The Technology Toy Shop

Over the course of this weekend I spent my time sitting with the event planner’s equivalent of the Argos catalogue – the agendas for two event technology conferences – Event Tech Live and Event Tech 2016.  Both offer a multitude of opportunities to experience the latest developments and new gadgetry as well as how to elevate the technologies we’re already using. It is safe to say that in my search for the newest toys to take back to clients – Christmas has well and truly come early.

Over the last ten years, technology has rapidly altered how we do things and boy, have we embraced these changes with gusto. From completely customisable registration sites to the latest Oculus Rift headsets we love nothing more than to integrate the latest release. But is this the right approach? And are we often a bit too eager to raid the toy shop?

When I am faced with considering how to use technology at an event I always like to remind myself of the cautionary tale of the tablet. Since its release we have used it in every way imaginable. Tablets were without doubt, everywhere. Sometimes we were successful in its ability to support the message and deliver the desired impact and ROI, and other times, well let’s just say there were a few instances where we had an eyewatering ‘cost per question’ bill.

As both a client and an event manager it’s easy to become fixated on a favourite piece of kit.  You start to bend your event around it to make it both relevant and successful. Something we are probably all guilty of even though we know it should be the other way round.  In a world of instant gratification, where everything exists almost entirely at a click of a button and technology boundaries are seemingly pushed daily, have we become lazy in our approach?  And even worse, do we use it just because it’s there?

It is this outlook that I think often spells the end of a technology that has potential to be fantastic. Following 6 months’ of taking tablets to every event, big or small, I attended a demo on beacons.  Now this I thought could be a game changer. How content is activated and delivered could potentially be turned on its head. I could finally wave goodbye to the dreaded 100-slide PowerPoint for every 30- minute session.  However beacons require not just courage to step away from the norm but clever session planning and content development – resulting in an increase in time and inevitably cost.  And with that PowerPoint is back on the table and my delegates are polling on their smartphones.

I am a great believer that all elements of an event work together to create one consistent experience. Technology can play a substantial part in this. If your desire is to take your audience on a journey then by all means go for it. Knock it out of the park. But let’s step away from the VR goggles for a moment. And get back to thinking about what that journey needs to be – before we go crazy in the technology toy shop.