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December 13, 2016
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Sub-Saharan Africa: Business Events of the Future


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According to a 2016 XING study called Digital Transformation in the Event Industry, the sector’s movement towards digitalisation is reflected in the demand of attendees. 81% of attendees want digital solutions to be used during events, and it’s crystal clear that the Internet of Things will be part of that transformation. Experts say that by 2020 about 21 billion end devices will be connected to the internet, and 68% of event organisers believe that digital transformation is both a current and long-term trend.

That said, technology in events is still considered a risk, particularly when it comes to technical problem solving. “We’re looking at event apps but I’ve been to events where the technology hasn’t worked so I get very wary of implementing it when it could go wrong,” Charles Perkin, Event Manager at Defaqto told C&IT recently. It is therefore imperative that conference centres and organisers in Africa ensure the most basic of infrastructure – WiFi – is available to attendees.

But although transformation within the technological sphere is a given, what movements can we expect in 2017, and which digital event strategies should Africans be focusing their attention on? We’re seeing the area of event marketing absorbing the most of these trends in the MICE industries, with 76% of organisers already using digital event management solutions, 47% using online ticketing options, and conversely, networking and event apps making relatively slow progress. 

The Year in Review

Digital managements that are set to continue into the next twelve months and beyond are email campaigns, online marketing and ticketing, event apps, video streams, and live projections, among others. Some of the tech we’ve covered in the Event this year was online management software such as MeetingHand and WeTrack, while the popularity of event apps will likely continue into the far future. Renowned tech company Lumi recently released a real-time messaging and polling app called MeeToo, which encourages inclusivity and engagement at events. 

Tech genius Corbin Ball predicted 15 years ago that mobile apps would be widely used at events – and it’s come true. He now predicts that they will continue to mature into full-featured event intelligence and data analytic platforms. “They can provide a goldmine if information about participants’ likes, dislike, interests, movements and more that can be used to improve future events.” 

Another trend that’s set to continue is RFID, which is making the rounds at a number of South African music festivals including DStv Delicious and Rocking the Daisies. In future we may well see new innovations in this field as RFID technology becomes the norm. In the same vein, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology like the iBeacon will continue to evolve and be deployed at events, with a range of international trade shows already making it a staple. 

Surprisingly, email marketing continues to make an impact on the event tech world, with some of the best and biggest responses coming from effective email campaigns. Neuromarketing plays a large role in the success of these campaigns, with eye tracking research showing that putting products or desirable imagery in specific spaces receives more attention or response. According to New Neuromarketing, ‘a cue for change’ is a great hook for new products or experiences, particularly when social proof or results are shown. Event intelligence and analytics will grow in significance as this and other areas of data collection are increasingly used to monitor and better events. 

Looking Ahead

One of the main trends to come out of 2016 was the rise of live streaming of events. Conferences like Leadercast have been running events like this successfully, and although the industry initially thought this tech would ruin the offline audience, it’s safe to say that’s no longer a fear. According to First Sight Media Director Richard Belcher, it’s not the future, it’s the now. “Mark Zuckerberg, when asked ‘what are you most looking forward to?’ he said, ‘I’m most excited about live video’. They’re pouring a lot of money into live streaming with Facebook Live, and there’s much more to come.”

Virtual reality is another area of visual tech that will continue to impact eventing – from destination marketing to experiencing a conference. Belcher says the general consensus is that if you’re a larger company or a large event, should be offering VR, particularly if it’s educational. A great example of this was SA Tourism’s recent marketing campaign in the UK where they used VR headsets allowing potential travellers to have a virtual tourism experience. 

Again, mobile is on the move, and one of the biggest trends in this environment we’re going to see is the integration of apps with mobile devices and wearables. QuickMobile recently released the first mobile event app with Apple Watch integration, while airlines such as British Airways and Emirates have Apple Watch apps for departure, arrival and change notifications. Hotels, too, are jumping on the bandwagon, with the likes of Starwood, Accor, InterContinental – and even newly built Century City Hotel – using mobiles and wearables for room entry. 

What the…?

There are also the incredibly imaginative technologies in the world – here’s a look at some of the more event-related ones. 

Fancy a helicopter flip? Soon you might enjoy a ride in an autonomous passenger drone, which looks just like a baby copter. The EHang 184 can travel up to 10 miles and folds to fit in a parking spot. 

The second generation HTC Vive, a virtual reality headset, has a camera on the front to avoid unpleasant ‘dips’ into reality, ensuring you never have to remove the headset! 

If waking early for a conference is not your thing, maybe the Sensorwake ‘olfactory’ alarm can help. It releases scents of ocean, jungle, croissant and coffee into the room to wake you.

Too busy to care about your sleep? The Oura, a wearable ring, can track your sleep patterns better than the fitness banes or watches we have today – plus it adapts to what you do during the day to provide advice on getting a better night’s rest. 

And if those disgustingly long airport corridors are getting you down, Modobag has the answer: introducing the world’s first rideable luggage. You’re welcome. 

 


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