Ok, let’s be real here. Event planners and technology haven’t always got along. When I was putting on events ten years ago, our technology was like boys to a group of third grade girls. My planners were forced to interact with it, but they generally thought it was, well, icky.
But just like third grade boys grow up, so has event technology. Suddenly, the much-maligned nuisance is becoming an important part of a planner’s daily life. And some tech tools are becoming downright sexy.
So, when EXPO magazine published its second annual event technology survey, I wasn’t surprised to see big increases in budget, increased adoption of technology platforms and a shift in the needs of organizers from pure event logistics to solving digital engagement challenges. I was, however, a bit frustrated to see that adoption is still slow and some of the same barriers to success are still plaguing us.
So, here are seven things I think planners can take away from this survey:
1. Budget for technology based on the goals of your events. The survey showed that 35% of survey respondents plan to increase their technology budget in 2012, which is encouraging because many planners don’t even have a technology budget. Planners need to make technology a part of their budgeting process and align spend with measurable results in either cost savings or, more importantly, event value.
2. Attendee data is the new black. It is good to see event planners prioritizing the core technologies required to pull off good events. The top 3 most important event technologies listed were event management software, website development/CMS and customer database infrastructure. Planners should not be looking to add “the next cool thing” before building a solid foundation of event and data management tools. The key to building the right technology solution is starting with an integrated platform with a focus on creating and managing good data.
3. Event management is no longer limited by the four walls of the conference hall. The job of an event planner is expanding to include management of the digital experience around an event. Planners need to learn about the tools to support that. The survey showed that social media, e-marketing platforms, smartphone apps, lead retrieval, mobile services and webinars are becoming increasingly popular, all placing in the top 10 list for important technology. Despite this, the adoption rate of such technology is still low as only 5% of respondents reported that their organization concentrated time and money on this type of technology in 2011.
4. Learn how to measure the value of technology instead of viewing it as a cost center. The survey showed that ‘money’, ‘affordability’ and ‘convincing senior management to buy into it’ were key barriers to implementing good technology. That shows me that planners are failing to affectively measure the impact of technology on their events. Technology is no longer about making your job easier; it is about saving you money and, more importantly, allowing organizers to improve event products, experiences and return-per-attendee.
5. Learn how to sell the value of technology to leadership. Once planners have learned how to properly measure the impact of technology, they’ll have the ammunition to sell it to the boss. And, according to the survey, that’s exactly what they need to do. 70% of organizations report that it is senior-level management that determines the technology budget for their organization with 38% specifying that it is the CEO of their organization who determines the spend on technology.
6. It’s STILL all about the attendee. And it should be. Event planners should never take their focus off putting on great experiences and creating more value for attendees along the entire journey. While 61% of respondents will focus their investments on technology to support attendees and exhibitors in 2012, the primary focus and concern for the majority of event planners is on attendees in particular.
7. Simplify. And don’t panic. According to the survey, “the biggest challenge related to technology is the technology itself – the trends are moving too quickly, making it difficult to keep up with the budget and resources offered.” While IT is advancing at a rapid pace, the uncertainty surrounding all of the new mediums being launched presents a challenge for event planners. Planners should be patient and focus on adding the technologies that tie directly to the goals of their organizations and events.
If you’re interested in finding out more about event technology trends in 2012 and beyond, I invite download a copy of ‘The Connected Event’ a report compiled by the Event Marketing Institute in partnership with Active Network offering further insight into technology trends in 2012 and beyond.
Special thanks to expoweb.com for commissioning and presenting the results of their second annual technology survey.
Eric Olson is responsible for driving global sales and operations. Before joining the company, Eric was Vice President of Marketing and Media for a prominent education provider, specializing in online courses, virtual events and live conferences. In seven years he grew the company’s annual revenues from less than $10 million to more than $140 million, primarily through the expansion of its events portfolio.