The technologies that are changing events
The transforming and disruptive effects of technology are being felt in all industries, and events are no exception. From how they’re organised and run to the on-the-ground experience of attendees, digital technologies are making their mark.
This was one of the key topics discussed during the recent session The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, held by Formative Content in London.
Timed to coincide with our report of the same name, the event was moderated by Formative Content CEO Gay Flashman with presentations from Jazmin Beale from Olympia London, Una O’Sullivan of KPMG, Lucy Eldred from KNect365 and Joe Edwards of Sage.
The packed room was given a whistle-stop tour by the speakers of the way that events are harnessing technology – both old and new.
Jazmin Beale began with a couple of stellar examples that she had seen recently as Head of Marketing and Communications at Olympia London, where she handles some 220 conferences a year.
One of the largest shows that Olympia London hosts is the London Book Fair – or LBF.
“Among the innovative ways that LBF are using technology is an online diary, which allows attendees to find those that they want to connect with face to face. It also matches visitors, based on their interest areas, with the exhibitors. It’s a great tool,” said Jazmin, “Particularly for new attendees who are trying to navigate the market, and establish themselves within the industry.”
It began as a way for millennials to communicate but Snapchat is fast becoming a useful event tool, according to Jazmin. Another regular to Olympia London is Pure London, the UK’s largest gathering of fashion buyers, who have effectively used Snapchat as part of their content strategy.
“Using Snapchat enables B2B events to target a different audience, which might not have access to the show, but can still experience it live,” explained Jazmin. “With over 100 million daily users sharing over 400 million snaps a day, Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social networks of 2016.
“Pure London took things a step further by using geo-filters, enabling visitors to leave their mark and take personalisation to the next level. Creating a ‘story’ placed the event literally in the hands of a huge London based market, providing a huge audience for the show and its exhibitors,” she said. “Pure London is trend-leading in terms of integrating social, whilst being a B2B.”
Whilst video itself is nothing new, how it is deployed is what is important, as Joe Edwards, Global Director of Global Campaign Development at Sage, and a comms industry veteran explained.
“We’ve started watching more video on mobile than desktop. If you’re not thinking about video on mobile, then you’re two years behind the curve,” he stated.
Indeed, Pure London used video very effectively to showcase footage from backstage of their shows, added Jazmin.
“A recent study shows that video content is 12 times more likely to be shared than text. Video can play emotion, and can communicate atmosphere and branding more effectively than anything else. In the case of Pure London, it’s great for showcasing features, such as all the back stage action.”
The London Book Fair also used video, through strategically placed television sets, to enhance their event experience, she continued.
“They had screens positioned around the fair, listing what was going on and giving exhibitors the opportunity to drive traffic to their stand,” explained Jazmin. “It also pushed quieter workshops, and provided organisers with an extra revenue stream through advertising on the channel.”
During her presentation, Jazmin Beale also treated us to run down of what we might expect to see at events in the near future.
Among the more recent innovations is augmented reality (think Pokémon Go). “It’s very on trend,” she said, whilst warning that: “You need to be very creative and have large budgets. We don’t see this filtering down unless you have really deep pockets.”
Not to be confused with augmented reality, virtual reality is becoming increasingly relevant to corporate offices around the world, according to Jasmine, because it allows attendees to access the event from their desk.
“Not only will this reduce cost of travel and accommodation but it is a ‘step up’ from live streaming as it promises to allow live interaction with colleagues and the event itself,” she said.
Behind the scenes tech
Behind-the-scenes event management was also becoming more sophisticated, explained Jazmin.
“Communication between suppliers and other departments can all be done through a central hub of information, which can be accessed in any time zone. It makes the process of organising an event smoother, and reduces the risk of errors. Look to Double Dutch or Propared for event management software specialists,” she said.
Is the app dead?
Lucy Eldred’s insights show us how what may be wildly en vogue one year can disappear very quickly.
“A few years ago it was all about “QR codes”,” she said. “Everything had to have one. Now, you just don’t see them anymore.”
The same seems to be happening to the use of an “event app”, which, according to Jazmin, had declined in recent years. However, used in an innovative way, it still has its place.
Jazmin explained how the LBF app added value to their app by incorporating an interactive floorplan, which allowed visitors to find their way around the show floor easily and even plan their route between stands and feature areas.
However: “If you’re building a brand then yes aim to have an app and that’s something people can engage with throughout the year, but otherwise it’s not really worth it,” she conceded.
What about podcasts? Una O’Sullivan explained how KPMG had made great use of podcasts for news-specific content, for example, Brexit. “People just wanted to talk and wanted to hear what global leaders through about it, so we recorded some leaders talking and we had record numbers dialling in.”
Joe Edwards told us how one of the clients he used to work for had engaged the services of famous actors to do voiceovers for their whitepapers, which turned out to be a highly successful strategy.
An online portal
Among the upcoming developments at KPMG’s events, as highlighted by Una O’Sullivan was a portal, where both delegates and non-delegates alike could dip in and out of to get the best content.
“It’s a hub that contains what the conference achieved, what was showcased, and the key highlights on the future of industry,” she explained.
Interestingly, in terms of reaching her audience, new wasn’t always best, said Una.
“We went down the html newsletter route, but now, if you want something to have impact you make it plain text and straight from a global leader. We have reverted to good old fashioned email because that’s what works best.”
Insight leadership not thought leadership
“Thought leadership” is a key element of any digital content strategy, particularly for events, but Joe Edwards felt that insight leadership could be much more powerful.
“At Sage we built an online personality test that works out an individual’s work style and allowed them to compare that with their friends and colleagues. Through that we can gather lots of data about HR and Payroll professionals, which allows us to produce insight-driven content. It’s not an opinion piece, it’s factually based and it’s company-owned.”
It was left to Lucy and Joe to sum up the role of technology in covering events.
“You have to be responsive to trends and issues,” said Lucy. “The digital landscape is in constant flux, and it simply needs to be looked at on a continual basis.”
Joe’s opinion was simple. Regardless of what technology was used: “Put your content everywhere. Engage everybody, and engage them all the time. Never stop engaging.”
Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.
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Alex Gray is a Senior Writer at Formative Content responsible for writing fast-turnaround, engaging blogs on a variety of topics and industries.
You can follow Alex on Twitter at @Agray_formative
Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.
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