone. As I child, I couldn’t have imagined having the ability to video chat with someone on the other side of the planet in real time—that kind of advanced technology was reserved for Star Trek—yet now Skype and Snapchat are technologies that we take for granted.
Of course, these advancements aren’t limited to consumer technology.
Take event management.
Take event technology trends from 2016. We’ve seen virtual reality, wearable technology, the use of event management software, and live streaming on the rise. Some of those trends have long passed, others are carrying over to this year.
Looking forward to 2017, we’ve distilled which event technology trends event marketers should actually care about.
1. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
While it’s true that I covered virtual reality as an event tech trend in 2016, some interesting advances have sprung up in the augmented/virtual reality industry that will forever change the event industry—again—in 2017.
Last year, I identified uses for VR/AR, such as using virtual venues and event planning and mapping.
But in the nine months since writing the original article, new technologies and apps have opened the door for so much more.
The most obvious example has to be Pokémon GO. This phenomenon took the world by storm with its own smartphone enabled augmented reality universe filled with Pokémon, battles, and objectives.
Massive events were organized around the game, such as the DC Pokéwalk, which I am unashamed to admit that I participated in. Event organizers split participants into their respective teams (Mystic, Valor, and Instinct) from the game and mapped out routes for each team to follow.
Hundreds of people showed up for this event, which even caught the attention of local DC media. This application and all of the events spawned from it demonstrate the ability of VR/AR to boost the excitement of events through gamification.
Say what you will about the “childish” nature of Pokémon, but you can’t deny the potential of virtual and augmented reality for events. These technologies will engage your event attendees like never before by immersing them into worlds and experiences they otherwise would have no way of visiting.
2. Crowd Streaming
Live streaming is another topic I have dove into over the past year, but only from an event manager’s perspective. Building off of the successes of event-hosted live streaming, the introduction of social media based live streaming has given way to what is known as “crowd streaming.”
No longer do event attendees need expensive software and expensive equipment to broadcast their experiences at events. All event attendees need to share their experiences in real time is their smartphone. Apps like Periscope and social media features such as Facebook Live put the power of live streaming into the hands of your event attendees and in turn, in under the spotlight of your followers.
Crowd streaming also adds a layer of authenticity that is unachievable through your own live stream. The up-and-coming Millennial generation craves the authenticity of personal live streams, which not only catch the good parts of your events, but also the rough edges you may have missed. The organic feeling of personal live streams opens the door for more interested and engaged viewers.
Open up the spotlight on your events this year and encourage crowd streaming.
3. Measuring Engagement
You may be thinking to yourself, “How is measuring engagement new?”
Well, the introduction of social walls, new features in social media, gamification, wearable technology, and many other new technologies have changed the way event managers measure event engagement. We have more access to event metrics than ever before thanks to these technologies and it’s important that event managers cease on this information as soon as possible.
Gamification enables event managers to collect data on what types of entertainment keep attendees involved in certain activities.
Personal live streaming tools, such as Facebook Live, not only increases event visibility to the outside public, but also opens the door to explore new potential guests through likes, shares, and comments.
Email marketing provides information on which topics excite your potential attendees based on open rates and link clicks.
RFID/iBeacon technology simultaneously speeds up admission related tasks and opens the door for measurements on engagement based on location tracking and interaction with event activities.
As our use of technology grows, so does the pool of available event attendee data ripe for use. Don’t get left behind in the data race simply because your old event management methods have always worked.
4. Facial Recognition
There’s a lot that you can tell by one’s appearance, especially their face. Everything from expressions to the direction one’s face is pointed at hints at mood, personality, and intention. More than anything, one’s unique face is our first and foremost source of personal identification.
Hence, this is where the phrase “I’m great with faces” comes from.
Now we have taken this concept a step further with facial recognition technology. Facial recognition isn’t just for law enforcement anymore, but is now widely available for mainstream use. This is great news for event planners looking to measure the moods, demographics, and potential problems in their crowds.
Not only will event managers be great with faces, but so will their technology, allowing them to quantify metrics that were once hard to measure, such as subjective experiences and moods. While surveys give some insight into the mind of an event attendee, the inherent flaw of honesty leaves some accuracy to be desired.
As the technology for facial recognition continues to improve, the necessity for crowd surveys may decrease accordingly.