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Technology in Events: The Battle for Style as well as Substance?

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Technology is, quite literally, everywhere!

It takes a particularly ardent technophobe or bona fide recluse to manage even an hour in the modern day without a message or email ping, social media notification, touch screen, interactive ticket system, shopping barcode scanner, PC, iPad or even a buzzer to tell you when your restaurant table is ready!

No matter how hard some may try, technology plays a huge part in our day-to-day lives and is simply integral in many of the things we do; often without us even realising it.

So, with the seamless integration of technology into society and the endless innovations that result in even more dependency on tech (and our glorious technology overlords for those reading this in years to come) it is natural for industries to consider, accept, develop and implement new technologies to both improve their business and engage customers and staff.

But, whilst this is clearly a sensible strategy, the simple enthusiasm of assimilating these new toys into a business is just not enough.

In fact, the process of considering, accepting, developing and implementing are often abandoned in favour of a - “Buy it. Use it. Make it work” mentality.

Now this pattern may be an ever present in many industries, businesses or practices, but it is, potentially, a thorn in the side of events and effective event delivery. In fact, some might argue it is a particular issue in events given the repeated hounding to remain up to date with relevant technology along with the misused tag of delegate engagement and the, very often, lacklustre offering from many technology suppliers. Couple this with the fact that the impact of events needs to be relatively immediate and relevant; you have a window for a waste of time and money. ROI goes out the window and you are left counting the cost of iPads.

So, having read this it would be natural to assume that I am “anti-technology” in events and I should be holed up in a shack somewhere with only tins of beans and a fishing rod to my name.

But nothing could be further from the truth!

Technology in events is important from the perspective of both relevance as well as delivery. The value technology can add to an event can, and should be almost immeasurable but, equally, the value at point of delivery should be obvious and justifiable.

If you have got this far you may well be asking: “What’s your point?”

Well, my point is relatively simple.

I have managed many amazing events and projects. From simple delivery through to the full production, streaming and interactivity. But I have also spent many hours designing interactive solutions only for them to be cost prohibitive.

My, hopefully, sage advise is this.

Having a fully interactive app, Smartphone or iPad solution is amazing, but if what you end up with is the shell of an easy to use website you have to ask. Was it really worth it? Are people going to retain that app or link in the future or are they going to cast it off like every other website shortcut they realised they didn’t need?

So I feel there are only two options that make sense.

Spend time on a solution

If you are looking to engage your delegates and give an additional value or resource to your event, take the time to actually think it out. Consider your audience and what you want to give them but, more importantly, what will they benefit from?

Plan your solution and, before you even approach a developer, use your thoughts and the input of your events manager to place an initial idea on paper. You will surprised how useful a flowchart can be to you as well as a developer.

Then consider the immediate and/or lasting effects of your development. Is it something that will aid your event and you are not worried that it’s importance expires after that or do you want an application that will engage for a period of time. Do you want your work to reach beyond your event and keep people tapping for months to come?

Consider alternatives

If all you are after are questions provided in an interactive way, or to allow the shy amongst your delegation to post a question, consider using social media or email.

Email might be a little temperamental sometimes for some, but it’s a free and open method for receiving questions or suggestions from your audience, particularly if you are streaming to the internet as well as hosting a ‘bums on seats’ conference.

Know when it’s time to stop

I have worked on too many events where the ideas were outdone by the budget or effectiveness. Sometimes it is a good idea to say “we have a great event and maybe we just need to hire some voting pads”. I realise it’s not the technological result you might want but, in reality, it may well be the technology you need.

It’s important to consider that the delivery of your event is THE most important part of the whole process. Technology can be a blessing or a curse, and can be remembered for being innovative or a waste of time and money. If you want to engage with technology and equally engage your delegates, give the time, resource and money it requires to do it right and rely on your event management, like Right Events, to advise, design and manage it for you.

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