Highlights from the 2018 event technology world so far

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What are the top trends in event tech this year? Big brands are taking innovative approaches to provide attendees highly personalized experiences at their largest events. Experiential marketing continues to be a major driver of engagement, providing attendees with an immersive, hands-on experience. Technologies like AI, AR and beacons are continuing to showcase how tech can be both fun and useful. As we ramp up for the busy fall conference season, let’s look at some of the event technology trends that have lit up the biggest events of 2018.

Wearable beacons

Cisco Live USA and SAPPHIRE NOW paved the way for connecting wearable beacons with their Enterprise Event Apps. Each attendee badge contained a beacon, allowing event organizers to collect attendee data, and engage attendees with highly personalized recommendations based on their profile, interests and location. Recommendation engines like those powered by TurnoutNow allowed Cisco and SAP to fine-tune intelligent recommendations based on attendee behaviors, meaning event attendees received unique personalized recommendations within their event apps as they walked through the event campus.

Beacons don’t just improve attendee onsite experiences though. Event organizers are also able to harness this data, including statistics about which exhibitors were most popular, how long attendees spent within sessions and what recommendations were most useful, to make informed decisions about planning future events.

Augmented reality

At Apple wwDC in June 2018, the launch of ARKit 2 was announced, showcasing Apple’s commitment to augmented reality and giving developers more tools to utilize this technology. Google announced their commitment to meaningful applications of AR at Google iO, launching the new functionality of Google Maps that allows users to overlay AR wayfinding directions using their camera.

From an event planner’s perspective, we’re just getting started when it comes to realizing the full potential of how AR can enhance event technology. Cisco Live USA is one of the first events to venture into this realm. Wanting to show the functional potential of AR rather than just the wow-factor, Cisco used augmented reality mapping and personalized recommendation engines to guide attendees to the exhibits and sessions best suited to their interests. Throughout the venue, Cisco placed AR targets that would spring to life on an attendee’s phone using digital sign posts tailored to their interests. Attendees could tap their preferred choice, and receive a 3D map to guide them through the venue.

Experiential brand activations

Massive consumer events like CES and SXSW are known for drawing some of the biggest brands in the world to their events. As experiential marketing continues to delight audiences, large brands are continuing to set up massive brand activations onsite at these events, where potential consumers are gathering en masse to experience the latest in technology.

Dell Technologies launched The Experience at SXSW 2018, kicking off a B2C brand activation that spoke to consumers outside of their usual B2B IT crowd. Recognizing that SXSW attendees are innovative disruptors in the creative and tech sectors, Dell was able to showcase their technologies to new audiences through storytelling and hands-on experiences.

Chatbot advancements

Improvements in AI and machine learning are making digital assistants and chatbots smarter than ever. At Google iO, Google Duplex wowed attendees with their voice-enabled chatbot that can conduct phone calls that sound almost human. Event chatbots are able to act as a digital assistant for attendees as they navigate busy conference floors with a packed schedule.

IBM has been working with Eventbase to power the world’s most advanced event app chatbots. This year at IBM Think in March, their in-app chatbot Watson gave attendees the ability to give feedback to Watson’s responses with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Using this feedback, Watson’s ability to personalize recommendations and provide more useful answers grows with every response.

Event tech enables time-saving

Large conferences and events have an almost overwhelming number of sessions, exhibitors and activities for attendees to enjoy. Combine that with networking and social activities, and attendees’ days are jam-packed. Cisco Live found a way to help attendees balance their time at events, with a new feature that gave them the ability to add “personal time” into their schedules. Using this, attendees could schedule in 1-on-1 meetings with other attendees, or set time to grab coffee and explore the exhibition area.

The power of event technology is that it not only enhances a brand’s ability to connect with their attendees. It also helps empower attendees to make the most of their time, and find a balance between digital and live experiences. SXSW’s 2018 iteration of SXSW GO launched a new feature that proved to be one of the most beloved: Event Status. Using a green, yellow, red icon, attendees could see if a session venue was free, filling up, or at full capacity. This enabled attendees to easily see if their chosen session was worth waiting in line for, or if they should use SXSW Recommends to navigate to their next choice.  

What’s next?

As event organizers are gearing up for their fall conferences, we’ll continue to see event technology and event apps with features that provide personalized experiences for attendees and help them make the most of their time at events. What new event technology will you be using at your next event?