While software has been around the event industry for several decades, it isn’t until recently—the past five years or so—that organizers have become truly aware of the impact and importance of technology. They’re buying more of it and they have a lot more to consider now when they choose technologies for their events.
There are a lot of choices. Not only are there more companies providing products to the event industry, but problems can be solved in multiple ways with different technologies. Take attendee engagement, for example. A decade ago, that term referred to tactics (a cold room or a great speaker) for making sure attendees stayed awake during the keynote. Today, attendees can be engaged with everything from beacons to second-screen apps to online polling.
The lines are blurred. It’s also difficult to select products when you don’t know what to call them or when software is referred to in such general terms that you can’t be sure what it actually does. Take “event management” software. When planners do a Google search, they’ll get everything from apps that manage room allocation in a conference center to attendee registration in the search results.
Platforms aren’t apps. We often use the terms platform and application interchangeably. Actually, they’re two different things. A platform is an underlying system on which applications are built. A common platform guarantees that the apps built upon it will function and work well together. It also usually means that when the platform is updated, all of the apps on it are updated too. Buyers now have to choose between standalone apps and those that are part of an app family.
Everything is mobile now. Mobility is important. Very few apps are installed locally on a computer or network. The software is stored somewhere else and users simply connect to it. The most recent turn of events is the need to access software from smartphones, tablets, and laptops or actually use it on mobile devices. If the applications aren’t mobile ready, planners have to consider whether they’re a good fit for their workers or their customers.
Internet access isn’t there yet. We’re now living in a connected world. People, devices, and machines have to talk to each other and the only way they can is through the Internet. Because meeting facilities, Internet suppliers, and meeting planners still haven’t worked out how to make connectivity ubiquitous and cheap, organizers have to select technology that can function with intermittent Internet access.
The question of cool. Event technology buyers are cautioned to look but not touch “shiny things,” yet often the shiny things inspire us to develop new opportunities, revenue streams, and ways to do business differently. Maybe we didn’t need to carry our phones around in our pockets or access the Internet from our wristwatches when smartphones and smart watches were invented, but now that we can, event planners can innovate too.
So, of course it’s tough to choose among technology options. No one knows everything about everything. And so far, there isn’t a searchable web of event technology information, vast amounts of impartial research and benchmarks, or a standardized method for making technology decisions. It’s probably time that we as an industry pursue those goals and stop holding ourselves back.