Dr James Morgan, founder of the UK’s Event Tech Lab, talks to three organisers about the exhibition technology of the future.
2018 saw some great new technologies introduced into the exhibitions industry. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of chatbots, matchmaking platforms and many other applications have come to the fore.
The use of wearables and software applications to improve on data collection and cut out friction for information transactions between exhibitors and attendees are on the increase and, with more data available, the focus on personalisation has also taken off and should prove to be big in 2019.
All these trends are set against the introduction and challenges associated with GDPR. Regulatory impacts on the way in which events marketers acquire visitors has been a major agenda item in the industry.
I asked three industry experts for their insights into what was big in 2018, and which technologies may proliferate in 2019.
One of the most exciting topics on event technology in 2018 has been the growth in exhibitor-visitor engagement tools.
In this digital era event organisers have been challenged to deliver more than just stands and space. The delivery of quality buyers who are engaged and understand the offerings of exhibitors is paramount.
One technology that has seen continued growth this year is planning platforms that provide visitors easy ways to whittle down hundreds of exhibitors into a manageable schedule. This means more targeted prospects for exhibitors and many shows are offering concierge services around this to ensure that buyers attend meetings by contacting no-shows.
A technology that can assist with the concierge function are engagement tracking solutions. Visitors collect information from exhibitors using their badge or phone. At the same time organisers can see real-time updates on meeting attendance although they haven’t cracked this yet at scale.
The added value of allowing visitor check-in at exhibitor stands and speaker sessions is content distribution. The visitor scans a QR code or taps an NFC reader with a smart-badge to get information from the exhibitor. This mechanism can make sure that visitors in browsing mode can collect information and increase the amount of leads captured for post-show follow up.
It is now within our grasp to send personalised recommendations and “what’s nearby” notifications based on interests and activity at the show. The ask in terms of data privacy is lower than in everyday life because it is contained within the time and location of the show and I expect to see this becoming a much more accepted value add in the next five years.
We have also started venturing into the domains of Big Data and AI.
First, we have to solve the ‘data puzzle’ of stitching together pieces of data coming from separate, incompatible platforms to construct a coherent profile of our users. Only then can we use Deep Learning and AI to predict behaviours and personalise our communication. This will be one of the main areas of technological development for us in the coming years.
GDPR has been a key factor for organiser tech in 2018. In addition to having tighter control on consent, this has also led to initiatives like CIM - Customer Identity Management - which allows organisers to understand customers better and to create more personalised marketing. This has led to improvements in marketing automation and efficiencies.
We are now providing hotels through our event sites and registration pages, with rooms on sale at better rates than such intermediaries as Booking.com and Expedia.