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January 17, 2007

TECHNOLOGY: What?s big for 2007?

As regular viewers of EVENTS:review will know, technology is dramatically changing the events landscape. We’re regularly using terms such as “extending the reach” and “building communities”, to reflect how the internet has widened our outreach, both in terms of who we can talk to and how long we can hook them in for. Nowadays, the two to three days that events physically take place can be just the tip of a – very big – iceberg.

Not only can the broadcasting and storing of clips from your events give you access to a whole new audience of those who would not previously be able to attend, but as corporate travel takes the brunt of the rising tide of Corporate Social Responsibility and the omni-present Carbon Footprint, this represents by far the greenest option for the future.

More than words

Technology also has a huge impact on everything from stand design – anything from lighting through to image projection – to measuring and quantifying event attendance. There are now systems that can track exhibitors around an events an log what stands they visit at an exhibition so companies can make the most of their attendance data, check out Ordinate’s Tracker system. From a design prespective, more and more designers and clients are demanding to use fixtures that are power efficient LED units,  so environmental awareness is driving all areas of the industry.

But what will the next 12 months hold?

“Cheaper equipment manufacturing and increased competition between hire companies will keep the price of new and emerging technology within the grasp of more clients,” says Andrew Douglas, MD of creative marketing agency, innovision. “The seamless integration of automation, projection, lighting and sound is becoming increasingly sophisticated and reliable allowing designers to realise previously impossible designs. Computing power continues to increase and this will allow cheaper faster data transfer, enabling huge improvements in areas such as video-conferencing and webcasting.”

Collaborative technology pioneers Crystal Interactive recently did detailed qualitative research with 25 production company directors in UK and Europe, into their view of the future of technology in the events marketplace. MD Chris Elmitt details some of the findings: “In terms of emerging trends (and particularly emerging technology trends) the group had very diverse views, which suggests that there is no single, big technology trend which they can all see hitting the market in 2007. For the record, 35% of the survey group expected technology to play a more important/prominent role in conferences in 2007.

Beddiing down

“Our prediction is that 2007 will be a year of bedding down existing technologies. Hard to believe, but it is 15 years since the first keypad conference in the UK and still there are companies who are completely unaware of the technology. When demonstrating our keypad service to a prospective client a few weeks ago, he looked up from the screen and said ‘this is the future of conferencing!’ For many, however, it is merely the present, or even the past!”

For Steve Martin MD of virtual events company Virtex, 2007 is likely to be about convergence. “As with all live media, TV, Radio and events there is an increasing convergence of live internet integration into the overall visitor/viewer experience and I believe this will only continue during 2007,” he explains. “In terms of the technology, I think the success of web-conferencing tools for business as well as the predominance of video communication for individuals in the form of Skype, mean more and more online audiences expect video to be part and parcel of any live online experience.”

Martin believes YouTube is showing how easy this technology is to use, however, he says, it is not the ease and accessibility of live video but the traditional production and broadcast skills that will determine how successful events will be online. “The technology is already in place and readily available to all marketers but I believe that content will still be king.” Something we at EVENTS:review would whole heatedly agree with.

Creative drive

Douglas also sounds a warning shot: “High end technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper, this is driven by client demand, and lower manufacturing costs. But we must be aware that we should not let technology drive creativity. The creative process should be in advance of available technology and constantly push it to its limits. Without creativity the most advanced technology becomes just a pile of expensive equipment, and often new and advanced presentation technology is used as a substitute for creativity,” says Douglas.

Elmitt also warns that even technology has to be able to show its value. “Technology is not immune from the procurement/ROI mangle so the days when new technology could be used by clients for the sake of it are definitely declining. Clients, and specifically client procurement departments, want to know what tangible benefits any new technologies will provide. Agencies and technology providers will become much more adept at demonstrating the value specific technologies bring. Indeed, the way existing technology is used may evolve so that its use is more focused on delivering ROI rather than merely stimulating/exciting delegates and sponsors.”

If you have a view on how technology will affect the events/experiential market in the coming 12 months, or if you have a product that you think will take the industry by storm, then we’d like to hear from you.

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