Technology is the great transformer; it can make the powerful weak, and the subjugated controlling. It has been the catalyst for uprisings and revolutions, given the oppressed a global voice, determined and changed the outcomes of wars, led to humanity being on the brink of extinction whilst at the same time allowing inhospitable areas to become overpopulated, all while being viewed through the window of an orbiting space station, and in the events industry we can get people’s tweets on big digital screens.
This, of course, is tongue-in-cheek, while, traditionally, advancement in technology has been limited to the marketing, logistics, and production of events, we are now seeing, at exceedingly rapid rates, that technology is defining, reshaping and pushing the boundaries of the end user’s experience at events and the demands they put into event professionals are increasing by the day.
“Technology limitations are receding exponentially when billions of things are connected, talking and learning. The only limitations left will be our own imaginations”
Cisco Systems Inc
The astounding growth in smartphone adoption has fuelled the belief that mobile apps are destined to become one of the most popular pieces of technology for the events industry. The already large, and growing, market of mobile events apps combined with the relatively high profit margins available is an attractive combination and one that events professionals can surely benefit from.
According to Expo Magazine 21% of event professionals stated that smartphone apps was a top priority investment for event professionals for 2012. That number is up by 18% when compared to 2011.
Adoption of technology, particularly in smartphone apps, need to be as carefully thought out, just like every other area of the event planning strategy. This adoption, if influenced by fashion and peer pressure, rather than a meaningful assessment or thoughtful analysis of the event, target market and venuses, as well as the staffs capabilities, can result in a low return on investment and spark a distrust in the real value of technology.
When developing your event tech strategy, and why it may be appropriate to feature an event app, it is important to identify several key and decisive elements.
The number of events you run each year.
If you pursue financial gain from the app.
Tech friendliness of the venue.
And, if not through financial revenue, how you intend to measure success
Analysis of your event is all well and good, but analysis of the technology is crucial in creating the synergy that is needed to achieve the objectives you aim for.
The Event App Bible breaks these influencing decisions into 6 key areas:
1. Price and Cost
It is best, when introducing new technology to an event, to start with a small investment and then build into larger technological programs and strategies. This is not just related to the financial outlay of the technology but the time needed to roll it out needs to be taken into consideration. “Freemium” models offer a good path for newcomers to invest in tech programs as they take the financial and budgetary pressure from interfering with your objectives.
2. Tech Provider Location
Geographical location and the support network of the tech provider are essential when becoming accustomed to the use of the tech through live trials, especially when using web based programs as opposed to native programs (see below).
Availability of the tech provider in the country where your event is being held can be a key factor for a successful tech program. Tech providers in your time zone will be available to troubleshoot any unexpected live issues.
Larger tech companies feature wider support teams, custom set-ups, and dedicated event teams that can bypass geographical issues, but it is important to ensure, from the tech provider, that these support networks will be available during your event.
3. Web Based Vs Native
When dealing with event apps there may be an issue as to whether the app needs to be downloaded and installed (native) or can be viewed via a mobile web browser.
An important element in this decision is the tech friendliness of the venue of the event. And if the venue has a wide enough broadband, if indeed they do have wifi at all, and any other requirements needed to ensure that the chosen web based app specifications are met. Venues with no wifi may dictate that the venue use a native app (with due exceptions for HTML5 apps)
Your event audience is just as important, if not more so, element in this decision. web based apps are, traditionally, easier to use and would be more suited to a less experienced audience.
Native apps, in part due to the ad-hoc nature of their development, allow more room for customising your needs, while web-based apps, with due exceptions, traditionally offer a one-size fits all solution.
The features of the tech are the most important area of any part of the decision making process. Carefully assess the features offered and base its worth on your team’s skills, time available, the size of your event, your budget and your tech program objectives.
5. Request For Proposal
A request for proposal (RFP) is a good way to purchase services. Traditionally, within the event industry, it has been used as a way of sourcing venues and suppliers. As the event tech sector increases, it is a strategy that is being used to determine and make educated decisions regarding the use of technology within your event.
The Event App Bible recommends that, as a rule of thumb, if you are running large or multiple events, with large budgets you should consider RFPs. However smaller, individual events, can avoid the RFP process.
“RFPs is a very healthy process. It helps to organise ideas and requirements and force suppliers to make an effort to win business”
The Event App Bible
The online RFP process is one of the most significant benefits that technology has brought to the industry, allowing tech strategy to be designed and tailor made to your event with your specific strategic objectives being catered for.
6. Tech Provider Credentials
Particularly, if going through the RFP process, (but indeed with any strategic decisions involving 3rd party influencers), it is important to check the credentials of potential tech suppliers.
When producing large events which requires top class support and customised tech strategy, and with the growth of the event tech market offering different ranges of technology with different strategic outcomes, it is important to analyse the tech provider and ensure that they have the experience and capabilities of meeting your own objectives.
Be aware; high price discrepancies are not justified by reputation alone.
…Technology is not a magic wand, it is not a one-app-fits-all, or solves all, solution, it is, in its ultimate form, simply a medium to reach and engage the audience of our event. And as our audience spend more and more time on social networks and our smartphones we are becoming more and more demanding of technology in our events, and so as event professionals we must recognise and embrace this demand and the tech developments that our audience expects.
Cisco Systems Inc
The Event App Bible