The way people connect with technology is no longer just a one-sided interaction. As artificial intelligence (AI) improves, technology is learning to interact with us too. People expect more out of digital and mobile experiences, and brands are moving to deliver on this expectation with digital engagement tools like chat bots. Chat bots mimic natural human speech patterns to deliver information to users faster and easier than if they were searching for it themselves.
“By 2020, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have deployed product chatbots.” – Van Baker, Research Vice President, Gartner
Chat bots aren’t just a martech trend: they’re the entry point for human and AI interaction, and the launchpad for brands to connect with their audience in a meaningful way, 24/7. Chat bots provide a wealth of information to event attendees in a way that is faster, easier and more natural than ever before. Attendees can easily find logistical event information, source upcoming sessions, pull up maps to event venues and find answers to common event queries, such the wifi password or accommodation information. They can boost session engagement and allow event planners to interact with attendees during sessions by collecting feedback with polling and Q&A features. Most importantly, they provide brands with an invaluable event concierge service that acts as a round-the-clock connection between brand and audience.
In early 2017, Eventbase became the first event app to launch a fully integrated chatbot as part of the app at SXSW with chat bot Abby. In addition to being a groundbreaker in the event tech world, Abby was hugely popular with SXSW attendees, who asked over 56,000 different queries throughout the course of the event. Now with over a year of producing brand-specific chat bots for events under our belt, we’d like to share our learnings with event planners for how to best utilize chat bots to shape your events.
Here are 6 best practices for using a chat bot to improve your attendee experience.
Give your bot a personality
The popularity of chat bots stems from the simulated human experience we feel through conversational interactions with bots. These experiences of your brand can range from warm and helpful in customer service experiences, to witty and playful in informational searches. But like any human interaction, well-executed chat bots have their own unique personality that reflects their brand in a very “human” way.
What does talking to your brand feel like for your attendees? Start by giving your chat bot a name. Imagine they’re your brand’s ideal employee, representing your best qualities and being your biggest cheerleader. Bring them to life with a personality, including quirks and embedded “Easter eggs” to delight your attendees. Abby, like her maker SXSW, is tech savvy, intelligent and witty. It was only natural for the SXSW brand to have a little fun with designing their first event chat bot by embedding sly ways to bring out Abby’s personality. Send Abby a taco emoji, and she would source out the nearest food trucks to your location. Send her a rainbow emoji, and she would pull sessions and workshops within the Diversity conference track.
Help make it smarter
One of the benefits of artificial intelligence is that it grows smarter organically, with every use and query. That said, your bot still needs some base knowledge to get the ball rolling. Mapping out your chat bot’s initial repertoire can become a fantastic exercise in better understanding your event attendees. Involve your event support staff in setting this up—they have a deep understanding of your attendees' needs and can help guide your chat bot’s most frequently asked questions.
What will people be looking for? What excites them? What pain points do they commonly have at your events? For example, the busy registration booths at CTA’s premiere CES event gave planners a chance to delight this user by guiding her to a less frequented registration kiosk.
Choosing a bot that incorporates Natural Language Understanding (NLU) will reduce the amount of time it takes your team to train your bot. Incorporating a feedback loop into your chat bot is a great way to help your team understand what responses are working and which ones are falling flat so you can fine-tune your bot to ensure it improves over time.
Integrate your chat bot with your event app’s personalized recommendation engine, allowing it to provide your attendees with custom responses tailored to their unique interests. You’ll not only provide more meaningful information, but these personalized touches delight audiences.
Select the right platform
There are a wide variety of platforms that can support event chat bots, from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to those that are embedded within your brand’s mobile event app. Choosing the right platform for your brand comes down to how, where, when and why your attendees will be engaging with it.
After launching a preliminary chat bot via Facebook Messenger for their shop.org Digital Retail Conference, the National Retail Federation (NRF) decided to take their learnings and upgrade to an IBM Watson-powered chat bot via the Eventbase platform for their marquis Big Show event. A test run through Messenger showed NRF’s event managers that the chat bot was an engaging piece for attendees, but the platform was disconnected from where attendees were searching for session information.
"Eventbase provided an easier onboard process for administrators and support staff for Watson. From the user perspective, the Watson platform provided a familiar IM-style interface wherein they could interact with our updated Ava chat bot whilst remaining immersed in the mobile app the entire time." – Jason Hoolsema, VP Information Technology, NRF
In order to make your chat bot truly useful for your attendees, they need to be aware that it’s there for them. There are a variety of ways to encourage your attendees to rely on your chat bot for information, from encouraging it in-app to analog promotion on-site.
At IBM Think in March 2018, IBM used the splash screen within the official event app to promote their chat bot Watson. NRF promoted their chat bot Ava to be the first screen when users launch the app. SXSW’s Abby offers conversational prompts to show attendees examples of what they can ask, giving them the opportunity to engage with minimal effort. Once attendees experience the ease of using a chat bot, the adoption process is seamless.
Choose an enterprise-grade bot
Avoid an underwhelming bot experience at your event by choosing a proven, enterprise-grade platform. Eventbase has experience deploying chat bots across different platforms to best engage your attendees. The SXSW GO app won the title of 2017 Event Tech “Best Event App” with the launch of chat bot Abby, and quickly followed up on that success with the launch of IBM’s event chat bot Watson.
Looking to learn more about how chat bots can engage and delight your attendees?
Jason Hoolsema from NRF will be joining Eventbase CEO Jeff Sinclair on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 as part of Chief Marketer’s AI for Marketers digital conference to discuss their experience in launching NRF’s chat bot Ava within the Eventbase platform.