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November 18, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa: Tech Forecast 2015

In this technically driven world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the potential of technology in the events industry. Not only are event organisers beginning to realise the importance of engaging with delegates through event apps, but they are also beginning to see how technology is shaping everything about a show, from the materials being used to make stands, to the registration process, logistics, audiovisuals and more. According to The State of Event Apps, a research paper conducted by MPI and written by DoubleDutch, 63% of meeting professionals that took part in the study used apps to organise and run their events. “The primary reason these planners choose to use an event application is to provide more convenience to attendees, highlighting the app’s easy access to session details and streamlined schedule-building capabilities,” the study says.

Ticketing Technology

Ticketing technology is always being updated to create an inviting and convenient atmosphere for the delegate from the moment they decide to attend the event. Platforms like Bookitbee allow organisers to set up and sell tickets online within minutes, while Eventbrite and NuTickets have become renowned for their unique organisational options – including mobile apps with easily navigable layouts and handy analytics. As Chris Edmonds, Chairman of Ticketmaster UK, so wisely said at the Ticketing Technology Forum, “It’s no longer about just selling a piece of paper (which ticketing was historically)…it’s now about understanding consumer behaviour and what their preferences and choices are.”

According to Justin Hawes, Managing Director at Scan Display and a trade show stalwart, people have become more accustomed to pre-show registrations. He says that the digital age has become a great platform for keeping up with happenings. “Gone are the days that we rely on printed mediums to give us this information – we are now able to get weekly, even daily updates on events taking place,” he says. “Exhibitions have become smart in the way that they gain traction and awareness around their events, they make use of Facebook and Twitter to drive awareness. A great example would be from the Coffee and Chocolate Expo that took place earlier this year. An expo with a low budget, [it] made use of Facebook to generate interest around the event – which helped make this event a success.”

Gary Corin, Managing Director at Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery agrees that the digital age has, in a word, taken over the ticketing process. “Research feedback from our exhibitors shows that more electronic invites were sent out than ever before. Online pre-registrations were at a record high across our portfolio of 11 shows this year.”

Event Apps

This brings us to the cheerleaders of event technology – conference and exhibition applications. Although they form part of the marketing process and definitely help create a smoother, more convenient event (not to mention saving on paper and printing costs), studies on the effectiveness of these apps are still few and far between. According to The State of Event Apps, which was released this month, in-app sponsorship opportunities are huge revenue drivers for trade show organisers. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Event applications give associations and member-based organisations the ability to engage members in a year-round experience that lasts beyond their annual event,” the study says.

Corin can testify to this, especially since the company is well-versed in event apps. “We have developed an app for all of our exhibitions which can then be downloaded by exhibitors and visitors alike at each event. The app provides information about the event and allows for two-way communication with our respective audiences. Adoption is still slow, but this is where we believe the most rapid technological growth will emanate from.”

One of the chief reasons for the slow uptake is connectivity. “The WiFi needs to be robust at the venue to allow for so many users to be online doing something on their apps,” a survey participant for The State of Event Apps says. Budget constraints and mobile app education are other main reasons why apps aren’t quite as popular as they could be, although these problems will inevitably become scarce as broadband infrastructure is rolled out across the African continent in preparation for the digital switchover next year.


Thanks to constant updates in digital technology, audiovisual experiences at conferences have also been upscaled. According to Peter Day, Logistics and Support Services at Gearhouse, interactive displays, digital poster displays and hi-resolution indoor LED products are on the rise. “The use of sustainable resources, stationery, furniture and walling are trends in event technology,” he explains, saying that delegates are also using “electronic brochures rather than printed materials” and that QR codes are replacing business cards.

According to Jessica Green of LEDVision, the company recently acquired over 100sqm of Radiant MC7H 7.5mm 3-in-1 SMD indoor/outdoor LED panels. “These panels are lightweight and thin for fast installation, saving time and cost. The MC7H makes use of a revolutionary new black waterproof LED, and its unique design allows a 160-degree wide viewing angle.” These displays are huge, powerful and demand the attention of anyone in proximity, but they aren’t the only thing LEDVision has acquired for the conferencing industry. “We have also added Lighthouse FS25 25mm SMD outdoor flexible strips to our inventory. These versatile strips provide clients with an innovative way of adding a creative dimension to set and stage designs.”

Video conferencing is also on the rise, according to a recent article written by Corbin Ball Associates. “The ability for high-quality wireless picture-phones will provide the ability for instant teleconferencing and will bring people from around the world closer than they have ever been before.” On the back of this, polling is expected to grow as event tech becomes more sophisticated. Companies like Lumi have created holistic options for the industry including show apps where users can poll the audience, collect data and conduct research, as well as apps which provide rich content and broadcast messages, and plug-ins and software to conduct Q&A sessions and more.

Stand Innovation

Exhibitors are now combining all of the above to create innovative and attractive stands. There is a trend towards incorporating digital technology, demos and giveaways to increase interaction, with companies considering green, sustainable options during the stand construction process.

“We have noticed that more companies are making use of AV content on their stands, instead of printed graphics. Materials used consist of raw wood, and the introduction of cardboard,” says Hawes, “We have developed the power mouse, which is a good-looking plug box that is used regularly on site. We have also developed our own DB board, which is slim-lined and compact compared to the current DB board, and we have been able to bring in light boxes, which has changed the way exhibition stands and retail applications showcase their brands, products and services.”

Event Tech in the Future

The future is bright for event technology. We are on the cusp of a new digital era, one that has been slow to arrive, but that will, without a doubt, create new opportunities for many niche areas in eventing. According to Peter Day of Gearhouse, the next two to five years will see a rapid increase in electronic media, tending towards a paperless environment, with more video conferencing to overcome international travelling costs. Unique creations such as the Monster Power Card, which allows you to charge smartphones, tablets and other gadgets on the go, will also increase as delegates look for convenient tech travel companions.

Gary Corin of Specialised Exhibitions, however, sees the future in an entirely different light. “Technology is an ‘enabler’ in my opinion,” he says, “As such technological trends will continue to have an impact on how we communicate. Events will need to embrace these platforms to stay relevant and to physically communicate with target audiences. The fundamental driver, however, will always be to get ‘buyers and sellers’ or ‘producers and consumers’ under one roof,” he explains, “Human nature does not change. Technology impacts how it is expressed – we need to embrace that technology to ensure the sustainable relevance of our industry.”

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