Events on the Edge Part 2 – choosing event tech

Events on the Edge Part 2 – choosing event tech

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After a week on the show floor at #ExpoExpo I’ve learnt two things. Shows for show people are the same the world over!  And, despite our reputation as innovators, it’s clear we Kiwis are not the fastest off the block in our uptake of new technologies at our events.  This show had an app, a contact management system, social walls and more.

Unlike other key industries in New Zealand like agriculture and financial services that are constantly breaking new ground, our love of technology is much less apparent in the events sector. Month on month, ShowGizmo supports more events in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East than in New Zealand. Tellingly, our tech partners also report that moving organisers from their existing systems to newer/shinier/better ones is exceptionally hard. Social media is still an event innovation, gamification is mostly confined to ‘scan to win’ and ‘events as communities’ is a concept only really exemplified by the larger branding agencies with corporate clients.

Perhaps this is because relationships between event managers and clients are so well established; it’s harder to get new technologies over the line. Or because we’re scared to try something new in case it doesn’t work, and everyone (remember we’re separated by only TWO degrees!) will think we failed. Or simply because our rate of smartphone adoption was behind many other places for some years, our data speeds were and remain slower (only a few cities are even now on 4G) and our data costs are exorbitant.

Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, we have some catching up to do. There are exciting times ahead though. Over the next decade, more than $2 million a year is slated to be spent to almost double the economic spinoff from Auckland’s business events sector to $430 million annually. It’s a critical investment; a bigger events industry will help tackle the problem of seasonality where tourist operators are not busy year round, and if Auckland secured just one percent of the events currently held in Australia, its conference sector would be boosted by 10 percent.  With more certainty we hope there’s more capacity to be brave and experiment with the new technologies available to us — not just the homegrown ones, but the global variety too.

Our strategy for working with companies hesitant to integrate new technologies into their events is to help them think holistically. Sure, we evangelise the many ways in which having a mobile app will increase an event’s ROI (naturally!!), but we also completely understand the need to manage the introduction of new technologies carefully and to understand the implications of each proposed adoption.  As a tech company ourselves we face the same challenges — which new systems to bring in, how to future proof etc.  It’s not easy, but here are three thoughts to leave you with:

                   Keep it in perspective.

Technology is just technology, its primary function is an enabler, so go back to first principles and think about what you’re trying to achieve. Reach more people?  Retain more?  Increase delivery efficiencies?  Make your team happier?  Put the competition in its place by demonstrating a unique value proposition? Every one of those objectives will have many different ways they can be achieved, and using tech might be only one option and possibly not even the best.  At ShowGizmo, we’ve always said that event apps are first and foremost highly versatile communications tools. In that context, what matters is what you want to communicate and to whom. If all you want is to communicate a simple message to a small audience, it may be that a simple -a low-tech whiteboard would be the right solution … and I can’t believe I just said that!

                     Think holistically.

It’s important that your systems talk to each other. In this day and age there’s no reason why not. If they don’t, get rid of the one that’s the island and always check out what integrations are standard when reviewing new tech.

              Go for quality every time.

You want the best, so ask for references, review the standards of other events your suppliers are supporting, etc.  Don’t go for a one-solution-with-everything-in-it and risk sinking to the lowest common tech denominator.  A brilliant event app might include a lack-lustre ticketing system as a bolt on; a slick and powerful registration system may have a ho-hum mobile app that’s not even really an app included in the package.

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