Why event tech needs to be more Uber than Black Cab

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We ran a couple of pieces of research last year, looking specifically at app usage in the events industry. Our first piece revealed that 63 per cent of global events aren’t using a mobile app, while a follow up study showed that of those that had used an app, 90 per cent achieved a positive ROI. Clearly there is a problem somewhere – if the ROI is so high, why aren’t more events using app technology? Before I can try to answer this question it is important to take a step back and consider why technology and events are being so frequently discussed side-by-side. It all comes down to the shifting expectations of those attending events. As consumer mobile technology usage increases exponentially, whole generations are growing up in a world where having a connected device in your pocket is the norm; they know no different. As a result, consumers’ and delegates’ expectations of controlling or inputting to the experience are higher than ever before: event organisers are having to keep pace. This shift in the balance of power is not new. There are numerous examples of technology rewriting the way business is done. It has created openness in previously closed industries and ubiquitous products have led to powerful and permanent revolutions in a number of sectors including media, retail and finance, with the health industry set to be next in line. A great recent example of this is app-based transportation network Uber. The formula for booking taxis was well established, but some tech-savvy San Franciscans took their frustration of never being able to get a cab and mixed it with location-based technology to develop a solution to their problems. By taking matters into their own hands the Uber founders changed the shape of the industry and grew the business quickly; they now operate in over 50 countries.   If we apply this same thinking to the events industry, we are at a slightly different point in the evolution. Technology hasn’t yet been used to its full transformational potential (the figures at the beginning of this article demonstrate this), largely due to the control still being predominantly with the organiser. If we use the Uber analogy again, the cars represent events and the organisers attached to them, while the end users looking to book rides are the delegates. Uber sits in between and facilitates the relationship, just as any good event technology should. The power and control doesn’t sit with Uber alone, but rather is shared by both parties utilising the technology. If we want to see a real transformation in events, this shift in the balance of control is essential. To make technology work to its full potential, a cultural shift is needed in the events industry. In order to evolve, event organisers must take the time to seek technology that gives them control and transparency.  Control must be equally distributed between organiser and delegate by utilising flexible systems (be it with apps as we have done at Guidebook, or any other sort of event tech) that allow event organisers to build a solution that’s right for them and enable delegates to influence and feedback on those solutions. In the case of apps, event organisers need to build apps with features that look great, deliver an outstanding user experience and can be adapted in real-time, whilst users need to tailor their own programme, share their own content, collect contacts, give real-time feedback and much more. Once organisers embrace this shift in control, the best event technology will really be able to transform event experiences, shaped by both the organiser and the delegate alike. This article was first published in the February issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
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