We round up the best event technology from state-of-the-art ticketing solutions and event apps to real-time surveys and interactive live event mangament...
Read our 'Magnificent 7' event software solutions
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At New York Fashion Week last year, a well-known pop star (who can’t be named but who is tinie and has quite a tempah) and his entourage, were invited to a high profile after-party at a top restaurant. His management kindly informed the hosts that he would, unfortunately, 'not be able to attend the event' after all. That night, when the pre-dinner reception party was in full swing guess who showed up? With his entire entourage. But, thanks to technology and, specifically, event technology, this was not a problem. In fact, it went almost entirely unnoticed. There were no frantic PRs racing around screaming at people, no front of house meltdowns, no conspicuous rolling-in of a new ‘six foot round’ to be shoehorned into a gap that wasn't really there in the first place and, most of all, no turning away of anybody at the door because they're 'not on the list'. Try doing this to a high profile guest, however justified, and you’ll see what I mean!
It took less than three minutes to sort and this is what happened...
The lady at the door who was checking guests in on an iPad (any smart phone would do - even a Blackberry!) simply added their names to the guest list. The app she was using then simultaneously updated on all her colleagues tablets throughout the venue. In real-time. The people in charge of the table plan, at the click of a button, summoned a schematic of the venue, complete with the real-time table plan, which was fully up to date. Seeing (digitally) that there were numerous empty seats scattered around the room, they were able to drag and drop various people (whom they knew could be relocated in pairs or, occasionally, solo, depending on which party they were there with) and create space for a Pop star and his gang, seamlessly and without drama. How cool is that?
This was all down to a simple, integrated real time guest list and table plan app, which connects everyone and enables last minute changes at the drop of a hat.
Used in the correct way, technology is a life-saver (as opposed to a liability!)
Indeed, the social networks themselves have made events a far more powerful medium, almost overnight. All of a sudden, your own guests and delegates are your publicists. If an event is good (or bad), stunning, dynamic, theatrical, visually stimulating or contains noteworthy entertainment, you can be sure it'll appear on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Google+, Tripadvisor and, if its really exciting, YouTube. You then have an exponentially expanded, potentially unlimited audience. And, to think, at one stage people thought technology would replace events (I remember an awful hologram conference call system, which was as unnecessary as it was unreliable. And expensive!)
I've often said that the best form of networking is, in fact, not working. This is because relationships are built on a personal level and I have a theory that if you like someone (and they like you) you're more likely to make an effort to do business with each other. There's an app that facilitates that too, of course. Networking apps are available in all shapes and sizes but I still believe that the market could benefit from an uber-simple, largely automated one.
About three years ago, we partnered with a company called Yasmo Live to create an in-event app, which we called 'Who's in the Room™ (and Trademarked). It was intended that one could upload a detailed guest list within the app software and then, at the event, the app would seamlessly (and automatically) update itself in real-time as guests arrived.
By simply pushing the 'Who's in the room' button on your smartphone, you could obtain a real-time (A to Z) list of all guests in the room, complete with photo, contact details, a brief description of what they do and, perhaps most crucially of all, where they are within the venue. This, of course, could become awkward if your 'target' was in the loo but it was generally a great idea! In reality, it didn't quite work for a number of reasons.
- Firstly, because back in 2011, not many were willing to engage, so the app was limited to the select few who had the desire to make a go of it.
- Secondly. It was a little too complicated and not technologically as slick as intended. It was clunky and that just doesn’t work.
- Finally, unless you had flawless wifi (and so many venues didn’t in 2011) it would be too slow to bother with. Apps have to make your life easier. They have to be simpler than ‘real life’ because ‘technology for the sake of it’ is no longer viable as a novelty. Too many event organisers want to cram as much tech as possible into their events to appear ‘state of the art’ or ‘bleeding edge’. In reality, it’s just a bleeding nuisance.
Event Apps are now the norm and are expected by most delegates. They are now conspicuous by their absence and, used correctly, serve to enhance the event efficiency and therefore the overall experience exponentially. Simplicity is the key though and if you’re using separate software solutions for email invitations, registration, networking and keynote content it’s going to get messy. Integrated and immersive event management software is key as the scope and capabilities of event apps widen. Steve Jobs famously told his original iPhone development team to create a phone where people can carry the internet around in their pocket with only “One button” and that’s the holy-grail – making it easy for absolutely everyone to use it. Foolproof.
With enhanced technology comes enhanced scrutiny. ROI has always been the essential aspect of any event. Indeed, this is why events were the first to be cut from corporate budgets in the last recession (before this one we’re just getting over) in the 1990’s.
Back then, there was no technological mechanism for monitoring or measuring ROI, so it was largely left to educated guess-work and events seemed to be expensive and frivolous. It has subsequently been proven that we were wrong to cut budgets as, today, it is statistically factual that events are the second most successful form of lead generation, after websites. Nobody is without a website these days and, in the same way, every corporation should clearly have a face-to-face events strategy. It works better than traditional advertising and that’s a fact.
In it’s simplest form, it’s all about enhanced efficiency. Some of the biggest (and most important) events on the scene are those staged by the large charities. These events are so important because they are the primary means of fundraising and publicity. This is another example of how crucial the social networks can be because before, during and post event publicity is only possible on a scale and level of authenticity that can be derived from real people, in real-time. Take children’s charity, Ark, for example. Their events (catered for by Londonlaunch.com member, Rhubarb) have reportedly raised £180m directly via their (legendary) events. Events are huge to Ark because they are such a great fun (often spectacular) means of raising funds (and their profile) in a way that strikes a chord and engages people.
The Lord’s Taverners’ events programme is also sensational and crucial to their fund-raising success. Social media empowers hundreds of event attendees to promote the charities via photos and commentaries of the events they’re attending, even before they’ve attended them. It also helps create a buzz beforehand and can result in additional ticket or table sales. At the very least, every event should have a hashtag, giving it an identity from the outset so people can follow the organiser for updates, offers, announcements etc. The more visually spectacular or star studded these events are, the greater the overall reach and effect. People can also bid remotely through the social networks or, increasingly, through dedicated event apps (white-labeled or bespoke).
A friend of mine runs what used to be a very traditional, yet internationally successful, direct marketing agency and he’s reinvented his company’s entire offering by helping his large charity client-base incorporate efficient software solutions into their already thriving events programme. This is further testimony to the fact that events are crucially important in terms of fund raising and profile. Event registration systems and mass communication are both high on the agenda, as are integrated online ticket sales, guest lists, table plans etc. Event management software is undoubtedly huge business in 2014.
So, with all the aforementioned information fresh on your conscience, here are our:
Magnificent 7’ event software solutions
The classic event ticket sales system (probably the best known), which can actually do so much more! They spoke at our last LiveTECH (watch the video to learn about all the things they can do). Your ticket sales monies are held in their account until the date of your event though which doesn’t work for some organisers (although it’s great for the delegates as they can be confident the event will actually happen or they’ll get their money back).
A fabulously detailed, all encompassing series of event management software solutions. Remember what I said about having all aspects of your event tech in one place? Well, this does exactly that! With an abundance of features and possibilities from basic ticketing to full blown dedicated event web builds and on-site event apps, etouches can do everything but make your breakfast! Check out their talk at LiveTECH 2013.
- FashionGPS/Events GPS
Possibly the coolest and simplest product currently on the market. Born in the fashion world (no sh*t, Sherlock!), Fashion GPS is an interactive tool for managing guest lists, RSVP systems, table plans, show schedules and so much more. Its in-built image recognition software also allows fashion buyers to point their smart phones at models (during shows) to order garments at the touch of a button. The Tinie Tempah story at the beginning of this feature is a great example of what this amazing, market-leading app is already doing. Ultra Cool and uber-useful!
- Active Network
This all-encompassing event administration solution can help organisers with a wide variety of things from registration and payment processing to email marketing and data management.
- Crystal Interactive
The original pioneers of in-event tech, Crystal Interactive led the way with conference voting systems via their native software and specialist hardware. Having moved with the times and having evolved exponentially, Crystal Interactive now offer fully interactive event software solutions including the collation of real-time survey results for post-event infographic presentations and so much more.
The first proper software giant in the events sector, this global event technology provider raised over a billion dollars on the stock market last year, illustrating the sheer size and scalability of the events sector, globally. Second only to websites for generating sales leads for corporations, events need to be meticulously managed and measured, making sophisticated (but simple to use) event management software a ‘must have’ in 2014.
This pay as you go Mobile App/SMS service has had rave reviews on londonlaunch.com. Unique in their focus on SMS (which statistically results in a 98% open rate, far more impressive than email) combined with a ready Mobile App that also offers a great event revenue solution – mobile advertising. Many features are available such as live voting, text to screen, Q&A, snap surveys, games and easy collection of delegates’ mobile numbers. In summary, the service will help you engage your community via the one device that is permanently attached to everyone without them even being online. An off the shelf, cost effective and easy alternative to all of the above in many ways…
2014 is therefore the year to embrace event technology (if you haven’t done so already), especially with so many reliable and effective options at your fingertips. Events are a very powerful medium but it’s all about your guests and delegates and the experience you give them. People will always remember how you made them feel and nowadays they’ll express those feelings (good or bad) freely.
To hundreds, often thousands, reaching so many more than those actually in attendance. For this reason it’s a massive opportunity missed if you don’t have a social/digital strategy attached to each of your events as well as event management software to help you facilitate them (and to help your guests to make the most of them – from initial registration to seamless real-time networking) and at least some form of measurement metric.
That way you can not only justify your events as a key component in your sales and marketing strategy but you can also assess and measure the effects, giving each event (or series of events) a tangible ROI score, enabling you to fine tune and improve event by event.
An event without carefully selected apps and technology in 2014 is almost as bad as an event without canapés. Can you imagine that? Didn’t think so!
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Find out about our LiveTECH digital media training evening on 13th February 2014.
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Visit our Event Technology section now to research and source London's best event technology suppliers.
Will Broome CEO