I was woken up this morning by the alarm on my phone, I rolled over and asked Alexa to turn on my lights and got out of bed. I made a coffee whilst asking for my news briefing from Alexa who proceeded to tell me all the news I could possibly want to know. I locked my door and drove to the office, safe in the knowledge that my lights would turn themselves off when I got a mile from home. But in this modern world where everything is at our fingertips (or more so the tip of our tongue), how will this new thirst for hyperconnectivity impact on meetings and events?
We all know that technology is evolving faster than ever and I am one of the first to adopt new technologies, both at home and in work. I’m always looking for the latest solutions for clients to go one step further or to engage with one more delegate than they did at their last conference – but where will it stop? Will we come to a time when you visit an exhibition stand and an artificially intelligent interface greets you rather than a human face? Will you go to check-in for your badge and get a full conference agenda update from Siri – who also orders your morning coffee for you?
Whilst I love and embrace all new technologies I am also lucky enough to remember a time prior to Google, prior to YouTube and prior to having connected homes and lifestyles. I come from a time where you went out and saw people. I’m from a time where everyone engaged with people. What still amazes me is that at all the events I manage, we go back to a time where people engage with each other. Yes, we all use personalised apps which allow you to ask questions to speakers on stage, but is this a bad thing? Of course not. Not only does this allow everyone to ask a question at any time, it also encourages the participation of those who may not have had the confidence to ask before. We use new technologies on exhibition stands which allow us to read the demographics of visitors by facial recognition. Although this only helps us post-event to analyse how effective the stand was, we are still at the forefront of meeting, talking to, and engaging with, people.
There is a lot of chatter about technology affecting the younger generation of society by letting them do everything on their devices, but there are benefits. Imagine sitting at a conference over a decade ago and having a speaker talking about a topic which you just don’t understand. In years gone by you may have gone away feeling a little dejected at not understanding something that interested you. Now you can learn this live, listening to an expert whilst also reading in layman’s terminology to help you understand, allowing you to engage more.
There’s always been a question of whether technology will take over and whether this will allow people to disassociate from each other, but I for one am happy to say that this doesn’t seem to be the case. Technology should be embraced. As a younger audience comes to events, they expect mobile apps. They are used to push notifications from beacons welcoming them to a conference and appreciate the personal touch of a geofenced farewell message as they pull away from the car park after their event. We should all be embracing these activities and championing them to our clients and their delegates. We should be looking at what’s next, not what’s gone; learning from the past, embracing the future and developing meaningful interactions. After all, this is the reason we run events; to make memories together.
But remember, body language, tone, being personable and believing in what you are delivering are the reasons that people engage with the content and the messages behind your event. These are things which technology can’t give you. These are your personalities which you bring to the delivery. It’s the smile which an event manager gives you as they hand you your badge. It’s the helpful tones a host gives you as they direct you to the exhibition stand you haven’t been able to find, no matter how many times you look at your phone. All of these things work in harmony with each other to give you an amazing recipe for success.
So I say don’t just embrace technology. Don’t just embrace face-to-face meetings. Embrace the connected face-to-face event which we get to live in every day.