H&E North asks if event tech is getting in the way of the delegate experience, and explores how investments in innovation can shift from streamlining your event, to becoming an expensive distraction.

When you’re at the cutting-edge of industry, boldly going where no-one has gone before has always been a gamble – no more so than with the ever-changing world of event technology. But regardless of the potential pitfalls, planners should never be afraid to embrace new innovations. By sticking your neck out to differentiate your offering, your attendees will see your event as a leading light in an industry that’s often all too slow to change.

Do Something Different

Early adopters should be mindful that to ensure the gamble pays off, technology should only be used to solve a problem or achieve a desired event goal. In practice, gimmicky ideas that are wheeled out simply for the sake of looking cool, or quirky will fail to give the desired impression of having your finger on the pulse. Let your event tech investments be led by needs, not the other way around. If it doesn’t help achieve a purpose, whether that’s cutting costs or making life easier for delegates, then what’s the point?

With ever-tightening budgets, this technology can come at a huge cost, and is a significant outlay for smaller brands. When any business looks to invest in the latest advances, a return on investment should be the first reason to pull the trigger.

When we’re forced to do more with less, automated solutions are able to create key efficiencies – speeding up check-in times, improving feedback methods and streamlining administration processes – all of which should go a long way to reducing staff costs and freeing up existing personnel. Once you’ve made the initial investment, it can unlock the potential to scale your event fast.

Tech Fail

However, it’s crucial to ensure this cost-cutting doesn’t come at the cost of attendee experience. When technological solutions work, it’s great. But whether it’s crashing software creating bottlenecks on check-in, or slow internet speeds turning smart badges into paperweights, temperamental equipment can all too easily infuriate your attendees and bring your event to a grinding halt.

Too many event planners sold the dream of boasting the next big thing, have faced the situation where a speaker’s high-definition wireless conference mic won’t work, or the immersive 4K video presentation won’t play, leaving red faces and a sour taste in delegates’ mouths. It’s key you acquire the services of a solid AV partner working with you at the venue, in which you can put your trust if things take a turn for the worst.

With more and more devices being internet-based, event tech fundamentally relies on a reliable connection with wide enough bandwidth to accommodate. Large events will often invest in a raft of technology that works in the warehouse, but when installed on the day, the venue’s internet infrastructure simply just can’t support it – and it’s never long before the cracks begin to show. Make sure you convene with your venue beforehand, take a good look at the spec, and see if your space is set up to take the strain.

Less Screen-to-face, More Face-to-face

With delegates faces already buried in their screens, more software applications and digital interfaces won’t do much to alleviate their tech obsession. When you want attendees to be concentrating on your content and making connections, technology can be a force for distraction.

Good event tech should take a supporting role, encouraging delegates to engage with their surroundings and allowing the experience itself to take centre stage – after all, bringing people together is what events are all about. So use technology to build less disruptive experiences, freeing them up to enjoy the event you’ve put so much hard work into planning.

By delivering quick nuggets of must-have info in a controlled environment, instead of sending guests to their phones, wearable smart tech can be a great way to augment human experience, not detract from it.

Verdict – Don’t Pull the Plug

Through targeted, goal-focused application, carefully devised to solve problems and tackle inefficiencies, harnessing the latest industry tech has the potential to enhance the delegate experience, while reaping positive knock-on effects for your business’s bottom line.

However, simply investing in tech for tech’s sake can cause needless complications that frustrate delegates and distract them from what’s important. Keep in mind what attendees come to get out of your event, whether that’s learning something new or making tangible connections and weigh up whether tech can realistically add value to your offering.

With the potential to immerse audiences, streamline key processes and facilitate face-to-face interaction, event profs shouldn’t be pulling the plug on event tech just yet.