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Top Event Technology Trends: 14 Must-Know Innovations for 2020

Knowing event technology trends—and adopting the most valuable ones—gives planners and venues the competitive advantage. Studies show that using event technology can increase attendance by 20 percent and increase productivity by 27 percent. 

But with new event technologies emerging constantly, how do you know which ones to consider? From design through debrief, we’ve got you covered with the event technology trends you need to know for success—from preliminary planning sessions through post-event debriefs. 

Discover top event technology trends this year for hotels and meeting planners:

1. Facial recognition

This technology records attendee facial features using photos uploaded during registration, then scans attendee faces as they check in to the event. Each match automates personalized actions, such as printing a badge with the attendees name, sending an email with a scannable lunch voucher, and finalizing a swag bag for their ticket-tier (no sense creating swag bags for no-shows).

What this trend means for event planners

Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool that streamlines key attendee touchpoints and provides data to help improve future events. The technology speeds event check-ins, improves security, and helps businesses at tradeshows collect more valuable leads by tracking attendee visits to booths. You and your team can also use facial recognition to watch for crowd flow bottlenecks and collect session attendance data so you know what worked—and what didn’t.

What this trend means for event venues

The ability to support advanced tech like facial recognition makes venues more attractive to corporate planners. The technology also allows automation at certain access points, which means lower manpower requirements and lower costs. 

Facial recognition in action

This video demonstrates the fundamentals of facial recognition and how it helps facilitate event check-in, VIP access, and security: 

2. Projection mapping

If you’re looking to enhance the attendee experience, an augmented reality technology called projection mapping can create excitement and engagement. Videos, graphics, animation, and other creative content are projected onto any surface, turning everyday structures into vibrant, interactive 3D displays.

What this trend means for event planners

Planners can dramatically transform any space to add a ‘wow’ factor and build buzz. This visual technology is an efficient, cost-effective way to create optical illusions on anything—from cars to landmarks to stages.

Because there are no real limits to what you can do with projection mapping, event planners can stretch their imaginations. They can project large-scale maps of convention booths, the cover image from the keynote speaker’s bestseller, social media walls, and interactive art displays.

What this trend means for event venues

Offering tech to support projection mapping provides bang for the buck. There’s no need to physically construct or deconstruct any part of your exhibit hall to add this fun, popular technology to your toolbox and draw more events. 

Projection mapping in action

The video showcases one of our favorite examples of projection mapping at the Sydney Opera House:

3. Branded multi-use event apps

Properly integrated apps add value to events, providing attendees with more opportunities for networking, interaction, and engagement with peers, speakers, and exhibitors. Having a one-stop-shop for literally every piece of a conference or tradeshow in digital format under one brand hits the sweet spot when it comes to ease-of-use, personalization, and brand authenticity—all-important attendee touchpoints.

What this trend means for event planners

With tradeshow or conference maps, speaker bios, and schedules in the event app, there’s no need for bulky information packets. Push notifications in the apps help keep attendees informed and on schedule. Planners can also use apps to personalize the event agenda through live polling and attract event sponsors with the option of targeted attendee surveys.  

What this trend means for event venues

Apps help you create a customized visitor experience. Guests can use apps to control their rooms or even communicate with chatbots to find nearby attractions. 

Event spaces can create customized apps to share helpful info like maps, historical tidbits, and even the personalities of their unique employees (like in the video below from Wembley Stadium):

Branded apps in action

YourMembership used their app to make magic. At its Xperience17 event, the membership management software brought the world of Harry Potter to life. Using an event-specific app, the team weaved-in elements of gamification to engage, amaze, and facilitate learning. The app was adopted by an incredible 88 percent of attendees who were sorted into “Houses” to compete against each other. 

4. Event diagramming in 3D

It’s essential to have a complete, detailed picture of an event layout to ensure effective floor plans, seating, flow, foot traffic, lighting, cabling, and other room elements. Easy-to-use 3D event diagramming software provides accurate, customizable, collaborative project planning regardless of venue design or size.

What this trend means for event planners

Planning a room layout requires frequent back-and-forth between you, the venue, and your stakeholders. An event diagramming tool facilitates communication and can make it much less of a headache because you can:

  • Give clients peace of mind and leave nothing to chance on the big day
  • Upload a floor plan to work with, so you know the diagram is to scale
  • Take clients and stakeholders on 3D ‘fly throughs’ to clarify your vision
  • Plan seating charts and manage attendees’ meal choices or other preferences
  • Help staff easily identify and accommodate VIPs and guests with special requests

What this trend means for event venues

Sales reps can collaborate with planners in real time, share variations on the event proposal, and visually portray upsells. Once you’ve used it a few times, you can show clients diagrams from past events.

For instance, The Venetian has more than 1,000,000 pieces of furniture available for events. They use an event diagramming tool to transform vendors’ PDF layouts into to-scale diagrams within their various spaces.

Some hotels let planners take the reins, like the Sheraton Commander. The hotel’s Director of Catering and Event Management, Judy Brillhart, says this improves relationships because planners “love being empowered to seat their guests in the manner they want.”

Event diagramming in action

To be successful with multiple events, planners need to map out the many moving parts of each one beforehand.

That’s where a tool like Social Tables’ event diagramming software is invaluable. Forbes has used the software since 2013 to verify event elements and the viability of venues. This has improved the efficiency of their events, including the annual Under 30 Summit.

Event diagramming is an event technology trend

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5. Second screen 

Attendees are using their smartphones during presentations and meetings, so it makes sense to embrace the screen as an engagement tool. Usable on any mobile device, second screen technology increases learning and provides insight into attendee behavior and interests.

Attendees can use this tech to follow slide presentations, participate with quizzes and polls, take notes, and engage in text-based Q&A. They can also view graphs, tables, videos, and other content; and follow website and social media links. 

What this trend means for event planners

Since improving the attendee experience is part of an event planner’s job, second screen tech moves the needle in a positive direction. Any speaker can keep an audience attentive and engaged with this technology, leading to good reviews and a successful event.

What this trend means for event venues

For speeches and seminars in large meeting rooms, it’s essential that attendees can hear, see, and interact with speakers. Supporting second screen tech for presentations is much less expensive than making physical upgrades that aren’t in the budget. 

Second screen in action

This video by Core-apps offers a preview of their Conference Notes second screen technology that allows attendees to bookmark slides, add notes, and share notes with colleagues:

6. Social media sentiment

As event attendees connect on social media and comment on an event, you can evaluate hashtags, @-mentions, emojis, and comments to determine varying levels of satisfaction. This data underscores the importance of social media sentiment analysis in monitoring your brand and messaging, keeping an eye on competitors, and making improvements to services during and after events.

What this trend means for event planners

Tracking attendee activity on social media during an event provides actionable data to help you make adjustments in real-time. Some improvements you can make in response to social media sentiment include:

  • Replenishing food and beverages
  • Easing show floor bottlenecks
  • Driving session attendance
  • Addressing technology issues (mobile apps, Wi-Fi, or audio/visual)

What this trend means for event venues

Venues can social media sentiment to promote popular services and learn where there’s room for improvement:

“Wi-Fi at conference center was horrible” is an obvious red flag needing attention.

“Hotel spa = unexpected treat!” tags an amenity you can promote more widely.

Social media sentiment in action

Check out Hootsuite’s comprehensive guide to social media sentiment. It showcases how to measure and improve social media sentiment to build trust, increase engagement, and find influencers.

7. Wearable tech is an event technology trend

Wristbands and smart badges using near-field communication (NFC) chips keep disruptions and lines to a minimum, thereby increasing attendee productivity and engagement. This technology lets attendees:  

  • Access different event areas
  • Exchange information with peers
  • Receive exhibitor marketing material
  • Make cashless purchases

What this trend means for event planners

Wearable tech helps you speed-up check-in, control access, and monitor attendee behavior with less staffing. It also improves ROI for exhibitors, who can drive attendees wearing the tech to visit a booth of interest based on an individual’s profile. 

Additionally, the technology can alert planners to booths that aren’t drawing many visitors so they can help exhibitors generate more foot traffic.

What this trend means for event venues

On-site staff can use real-time data to learn when they need to offer overflow rooms or investigate security breaches, such as non-VIP guests in restricted areas. 

Wearable technology in action

An interesting example is Hilton America’s use of wearable technology wristbands at its  2017 Leadership Conference. Attendees used wristbands to exchange contact information with one another as well as vendors. Gamification incentivized the interactions, rewarding attendees with points they could trade in for merchandise.

You can read more details in this wearable event technology case study, which includes more info on objectives and results.

8. Indoor wayfinding

Indoor wayfinding helps attendees navigate exhibit halls with ease, similar to how GPS-enabled Google Maps and Waze provide driving assistance. These indoor position systems (IPS) use stationary Bluetooth beacons around event venues, sending out signals read by mobile apps. 

What this trend means for event planners

Planners can generate pop-up directions for attendees based on their location at an event instead of investing in producing/shipping/replacing physical signage. Attendees—especially Millennials—will appreciate the convenience and performance, spending more time networking and less time looking for directions (or getting lost).

You can also incorporate proximity advertising options as a value-add for exhibitors and sponsors, with ads appearing as attendees navigate the venue. Post-event, you can utilize IPS data to see where attendees spent their time visiting booths and attending presentations.

What this trend means for event venues

Investments in information technology infrastructure may be necessary to handle increased traffic across Wi-Fi systems. Adding hotel bars, restaurants, spas, gift shops, and other amenities to the location map can help drive additional revenue during events while improving the attendee experience.

Indoor wayfinding in action

This technology is in use at events large and small; for example, the 100,000 attendees at Mobile World Congress 2017 had access to indoor wayfinding. This video gives a basic introduction to IPS and indoor wayfinding:

Guide: How to Create an Event Planning Checklist

9. RFID and beacon attendee tracking

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a low-cost technology used at events to store attendee admission information on their person, helping to detect fraud and streamline access. Beacon technology is similar to RFID, tracking attendee preferences and behavior to create personalized experiences. Attendees can review their travels throughout a tradeshow and see who they interacted with, while exhibitors are notified in real-time when sought-after prospects come into their booth.

What this trend means for event planners

Using RFID tracking you can gather useful attendee behavioral data, send leads to sales team members in real-time, and build attendee profiles to send targeted messaging. Reviewing analytics captured by RFID technology also validates your event and highlights improvement opportunities by tracking session popularity, length of attendee visits to exhibitor booths, and strong tradeshow traffic.  

What this trend means for event venues

RFID and beacon technology helps security and general event staff do their job better in real-time, which is essential for building trust and streamlining crowded events. Since delivering a quality customer experience within budget is key, RFID can help.

RFID in action

There are many examples of RFID being used to improve guest experiences. It’s used by Disney for faster check-in, opening hotel doors, and purchasing food and merchandise. 

The video below shows how West Virginia University used RFID wristbands at their annual fall festival to help students move around the event and make cashless payments:

10. Venue sourcing platforms

Increasingly, event planners are turning to venue sourcing platforms to connect with the perfect site for their particular event. Through the Cvent Supplier Network, planners can easily send RFPs or quote requests, and track them through their event management software

What this trend means for event planners

With venue sourcing tools, planners gain access to the specifications of thousands of sites—wherever they are and at any time. You can discover detailed venue layouts, capacity ranges, and on-site services. And when you find a few promising venues, you can clarify event size and request an initial price quote to start the ball rolling. 

What this trend means for event venues

Venue platforms offer exceptional ROI and generate more leads through improved discoverability. When listing your venue, make sure to:

  • Convey elements that make your venue unique
  • Showcase your event spaces visually with accurate floor plans, 3D diagrams, quality photos, and videos
  • Leverage the success of past events with testimonials and social media accolades

Venue sourcing platforms in action

The Cvent venue sourcing platform allows users to manage bids, determine availability, build eRFPs, and track meeting spend. This video walks you through the tool:

11. Behavior recommendation engines

Streaming TV services (think Netflix and Hulu) remember what we’ve watched and use that data to make recommendations. Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) tech is using badge scans, social media info, and other behavioral data to match attendees with people they should meet or seminars they may want to attend. 

What this trend means for event planners

Instead of taking-up significant time pre-event and on-site manually recommending seminars, exhibitors, and sponsors to attendees, AI can do it for you—even in real-time—based on their profiles and preferences captured during registration. 

While this tool is a great value-add to attract exhibitors and sponsors, it requires transparency and advance notice about how you may use data submitted by attendees. 

What this trend means for event venues

The same attendee behavioral data used by event planners can be useful to hotels in identifying potential guests.

AI behavior recommendations in action

Along with other developers, behavior recommendation pioneer Google is now actively developing services like their Recommendations AI for businesses to build their very own recommendation systems. Many off-the-shelf products are available as well, based on deep learning models that adapt to customer behavior.

For an explanation of how AI behavior recommendation systems work, watch this video:

12. Geofencing 

This location-based marketing tool creates a virtual fence around a specific geographical location, such as an exhibit hall or venue. Attendees entering the geofenced area triggers predetermined actions, such as event check-in, push notifications, or advertising related to the event. 

What this trend means for event planners

Planners can sell geofencing to exhibitors and sponsors to reach attendees at events, or even promote their event on attendee devices at a competing event under a separate geofence. You can also provide attendees with a better experience via seamless registration and check-in, along with automatic app downloads as soon as they walk on-site.

Geofencing also provides analytics, both post-event and in real-time to help you better understand things like the duration of an attendee’s time at an event and overall peak attendance. 

What this trend means for event venues

Hotels can serve ads promoting their brand, facility, and services to attendees at events, including food and beverage offers, spa deals, or discounts to extend their stay beyond the event or return at a later date.

Geofencing in action

This video answers the most commonly asked questions about geofencing, how it works, accuracy, and viable use cases:

13. Retargeting

Did you know that an average of 97 percent of website visitors leave without taking action? Retargeting helps bring them back—once a prospect visits an event website, ads for that event will appear on any subsequent websites the prospect visits, in the form of website banner ads, search engine results, and pop-up or push ads on mobile apps. 

What this trend means for event planners

Event marketing teams should develop relevant and creative ads with clearly visible event dates to convince prospects who have visited an event website, but haven’t yet registered. These are strong leads: they’ve nibbled on the bait and are waiting for you to reel them in. 

What this trend means for event venues

Just as event planners use this tool to get attendees to come back, venues can use it to generate return visits from event planners. Additionally, you can retarget attendees during events with offers for in-house services like food and beverage, spa, and discounts on extending their stay.

Retargeting in action

This video from Google’s Digital Garage helps explain how retargeting allows you to advertise to your website’s visitors and get them back:

14. Gamification

According to the CrowdCompass Mobile Event App Benchmark Report, gamified events see a 44 percent increase in engagement. Gameplay creates an immersive attendee experience, while generating leads and booth visits for exhibitors via quizzes, scavenger hunts, and trivia on mobile apps.

What this trend means for event planners

Want to get attendees to download your branded mobile event apps? Let attendees know there are interactive games within the app they can play with other attendees.  

Gameplay fosters a sense of common purpose; creates an environment of collaboration and trust; facilitates easier communication; and boosts attendee confidence. You can also gather information about attendee engagement and interests via game choices.

What this trend means for event venues

Promoting the use of gameplay on-site showcases a venue to organizations looking for facilities supporting team building exercises as well as immersive attendee experiences.

Gamification in action

The Boston Red Sox setup what’s commonly referred to as a “gamification corner” at Fenway Park in the form of a virtual batting cage as part of a promotional campaign:

Want more information about event technology?

How do you stay up to date with the event industry?

Attend events about the industry, follow leading blogs (Like the Social Tables blog), and push yourself to always be learning.

How much is the event planning industry worth?

The global event industry was valued at $1,100 Billion dollars in 2018.

What is event technology?

Event technology is a term used to describe all of the digital tools and software used in the events industry. Everything from check in & registration, to diagramming, to social media tools, and more can be considered event technology.

Put the latest technology to work for your event design and conferences today! 

Next up, learn about other event industry evolutions for 2020, including event food catering trends and event decor trends. Or, learn how technology can help you plan events on the go!  

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