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Don’t believe the hype

Des Maclaughlin, MD at Mac-D Consulting, hails event tech, so long as it adds value

When organising a conference or event there are a number of elements that are fundamental in ensuring it is a success. You have to understand why you are holding the event in the first place and what you want to get out of it. You then need to agree the budget, choose a suitable venue and get the best speakers available. Next you need to ensure that you attract your target audience, and that they enjoy a first-class customer experience. Finally, you need to use some form of measurement to determine the success of the event and how it performed against the original goals set.

I can’t credit myself with any great thought leadership around the above. I suspect If you asked any event professional they would come up with a very similar list of objectives. The things that determine whether an event is successful or not haven’t altered much in my 35 years in the industry. A poor location, an unsuitable conference room, substandard food and dull speakers are more damaging today than they’ve ever been as attendees’ expectations continue to rise.

Advances in technology have obviously brought benefits and we now all take things such as reliable Wi-Fi for granted. 

Presentations can be far more creative these days and, therefore, more visually stimulating. Registration, once the bane of the event organiser’s life, is now a far smoother experience. While such technical advances are welcome and improve the event experience they don’t do away with getting the simple things right such as providing excellent service on the day.

In recent years the rise of event tech means that many event organisers now believe technology is the Holy Grail to running a successful event and trumps everything else. Event tech is the buzz phrase of our times. Event tech trade shows are everywhere. Experts are only too keen to tell you what this year’s trends are - AI, RFID, drones, etc. But does event tech genuinely add to the delegate experience or in reality can it detract from it?

Personally, while I appreciate event tech has its place in events, I feel it can often be overused or misused. I would for example rather give my undivided attention to a good speaker than have to constantly study my phone’s event app and suffer some person’s random views, often idiotic questions, or pointless tweeting. I don’t need to be swamped with endless and often irrelevant digital content either. If I want to speak to someone I can identify them through their name badge; I don’t need a heat map. 

As for data and in particular the growing obsession with big data, how many organisers really know how to use the reams of information they gather meaningfully?

It’s also worth remembering the more complicated the technical offering, the more chance there is for things to go wrong. Nothing is more frustrating for the audience than delays around technical issues. My advice to organisers, then, is to concentrate on getting the basics right and only use event tech when you are confident that it will really add something of value to your event.