We're event technology nerds — clearly — and this is our favorite time of the year.
Because our entire industry, us included, are focused on thinking about how event tech is going to impact our lives, improve our work life, and make our events better over the coming year. It's event tech trends prediction season!
Here are our 2018 predictions. Let us know what you think in the comments!
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
No, this is not the title of a Terminator movie. Artificial intelligence - AI - is behind some of the coolest event tech we're seeing now and it's going to play an increasingly prominent and important role in 2018.
Simplified, AI is software you interact with that feels like you're “talking” with a real person; think of it like engaging with a robot. Ever use Amazon's Alexa, or Apple's Siri? AI is how those tools can converse with you.
The most common and buzzed about application for AI in events is chatbots, which function similarly to Siri or Alexa for your events. Chatbots allow your attendees to ask questions and get answers using any messaging app on their phone (such as Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger) by asking their question in plain English.
Want to know where the bathrooms are? Text the event's chatbot "Where is the bathroom?" and the bot will quickly reply with the location or a map with no human involvement from your event team. Want to know if there are any sessions tomorrow afternoon about analytics? Just ask the chatbot and it can reply with all the sessions related to analytics tomorrow afternoon, again with no involvement from your team. Here's an example of this in action. Pretty cool, if you ask us!
But this is not the only cool way AI is impacting events. Late last year we attended a large tech conference that attracted tens-of-thousands of attendees from around the world. The diverse nature of the attendees coupled with the conference’s commitment to accessibility created a dilemma for the company: they needed to translate their sessions into over a dozen languages to accommodate the full range of the languages spoken by their attendees. But with almost a thousand sessions, that amount of translation would result in an enormous expense.
AI rescued the day. The conference had already hired transcriptionists to transcribe the sessions in real time to provide closed captioning for the conference live-stream. The conference fed these English transcriptions into a program that used AI to translate the sessions in to 12 different languages in real-time. During the session, an attendee couple pull up the live stream on the conference app and choose the language they wanted the subtitles to be in. Instead of hiring an army of translators at an enormous expense, they used AI to elegantly and inexpensively provide a better experience for all their attendees.
In 2018, we think you’re going to see more AI in more places at events. Chatbots will increasingly be seen as a necessary compliment to your event app, and you’ll see AI popping up in more places (like translation) as event profs turn to tech to creatively solve problems.
Increasing Integration Mindedness
In our option, the most important contrast in the event tech world is between companies that seek to build an entire ecosystem of tools they lock you into (all-in-ones) and those who focus on being the best at one thing while making it super easy to connect and work other similar-minded tools (best-in-breeds).
Historically, the event tech world has leaned towards all-in-ones. The older, more established companies have discouraged integration because it's (at least in the short term) more profitable to keep you in their ecosystem, even if many of their tools were subpar.
However, the tide is turning. 2017 saw the launch of integration-minded partnerships like the Event Tech Tribe (which we're proud to be a part of), among others. Increasingly, event profs are seeing the value of flexibility, free movement of their data with APIs, and being able to work with best-in-breed tools that better fit their needs.
The adoption of this attitude will accelerate in 2018 and we'll see more companies and partnerships built around integrations—and we may even see companies that previously tried to discourage integrations begin to participate.
The Triumph of Strategic Event Tech Over the Shiny New Object
Event tech can be helpful—and also fun. Who doesn't love strapping on a VR headset or seeing a hologram at an event? That stuff is super cool…but is it helpful?. There is a difference between the shiny new object tech and strategic event tech. Shiny new object operates on newness; it's something cool that you haven't seen before. Strategic event tech might not possess than initial "wow!" factor, but it helps you, the event professional, better achieve your event's goals and objectives.
In the past, a lot of event tech has fallen into the former category. This is not entirely bad; there is a place for new tech that excites and engages attendees. But event tech is most powerful and most helpful when it's strategic.
How do you tell the difference? Know your event's goals and objectives (which should derive from your organization's goals and objectives) and keep the focus there. When evaluating tech, objectively ask yourself if this tech will (a) directly address your goals or (b) free you from less valuable work, so that you can focus more attention on creatively improving your event and helping it meet its goals.
As more event tech becomes available, event professionals are getting savvier about how to use it. In 2018, you’re going to see event professionals deploy more strategic event tech at their events.
Wearables Creating New Opportunities for Connections
Wearables are not new in events, but in 2018 we'll see them used in new and innovative ways to facilitate the connections that make events so valuable.
Here's one example which demonstrates the potential. At user conferences the opportunity to interact with product experts who know, and in some cases built, the company’s products, is a key selling point for attendees.
At a recent conference, all product experts wore a badge with an RFID chip. Attendees were able to search for experts based on expertise, name, or other attributes, and then see their real-time location on a map of the expo floor via the mobile app. They could also schedule one-on-one meetings with the experts at the same time, or they could just wander over to where the expert was at that moment and have an ad hoc talk with them.
We wrote about this in greater depth: Where We Think Event Tech Is Headed Next.
In 2018 (and beyond), we expect to see more examples like this of wearables helping to facilitate connections among your speakers, experts, and attendees.
The unifying theme of all these trends is the creative use of event technology by event professionals to make their events better, more engaging, and more effective. It’s why we love event technology and it’s why we’re so excited about where it’s going in 2018.
Have ideas on where you think event tech is headed? Share them in the comments!
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