52eight3 director, Katie Crocombe, reflects on the event tech industry today. Originally featured in The Exhibition Buyer's Guide 2018.
When I first started in exhibitions about 15 years ago, event technology was in its relative infancy. As organisers, we were just getting to grips with using technology to replace our antiquated working practises: Online exhibitor manuals were beginning to replace paper ordering forms; event marketing campaigns included a sprinkling of mass email messages alongside the direct mail and print advertising centric strategies; digital attendee registration had replaced (yet again) paper forms and event websites could just about host exhibitor content! In fact, the IT department was still in the basement, data managers looked at spreadsheets and event technology sourcing and purchasing decisions were made by the events teams. Event technology was often seen as a ‘nice-to-have’, justifying spend was a struggle and it was constantly under threat from budget cuts.
But 2018 is a very different world.
Over a relatively short period of time, technology for events has become a flourishing industry and provides opportunities to help and support our visitors and exhibitors way beyond what we could have imagined even ten years ago. In many organisations, digital transformation discussions are now being held at c-level and flagged as high priority on meeting agendas in the boardroom.
Technology aids organisers beyond event logistics and marketing promotion and now goes that step further into actually facilitating events to become experiences for the individuals that attend – even some of the most arid b2b exhibitions are now engaging enough for attendees to post about on Instagram.
But whilst event technology solutions are growing in number, some organising teams are beginning to full short of the expertise and knowledge of the latest technologies on the market and as a result, are not delivering on the growing digital expectations of their customers.
In b2b for example, brands are spending on average spending upwards of 35% of their marketing budgets on digital promotional campaigns (a rate expected to grow to 45% by 2020). Many exhibition marketing budgets on the other hand are allocating a much lower percentage of digital spend with organisers still relying on outdated, often resource draining, marketing channels to sell stands and recruit visitors rather than tapping into new channels such as referral marketing, influencer advocacy and social advertising.
Another example is attendee matchmaking. In today’s world millions of people interact online, in fact social media and messaging accounts for roughly 1 in every 3 minutes users spend on the internet. As such, we have become accustomed to pre-meeting new contacts online ahead of physical face-to-face meetings. No longer can we open the doors to our event and bring together the masses. The most successful event organisers now help facilitate interactions between their exhibitors and visitors pre, during and post show open day aiding successful connections between their attendees.
Event technology isn’t the future. It is the now. With many existing and emerging technologies to suit every organiser, event style, industry and budget, sourcing the right tech needn’t be intimating or costly but ultimately can save you time and provide value to your customers. What are you waiting for?
At 52eight3 we love everything event tech! We want to hear your thoughts on event tech and would love to get involved in projects you're working on at the moment. Let's chat! firstname.lastname@example.org.