Looking into the Future of Event Tech

Your guidepost for event-technology decisions should be to put your customer’s experience before your staff efficiency. As the event-tech space continues to evolve with a number of mergers and acquisitions, I see four changes coming for larger annual conferences.

#1. Security is Expensive, but Critical

Conference organizers are generally unaware that last year most event-technology software companies lost three or more months of future development time to focus instead on compliance requirements for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Most event organizers reacted by significantly changing their rules around data governance and privacy to be in compliance. The California Consumer Privacy Act is similar to GDPR and goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

What this means is that event-technology solutions need to invest more heavily to ensure that they protect attendee personal data and credit card information. The level of difficulty is high. Software solutions built on older platforms and smaller companies with fewer resources are going to have a harder time meeting event organizers’ more stringent data-security requirements.

#2. Overwhelmed by Big Data

Conference organizers who jumped on the big-data bandwagon are drowning in so much information, they can’t make sense of what changes need to be made. Conference organizers need to walk before they run, and to track explicit — not implicit — behavioral cues. Don’t track who is in a certain area, their dwell time or other implied behaviors. Instead track the exhibiting companies an attendee favorited on the app, the sessions they attended, and the handouts they downloaded. If your organization does not have marketing-automation software, you are putting the cart before the horse by tracking attendee behavior.

#3. The Demise of Lead Retrieval

This prediction may be a few years away from becoming reality, but I believe the lead-retrieval business model — which significantly funds registration services and credentialing for major conferences and shows — is going to disappear. This is a really big deal because some conferences will need to pay three to five times more for registration than they do currently.

It’s yet another example of how costs have traditionally been shifted away from the organizer to the exhibitors. The way B2B buyers purchase goods and services has changed. Exhibits are less about lead generation and more about nurturing. Exhibitors aren’t going to continue to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars each to collect contact information.

#4. To Integrate or Not to Integrate

One thing I learned early on when it comes to event technology: Association management systems (AMS) were never built to manage complex annual meetings and exhibits. While there are many associations that successfully process meeting registrations using their AMS, there are very few that have a highly integrated exposition- or speaker-management system. It’s a significant customization that is unlikely to ever deliver a return on total cost of ownership (TCO).

Instead of wasting lots of money on an integration for exposition- or speaker-management systems, select a best-of-breed configurable solution and focus on making it easier for the customer to connect and process through single sign-on (SSO).

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2019.

Which of these event tech predictions surprises you? What other changes do you see impacting the future of event technology?

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  1. Tom Pick says:

    Brilliant stuff as always, Dave. But I’m not sure about point #3 — I think that is at LEAST years away. B2B marketers still view trade shows as one of the biggest and most effective sources of leads. There is still a value in face-to-face marketing that digital can support, but can’t replace.

    1. Dave Lutz says:

      Thanks for commenting Tom! We’re huge advocates of face-to-face too. The intent of this prediction is whether or not exhibitors will continue to pay lead retrieval vendors several hundred dollars for scanning solutions vs. using their own methods.

      1. Tom Pick says:

        Ah, that would make more sense. On that score, I suspect you may be right. 🙂

      2. JP Guilbault says:

        Dave, some great points made.

        We appreciate the knowledge share. You’re point is spot on with respect to the value of integration – there’s too much money spent for one-offs, and little true return on it. I couldn’t agree more that the better value is delivered through a focus on the attendee experience.

        That said, I believe there’s great opportunity for technology to be enhanced across the stack to make the day-to-day workflows of organizers and planners much easier. One area in terms of trends related to the event technology stack to explore, might be the investments being made to acquire point solutions across the stacks you highlight….. This has been the case with Personify, Memberclicks, Community Brands, Cvent, etc.. What advantages or disadvantages do you see to this approach, and what might it mean for the market.

        1. Dave Lutz says:

          JP, appreciate your reading and commenting. This article was written before Community Brands pulled the trigger on CoreApps and TripBuilder, but after Personify acquired a2z. Congrats by the way..both strong additions!

          What we’ve been focused on with our annual meeting consulting is the green boxes. These are the three areas where significant incoming data is generated by conference users. Control the green boxes, you win the day. For big/complex conferences, there are very few instances where one company provides best in class solutions in more than one green box. That’s where I think opportunity exists as we see more roll-ups and synergies. Good luck on finding the right combo!

  2. Great article Dave! As events are getting complicated and more customized, so is event tech. Security at events is indeed of paramount importance in today’s date. Self-registration kiosks and QR code processing are the basic levels that every event site is employing.

  3. Mark Kessels says:

    “Instead track the exhibiting companies an attendee favorited on the app, the sessions they attended, and the handouts they downloaded. If your organization does not have marketing-automation software, you are putting the cart before the horse by tracking attendee behavior.” You nailed it!

  4. Great points, Dave especially the lead retrieval model section. Your points on what to track instead of Big Data are spot on.

  5. Olabode Omid says:

    Hey Dave. I am excited about the initiatives to regulate privacy & security and making the Internet a safe space. Going into the 2020’s, adhering to these stipulated regulations will be uncomfortable, yes.

    Point #1 resonated with me in the sense that privacy is going to be the pitfall of innovation and tech. It has become basic that, so far the underlying framework of any solution is technology, security is always going to be an issue.

  6. Andy Barr says:

    Completely agree with the point around lead nurturing, we think it’s particularly important at any events we host, and can tell the difference with events we attend too. However, there’s plenty of event tech that is focused on getting participants to in person “experiential” style events which we love too!

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