Issue #46

Tech-Less Events

Marketers realize that technology has its place. Sometimes, no place at all.

It’s a modern-age dilemma. Technology enhances many aspects of events, work, and life in general, but it can get in the way of face-to-face connections, it’s often integrated “just because” and it can, in the case of entertainment, spoil the fun. It’s why event organizers and attendees are adopting a tech-less mentality, a trend that is having its moment across industries.

Take Getaway, the tech-less answer to Airbnb that allows consumers (read: digital-weary millennials) to “escape” from Boston, New York or Washington, D.C., and into tiny houses installed in the woods where they can “go to recharge in nature, reconnect with people you love, and rekindle an interest in life unplanned.” Coffee shops, meccas for Wi-Fi seekers, are getting in on the trend, too. HotBlack Coffee in Toronto, for example, offers coffee and muffins—but no Wi-Fi. Its president told told The New York Times, “We’re a vehicle for human interaction, otherwise it’s just a commodity.”

The tech-less trend is protecting artists from social media spoilers and disconnected audiences. Comedian Dave Chappelle and musician John Mayer teamed up last year for the mashup show “Controlled Danger,” where they banned smartphones via Yondr, a product that allows attendees to hang onto devices in a pouch they can only unlock from a kiosk outside the venue. During a tribute to his friend, the late Charlie Murphy, Chappelle reportedly said, “Let’s make a memory only we get to have.”

The workplace, a hotbed for meetings filled with laptops and phones in hand, is also being influenced by the tech-less trend. Researchers from Princeton and UCLA recently found that people who write notes rather than type notes, record and absorb information differently. In the case of written notes, they have a higher “conceptual understanding” of the information presented. The findings are influencing how content is presented, from the lecture hall to the conference room… to the conference session.

The tech-less trend is even spreading to events in the tech world itself. Like Snap Inc., which blocked, of all things, any Snapchat snaps coming from the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live during Snap’s own New Year’s Eve extravaganza. The tech company banned smart devices altogether in the name of creating an “offline experience” where its guests could “live in the moment.”

Across the event industry, clues of this shift have emerged with the analog trend that brought to events group coloring book zones and adult playgrounds. But going forward, we can expect to see the tech-less trend manifest itself in the mass adoption of “subtle” smart devices like watches, which are less obtrusive than a smartphone, and in more activities like walking meetings and offline networking in the great outdoors.

Because connection shouldn’t always require a Wi-Fi signal.

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Trend Marketers realize that technology has its place. Sometimes, no place at all.

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