Create an Incredible Experience with the Right Event Technology
The sheer amount of advancements that we achieve in technology on a daily basis can be overwhelming. It is difficult to keep up with the trends but it can be even more difficult to weed out those that are just a fad and those that will make a substantial impact on our lives. So how can we ensure that what we offer at our events is not only effective and efficient, but creates an incredible experience for those we serve?
Not All Technology is Created Equal
Some technology is implemented so seamlessly into an event experience that nearly every attendee takes advantage of the benefits, whether they consciously realize it or not. Mobile websites that allow attendees to plan their conference schedule and interactive digital signage that helps people navigate the exhibition floor are great examples. The technology adds experiences that just feel “right.”
On the other hand, there is plenty of technology that may look great on the surface, but when implemented or applied incorrectly, is perceived by your customer as excessive, intrusive or cumbersome.
Nearly every event professional has a horror story of their technology failing or not being compatible with the venue’s resources. Even if the customer’s perception of the experience is a positive one, the new technology may stifle efficiency and effectiveness of the teams that plan, execute, and support events.
Consider the last time you went to a great restaurant and you were torn between several dishes that sounded delicious. How much time did it take you to decide? Did you fear you would make the wrong choice? When the waiter came to take your order, did you feel some level of anxiety when committing to your selection? Chances are the restaurant you were patronizing had a large menu or had a large selection of items that appealed to your taste.
American psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the phrase “Paradox of Choice” to describe the issues that arise when consumers are given too many options. He consistently found that when faced with increased choices, people can make a great selection, but it may come at the cost of increased anxiety, dissatisfaction, frustration, and fear to commit.
Technology Tempts Us to Over-offer
Technology has evolved to the point where many of our daily tasks, whether for fun or a chore, can be personalized and customized to fit our own preferences and needs. While this gives us entertainment, options, and a sense of control, it can come with an associated cost.
By now you’ve undoubtedly seen one of the new self-service soda machines, Pepsi’s Spire or Coca-Cola’s Freestyle, that allow patrons to add flavors to their favorite drinks to create their own unique drink combinations. Coca-Cola’s Freestyle offers over 100 drink flavor combinations and Spire offers up to 1,000 different possible combinations.
I think this new breed of soft drink dispenser is great. The machines are fun to look at, fun to use, and offer the consumer an ability to personalize their drink in a way that was inconceivable 15 years ago. (My personal favorite is a Diet Cherry Vanilla Coke with a splash of regular Coke, by the way)
Although they can be fun to use, especially for the kiddos in line, there are now so many flavor possibilities that quick personal choices that would have previously taken a microsecond, now become a far more thought-intensive exercise. Remember, the more options available, the more time it takes to analyze all the options and make a decision.
This same concept applies to event technology as well. A simple, easily avoidable example is having too many ways for people to network and communicate with other attendees. If there are too many options, the decision process on which option to use will be drawn out, forcing some attendees opt out altogether. Attendees can be more focused on selecting the perceived “best way” to communicate with a fellow attendee, rather than the communication itself. That’s a problem.
Problems Can Multiply, So Watch Carefully
There are many ways the wrong technology choice can impact the attendees have on your event experience. Creating analysis paralysis is arguably a good problem to have when compared to some of the other symptoms, such as technology failures.
However, it’s important to be mindful of the impact that seemingly insignificant changes that add - even a few seconds - can have on simple processes that are repeated over and over. Combine a slightly slower piece of technology with a pinch of a confusing user interface and a little sprinkle of duplicate data entry in one or two fields, and you’ve got a recipe to create some major frustration.
On the Pepsi’s Spire and Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machines, for example, the actual physical interactions required to operate the machine are different than a classic machine. As opposed to triggering a push lever for ice and liquid on a classic dispenser, on the latest generation of self-service machines a consumer triggers the ice with a lever, navigates to the desired selection through a series of graphical touchscreen menus, then pushes a flashing physical button to dispense the liquid. These interactions are simple, of course, however they multiply the cognitive load and time required to walk away with a soft drink. A 6-8 second task is potentially turning into a 30-second task per customer.
These new dispensers are also single-serve units and are likely replacing a traditional soft drink dispenser that can realistically serve 2-3 people standing side-by-side.
Combine the time required to select and customize your flavor, then interact with the machine. Now multiply that by the impact of a switching from a multiple-service to single-service machine. Now you have a line of paying customers waiting significantly longer to fulfill a basic physiological need – Thirst. (The process for a cup of water is typically the same) While the interactive soda machines are really interesting and fun, it can be debated whether this technology is truly enhancing their experience. Or would they be just as happy without the added choices?
This concept translates directly to all event technology. The pros and cons of adding technology should not solely be about money. An event is about bringing ideas together and creating incredible experiences for the attendee on both a micro and macro level. Let that be your guide.
Align Event Tech with Goals and Past Challenges
Understand your event’s goals and correlate technology choices with those goals. Make sure that you’re not just purchasing the “latest and greatest” because of the buzz about the technology; instead, ensure that the technology you are purchasing fits the event and its mission, vision, and goals. Know your attendee audience and tailor your event technology choices to your attendee’s needs and expectations of the experience.
More often than not, event professionals purchase technology to solve problems that occurred during prior years during the event or to adapt to past attendee requests or needs. For example, if you host a large event with a lot of vendors in a massive location with multiple breakout sessions around the venue, attendees are going to end up struggling to plan their day at the event and make it to all their sessions in time. The following year, that event would find it beneficial to invest in technology or a tool that allows people to create schedules and navigate the event via their mobile device.
Create Seamless Experiences Across Technology
Make sure that all the event technology you purchase and implement during an event has integrations or other methods to communicate with the other technologies at the event. It is unlikely that only one type of event technology will be used during an event, so ensure that you create a seamless experience across different technology platforms in order to increase your event’s efficiency and effectiveness.
The events industry is beginning to collect and utilize data to draw better conclusions, as well as understand trends and patterns within the events. Data collection, analysis and reporting are all becoming a vital factor in order to remain competitive within the industry.
Data can be collected from every event technology tool, and it can be very tedious to re-enter that data into your CRM or registration system. Look for technology pieces that work well together, communicate with each other well, and help take your event to the next level while improving the attendee experience.
Sometimes new technology has all the right intentions but doesn’t play out quite as planned. More often than not, event technology requires quite a large investment and therefore must be carefully considered before being purchased and implemented.
Event professionals understand the foundational event technology needed such as audio and visual, Wi-Fi, lighting and electric to support the entire event and its attendees. But as the event industry continues to innovate and experience a surge of new event technology into the market, be cautious about jumping head-first immediately to the technology without careful consideration and research. Not all technology fits correctly with your audience, venue, goals, or mission of the event.
I challenge you to really look at new technologies and compare them to their past counterparts. You will see great ideas, but not always great ideas that worked. Ultimately, it’s your application of the technology that it most important – not the technology itself.