2015 Event Technology Trends

The 4th Annual EventTech conference was recently held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas from November 3–5, 2014. Nestled between a marble courtyard and the casino floor, the world’s largest event technology lab was back—and bigger than ever. Cramer attends every year to learn from peers and to bring knowledge back to Boston that can inspire our 2015 events.

Steven Voltz and Fritz Grobe, the viral video stars from the infamous Coke and Mentos YouTube video, kicked off EventTech with their keynote, The Viral Video Manifesto

Their manifesto centered on the four rules of creating a viral video:

  1. Be true. Viewers can tell the difference between a video that is scripted with lights, microphones and all the right camera angles and a really raw, uncut video taken on the spot without actors or editors; and they trust videos made by real people for real people.
  2. Don’t waste my time. Cut to the chase immediately. Viral video isn’t about telling a story with a plot and characters, so don’t let them get in the way. Give the audience what they came to see.
  3. Be unforgettable. In order to stand out, your video needs to do something that has never been seen before. It needs to be bigger, better and on a scale so grand it has never been attempted. Start with something different, and spend every waking moment getting intimately familiar with that idea. Explore your idea to the point where you become the world’s expert on it, then scale it up to the point that no one would imagine is possible. Quantity will then lead to quality.
  4. It’s all about humanity. Emotion is contagious. Steve and Fritz have become known for raising their hands in the air at the end of each of their viral video stunts in a display of joy. Documenting real people displaying real emotion creates an active emotional state that makes viewers want to share your video with their friends. This is absolutely critical for success.

After the keynote, attendees entered the beloved EventTech Campus—one room that held multiple theaters, lounges, tradeshow booths and technology labs—giving every attendee no less than five concurrent session options with the freedom to float between sessions and chat with technology vendors all in one location.

We were very excited to hear event technology stories from  GoogleIBMWalmart and Caterpillar, among others.  Check it out.

If you prefer to skim, we've summarized our experience into four key trends for you to learn from and follow for 2015 event planning.

Trend #1: Events need to be designed around and personalized for the customer. Stop talking about yourself and your brand.

The age of the seller is over. The products and services you sell are hardly unique. We have squarely entered the age of the customer—one in which the customer controls the relationship. In the event setting, this means we need to put the customer first. We need to stop talking about our brand, our products and our services and instead start talking about the customer and designing events around the customer experience.

The session " Futurecast 2024", hosted by Event Futurist Joe English, described events as smaller, local destinations for a hyper-targeted segment of your audience, based on finely tuned parameters made possible by big-data technologies. When your brand can find a small number of very specific customers with the same business needs, the resulting events will be lower cost, have higher ROI and provide much greater customer value.

IBM decided to rethink product demonstrations in its session, " B2B Best Practices", which boldly stated that the traditional product demonstration kiosk is dead. IBM proved this by creating a self-guided, self-discovery “cauldron” of tablets and screens mounted in a circle. They were able to nearly double the number of customer interactions in their booth space.

Caterpillar shared a  viral video of its own that centered on changing the way people thought about CAT and what they are capable of. Traditionally, this would be done with small groups of people watching machines push dirt around. By using CAT machines to play Jenga or navigate a China shop, CAT took people by surprise and made them rethink what a Caterpillar can do.

Trend #2: The death of the event app is near. Next-gen apps need to be designed as systems rather than destinations.

The death of the mobile event app is on the horizon. The  Independent revealed that only a third of us bother to download new apps. Combine this statistic with Intercom’s article, “The End of Apps as We Know Them”, which discusses designing systems instead of destinations, and you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

The theory was quickly reinforced at EventTech. Google shared a  conference app it built from the ground up using Google App Engine to unify the app and mobile site under a common CMS and simplify development and deployment. One could imagine that by integrating an app like this with Google Now, the event app becomes part of a system rather than a destination.

Trend #3: BLE/iBeacon promises to create extremely powerful contextual event experiences, but no one has delivered on the promise… yet.

Everyone has been talking about iBeacon/BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) as a transformative mobile technology that will finally fulfill the promises that NFC (Near Field Communication) never delivered.

BLE/iBeacons constantly transmit their presence, and, when used in combination with apps programmed to listen for those transmissions, allow an attendee to quickly access the right information in the right place at the right time to enhance the event experience.

The only practical example of deploying iBeacons at events was shared by the event app folks at  DoubleDutch during their session, "Put a Ring on It". DoubleDutch apps currently have the ability to push notifications and take a head count when a BLE-enabled device with the event app installed comes within proximity to iBeacons deployed around an event venue. You could get a welcome message at check-in, special offer notifications when approaching tradeshow booths or reminder notifications that a session is about to start.

What they can’t yet do, but should be working on for 2015, is expanding BLE triggers beyond just push notifications. When I pull out my phone while standing at an agenda wall, I want DoubleDutch to launch the agenda page in the app. When I’m standing at a map of the show floor, pull it up on my phone automatically. When I spend 10 minutes inside of a tradeshow booth, surprise and delight me through special offers, VIP passes or freebies.

So what’s holding back the dream? Your phone is probably too old to support BLE, and you likely don’t leave Bluetooth on all day because it drains your battery. This means in order to get widespread adoption of BLE event experiences, we’ll have to wait for battery life to improve, phones to be upgraded and applications written to take full advantage of iBeacon.

Trend #4: Projection mapping is here to stay, and new surface mapping technology will make it more detailed than ever before.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing the crowd-captivating experience of a projection-mapped event experience, check out our HxGN video. Projection mapping has quickly evolved over the past few years into a phenomenon. Breaking free of two-dimensional screens unlocks creativity and brand potential on a grand scale.

In a session aptly titled, "Projection Mapping Update", the folks at PEARL described lower cost projection mapping alternatives, such as halo-glass holograms and stationary-prop mapping. They also broke out a live demonstration of an extremely exciting 3D scanning app called Skanect, which could be used to map three-dimensional objects by simply scanning them.

One of the most impressive feats they shared was the fabrication of a 150-foot-tall projection-mapped space man for Coachella 2014. The lesson learned is that in the near future, if you can build it, we can map it and project on it.

Over the course of three days filled with technology demonstrations, case studies and hands-on labs, it’s perfectly fitting that the best opportunity for networking came while simply waiting in line for the folks at  Family Industries Screen Printing to personalize a screen-printed EventTech shirt live on-site for each attendee. The time spent chatting in line with other attendees was priceless.

Event Technology Brands to Watch

A few event technology companies really stood out from the crowd of vendor booths this year. Some are promising newcomers, others are seasoned professionals at the top of their game. Here's why we like them for 2015:

ZOX: RFID wristbands are not new, but ZOX wristbands are all the rage at events right now because they are one-of-a-kind pieces of art that people want to wear on site and want to keep after the event is over. Rumor is that they are highly collectible as well.

Lumi: Formerly IML, Lumi has a new offering called Lumi Insights which is poised to redefine live polling to screen solutions for presenters who use PowerPoint.

BrightBox: Cellphone charging stations have become more secure with BrightBox - a locking charging cubby that is programmed and unlocked with the mag stripe code from your personal credit card.

Postano: Postano announced a strategic partnership with Fish, combining event visualization and event measurement into one exciting new frontier.

DoubleDutch: Easily our favorite event app for large user conferences, DoubleDutch has quickly embraced BLE/iBeacon, and we can't wait to see what they do next.

That's a Wrap!

EventTech 2014 has once again proven it's value to event marketers and event planners. As you head into 2015 planning, remember these key insights taken from the EventTech Campus:

  • If you are planning a viral video, follow  the four rules set out by Steven Voltz and Fritz Grobe, and most of all, remember to "Be True"
  • Stop talking about yourself and start designing your events around the customer experience
  • You may buy yet another event app this year, but look for solutions that use a common CMS between app and microsite, and begin to think of these channels as a system rather than a destination
  • Your next event needs to experiment with building a contextual experience. Even if adoption levels are initially low, you will be prepared for a full deployment when your customers soon demand it.
  • If you still haven't tried projection mapping for a general session opener, it's getting better every year, and you're missing out.

If you want notes from every session we attended, download them here. And if you want to see a complete landscape of event technology companies to consider for 2015 planning, download our 2015 event technology landscape.

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Greg Jones

Sr. Associate, Strategy / Cramer

Request as Speaker

Additional contributions by Jonathan Ronzio and Julie Bogart

Additional Resources

EventTtech 2014 Currated by Cramer

Our take on #eventtechlive 2014


Event Technology Landscape 2015

The hottest vendors and tools in event technology for 2015.


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