Promising trends in event tech - McKinney

Promising trends in event tech

September 29, 2015

By Frank Moran

Ten years ago there were legitimate fears that technological advances would hurt event attendance, and that brands might opt to host digital “virtual” events, instead of live, in-person programs. Those fears have since been proved unfounded. Technology is enhancing events in many ways and at every touch point, enabling marketers to reach customers before, during and after an event. We are now curating dynamic, customized, interactive programs with reach that extends far beyond the physical event. It is an exciting time for experiential marketing.

Some of the more important event tech trends gaining popularity that I believe are impactful and have staying power are event-specific mobile apps, use of RFID tags and virtual reality.

Mobile apps

I agree with Matthew Wall, who reported in BBC News last week that mobile apps are a great tool for conferences and events, especially if they are long or complicated. They enable sharing of information pre-event, seamless check-in and interacting with and notifying attendees of changes in real time. The possibilities for content are endless. I have even seen curated music playlists built into the app as an “on brand” event-related soundtrack.

Of course, there are barriers for both event planners, who must pay to build an app, and event participants, who may not want to download an app they’ll use just once. But these are surmountable. Smart marketers should consider mobile apps for their events.

RFID tags

When used properly, RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and beacon technology are highly effective. You can track consumer patterns and customize messaging — even the language of the copy — based on the person looking at it. What does this look like? At international trade shows, for example, a digital sign will say, “Welcome, Tom!” when Tom walks in, and “Bienvenida, Jaun!” to Jaun moments later.

Another great feature of both RFID technology and event-specific mobile apps is that you can gather qualitative and quantitative information about attendees. Knowing their habits and what parts of an event were well received allows you to plan for the future.

Virtual reality

Truly immersive experiences are possible with virtual reality and other emerging technologies. With the right content, event holders can provide consumers unforgettable, entertaining and educational experiences.

The Experiential Marketing team at McKinney was working for a tech client at the U.S. Open of Surfing were consumers used Samsung VR to experience surfing inside the barrel of a wave from the point of view of Gabriel Medina, one of the top surfers in the world. I’ve also seen VR being used as a virtual information booth. Another trend is VR live streaming, which allows consumers at home to virtually experience the event. For example, CNN live-streamed the Democratic Presidential Debate just this month.

Every day, agencies and tech companies are finding new ways to use technology at events. Just last week, Uber announced UberEVENTS, an event-specific software for event organizers to pre-pay and schedule rides for their guests.

Client event briefs will continue to require innovation. It’s up to agencies like ours to build out the next big thing in event tech.