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April 18, 2007
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TECHNOLOGY 2: How has technology changed events?




There have been huge advances in technology in the past few years, but which of these have really had a dramatic effect on the way we deliver events now? The way we communicate has enhanced the promotion and administration of events – particularly in terms of staying in contact with attendees and getting a wider audience. There are now enormous, brighter, clearer screens than ever, and there is easy availability of slick, dynamic broadcast-quality video footage. But are these just all pretty much add-ons?

“Technology has really changed the way live events can be captured and delivered, either to delegates that attended or to wider audiences. In some sectors there is concern over creating conference materials that are so good that delegates numbers will be threatened – in these cases the multimedia delivery becomes added value within the delegate fee,” says Paul Cleverley, events director of Merlin Marketing.

But he believes there haven’t been many technological advancements that have significantly changed the way live events are delivered for some time. “Probably the most important change, for us, came with the arrival of being able to link a laptop to a dataprojector and project straight onto a screen,” says Cleverley.

Casting vote

“But, to my mind the single most influential technology in events has been the audience participation voting system,” he continues. “A simple three-button handset can allow a speaker to do a poll of who’s in an audience and then mold the content they deliver accordingly. You can ask very specific questions and get very specific answers back – instantaneously.”

Cleverly points to a range of different devices available, from simple three-button sets, to mobile phone handsets that you can vote on as well as talk into and be broadcast over the PA system, to complex laptop-style feedback system that allow you to express your views anonymously into a central system which can then be displayed and worked through on a big screen.
 
“All the data can be extracted, displayed in graphs and analysed there and then making for much more indepth knowledge sharing and targeted content delivery.”

For Andrew Wilding, European managing director of Vividas, it’s about the ability to deliver video over the web. “Video streaming technology in particular offers huge potential to event organisers and event attendees alike.  Video streaming can impact both the marketing process for the event, and of course the event itself.  Today’s event marketers can offer video previews as teasers, footage from past events, interviews with previous attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, etc., all to provide a richer and more immersive experience in the event that is being marketed.”   

Spreading the news

Wilding continues: “Technology has radically changed what can be achieved during the event itself. For example, reaching further via video than just the physical location of the chosen venue. Broadcasting from the show floor while conferences and exhibitions are in full swing can promote the event to those not visiting in person.”

Wilding also points to the proliferation of broadband connections, which means content can be streamed straight into the hotel rooms of visiting delegatesor even in their homes and offices at the click of a button.

“There is even a place for video long after the event,” he says. “This carries the opportunity to monetise event activity further by using Pay Per View models or even ad funded content.”

Registering your thoughts

Richard Parkinson, chief executive of IncrediBull Ideas, identifies three particular areas where he feels major changes have come about due to technological advances: “Firstly, logistics. The web has allowed the process of event registration to be speeded up tremendously….no more paper work! We have invested heavily in Microsoft CRM, which allows us to manipulate thousands of registrations easily.
 
“Secondly, production – specifically LED curtains. Often in events we need to cover large spaces, new technology such as high-resolution LED curtains has enabled us to do this cheaper than a traditional set, while also creating impact as images and wording can now be shown very easily. LED curtains are quick to put up and install, therefore cuts down on the set up time needed for events as they can also be programmed offsite.
 
“Finally, communication. Wireless/bluetooth technology has improved the way we communicate on site. Communication can be a lot clearer and sharper than the traditional wired headsets and older radios, this has enabled us to be more flexible and to respond to problems/issues quicker.”

So, what does the future hold?
“In time, the remote attendee will probably become as important, if not more important than the paid subscribers or attendees who come to the event in person,” says Wilding. “There will be far greater interaction offered for remote users, and advertising and product placement opportunities to remote users will offer more flexibility and ROI.  We are already seeing conferences and other events taking place in virtual worlds.”

Although perhaps inconceivable now, the future will surely bring us events that are completely built and held within the virtual world, with no physical attendees present at all. And this will pose it’s on set of problems for the industry as a whole to adapt to.


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