4 Event Technology Trends Shaping the Future of Events

As meetings and events continue to evolve into increasingly complex experiences, event planners are looking for new solutions that can help them rise to the heightened expectations of attendees. They’re also looking for ways to confront the ever-present realities of more work in the face of time constraints and relatively flat budget growth.

As a result, planners and venues are embracing innovative event management tools for assistance, and with good reason. Studies show event technology adoption can increase attendance by 20%, increase productivity by 27%, and decrease costs by as much as 30%.

Meanwhile, new event technologies are answering the call, sweeping the industry with software tailored for each piece of the event cycle. Even the standard technologies in event planning have undergone some much-needed maturation, elevating the possibility for integration and creating a solid foundation for newer tools.

All of these changes have culminated into a landscape where industry professionals are inundated by new platforms and products virtually by the day. It’s a one-two punch that has left planners, marketers, and venues all wondering where technology is going next (and which investments will yield the most ROI).

In this post, we lay out a mix of event technology trends you need to know now:

  1. Projection mapping
  2. 5G
  3. Branded multi-use apps
  4. Event diagramming

1. Projection Mapping

Projection mapping is the act of creating an augmented reality experience with the help of projectors. Projectors typically cast their images on flat screens. With projection mapping, these devices light up any surface and turn everyday structures and buildings into 3D interactive displays.

What It Means for Event Planners

Projection mapping helps event planners incorporate truly transformational design elements into any space they see fit.  From cars to landmarks to stages, this visual technology proves to be an efficient and cost-effective way to create optical illusions in nearly every location.

Because there are no real limits to what you can do with projection mapping, event planners are free to stretch their imaginations and come up with truly inventive displays. Whether it’s a map of convention booths, a social media wall, or an interactive art display, this technology is flexible enough to meet a variety of objectives — which is why you’ll find it everywhere from concerts to conferences.

What It Means for Venues

Venues themselves can also benefit from projection mapping. While many event venues offer audio and visual equipment, most do not offer creative solutions to the most common issue faced by event planners: space customization. Adding projection mapping to your groups and meetings arsenal enables event clients to create unique experiences without altering the venue itself physically, which is quite enticing to your customers.

The Sydney Opera House uses projection mapping to create jaw-dropping transformations.

Any non-white and non-flat surface can turn into a canvas for advertisements, art videos, and decoration, among others. There are great examples of world-famous buildings, luxury cars, and even dance performances serving as projection mapping backgrounds with great success. The above video captures one of our favorite examples, courtesy of the Sydney Opera House.

In a poetic homage to its structure and design, the iconic opera house used this trending event technology to captivate attendees at an outdoor gathering. The artist, Jorn Utzon, aimed to give the iconic building human expression, thus creating an immediate and shocking evolution.

19 Trends Shacking Up Events in 2019

2. 5G

Think about the 4G LTE internet that you currently get on your phone when you’re not connected to WiFi. It’s a lot faster than it was back in the days of 3G, right? It allows you to stream music and videos, video chat, navigate via map apps… the list goes on.

Now take that speed and multiply it by 1,000. That’s what’s coming to a smartphone near you with the introduction of 5G.

Sure, it’s not an event management technology per se, but that type of speed promises to have a major impact on virtually every cloud-based app by allowing it to run faster and more reliably than ever before on mobile devices. It also opens up new possibilities for app developers to push the boundaries of current event tech trends and usher in a new wave of innovation.

And while it won’t be commonplace globally anytime in 2019, smartphone company Ericsson predicts that 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions will be active by the year 2025.

A visual representation of how much faster 5g internet will be
A visual representation of the difference in speed between 5G and previous generations (Source: Cisco Blog)

What It Means for Event Planners

Imagine a world where WiFi speed and reliability aren’t concerns at large-scale events. That’s what the advent of 5G could mean for planners.

This has exciting ramifications not just for solving connectivity issues, but also lifting some of the limitations planners face in the venue sourcing process. With high-speed internet readily available in the pockets of attendees, infrastructure can give way to imagination. Planners will be able to think outside the box, employing new and nontraditional venues that wow attendees, and more closely map their plans to the specific objectives of a given event.

As innovations in 3D technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality continue, 5G will also make it more feasible to incorporate the cutting-edge into your event experiences.

What It Means for Venues

Just as it was with the launch of 4G, 5G will be introduced in major metropolitan areas first. This means that, for a period of time, the playing field won’t be even — ultimately giving some hotels a leg up for differentiation. It also means that “first-tier” cities will likely enjoy a period of advantage in a time when many mid-size cities are finally starting to gain traction in the world of events.

Even though we’re at least a few years out from 5G being commonplace in even major metropolitan areas, it’s imperative that hoteliers pay attention now to avoid being left in the data dust.

Vanessa Ogle, CEO of hotel technology provider Enseo is quoted in a Skift article saying, “5G will be mainstream within the next three-to-five years in most major metropolitan areas. Hoteliers should be looking to redeploy their network investment into ‘smart’ investments now that can easily be repurposed for things like IoT smart room features that will still be relevant even when 5G is in full swing.”

3. Branded Multi-Use Apps

Apps have become an integral part of how we function in daily life, and the event industry is no different. Perhaps the most well-established of the event technology trends in this article, branded apps provide limitless opportunities to interact with consumers right on their own phones.

Apps can be customized to appear as if they were created specifically for events or stays, while offering functionality that serves to enhance and personalize the attendee experience.

What It Means for Event Planners

Planners can utilize branded multi-use apps to connect with attendees and engage them on a variety of levels before, during, and after the occasion. From reserving tickets to personalizing the event agenda, surveying attendees, polling crowds in real time, and beyond, event planners today have unlimited options for connecting to attendees via these applications.

YourMembership used their app to make magic (literally).

Every millennial wishes they could be Harry Potter for a day. Which is why YourMembership, the world’s largest provider of membership management software, made that wish come true at their Xperience17 event. Using an event-specific app, the team brought a Harry-Potter-themed world to life, weaving in elements of gamification to engage, amaze, and facilitate learning.

Adopted by an incredible 88% of attendees, the app enabled different “Houses” to compete against each other and rewarded points for actions like scanning QR codes and checking in. The best part? When attendees entered the conference space, the app even sent a push notification to let them know that they’d arrived at Platform 9 ¾.

What It Means for Venues

Venues can also take advantage of branded multi-use apps when promoting events. Event spaces can create customized apps to enhance experiences and share things like helpful facts, historical tidbits, and even the personalities of their unique employees, as shown in the example below.

Perhaps most importantly, the evolution of these types of apps means clients and attendees will be able to personalize elements of the venue in real time. Hotels especially can use apps in this way, allowing guests to control their rooms from their phones and even communicate with chatbots to find nearby attractions.

Wembley Stadium takes tours to the next level:

Europe’s Wembley Stadium runs tours year-round. Rather than offer a run-of-the-mill experience, they create dynamic interactive displays through their app.

Using their real-life tour guides as voices within the app, Wembley offers attendees the chance to scan jerseys and view player stats, watch 360-degree videos of press conferences and games, and other interesting extras you can’t replicate in traditional tours.

4. Event Diagramming

As experiences become more and more complex, the ability to map out those experiences in detail becomes more and more of a necessity. With event diagramming software, both event planners and venues are able to map everything out visually — all the way down to the mic placement.

This somewhat new technology for events provides helpful tools like drag-and-drop diagramming, 3D walkthroughs, and seating software on a single platform. It helps planners and venue management save time while providing clearer communication for the whole team. In fact, the best event diagramming programs centralize communication and can materialize diagrams in mere minutes.

Because they’re often cloud-based, these programs also provide accurate, customizable, and collaborative project planning that’s accessible by all managing parties. Not only does this eliminate the endless back-and-forth that comes with stakeholder approval, but it also improves relationships and streamlines efficiency.

trending event diagramming technology
A view of Social Tables drag-and-drop event diagramming functionality.

What It Means for Event Planners

At the end of the day, planning the space requires the most back-and-forth between planners, venues, and stakeholders. With diagramming tools, event planners are able to give clients peace of mind and leave nothing to chance on the big day. Users are even able to upload floor plans to the software, allowing them to create to-scale diagrams that can be shared with clients, set up teams, and vendors.

Sometimes, planners can also use those diagrams for seating purposes within the program, managing attendee preferences visually. This creates a single source of truth that helps staff easily identify and accommodate VIPs and any guests with special requests.

A real case study: Forbes uses event diagramming software to ensure success.

From the 7,000+ attendee Under 30 Summit held every year to the many Forbes Live events, the Forbes event team runs logistics for a number of major events — each with their own unique elements and intricacies.

To be successful, they need to map out the many moving parts of each event beforehand, so as to leave nothing to chance. That’s where a tool like Social Tables’ event diagramming software comes in. Forbes has used the software since 2013 to improve the efficiency of their events by visually verifying the placement of every piece as well as the viability of venues.

“The only thing I wish I could do on the software but can’t, is to show where each water bottle is to be placed on stage.” -Cathi Culbertson, VP of Event Marketing & Conferences

Plan Events Seamlessly

What It Means for Venues

Event diagramming is also useful for venues, allowing sales reps to employ real-time collaborative processes that make working with planners easier and more efficient. Reps can use the software to share variations in the event proposal and visually portray upsells. Plus, quickly pulling and sharing diagram examples from successful past events can appeal to unsure planners looking for a quality experience.

At the end of the day, just having diagramming software available can be a huge differentiator for venues. Some leading venues even allow planners to hop into diagrams and make their own changes, saving venue professionals time and giving planners a sense of autonomy and authority over their own events.

the venetian hotel in las vegas

Hotel case study: Leading hotels, The Venetian and Sheraton, leverage event diagramming to improve planning and execution.

The Venetian has played host to over 2,000 events and counting. Their combined furniture total exceeds one million pieces and requires a high level of organization to continuously move, arrange, and locate. They use event diagramming to instantly upload production vendors’ detailed PDF arrangements and convert them to scale within their various spaces.

In addition, the Sheraton Commander, the oldest hotel in the Starwood portfolio, lets planners take the reins in their collaborative software. As the hotel’s Director of Catering and Event Management, Judy Brillhart, indicates, this improves relationships because planners “love being empowered to seat their guests in the manner they want.”

What’s next for these 4 event technology trends?

The purpose of capitalizing on any of these up-and-comers in event management technology trends should be to make the life of planners, venue professionals, clients, and attendees as easy as possible — whether that’s by helping save time, elevating experiences, or both.

With 80% of event planners saying their jobs encompass more experience creation than just two to five years ago, this tenet is more important than ever. These four movements are living up to that standard, empowering the industry as a whole to push the boundaries of face-to-face experiences.

Updated December 3, 2018