Live events have taken on unexpected and surprising forms over the past several years. From the introduction of new technologies to the rapid transition to hybrid and virtual events in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, planners have had to adapt their events to a rapidly changing marketplace.
Last year saw the gradual return of in-person events, and 2023 will continue this return to something closer to a pre-pandemic state of affairs. 62% of event planners surveyed in the Winter Planner Pulse Report expect their attendance numbers to grow in 2023. This group expects to deliver most of of their events in person, with the number of in-person events growing every quarter. An additional 25% plan on taking advantage of digital technologies to host virtual and hybrid events. These new developments have come with their own challenges. 61% of planners expect to increase their budgets for 2023 due to rising costs related to transportation, hotel rooms, and food and beverage prices.
Thankfully, new technologies can help planners find creative solutions to new challenges. Ask Kevin McFarlane. The Concise Group Director of Product Development has worked on event-focused technology since the 1990s. For the past twenty years, McFarlane has worked at Concise, where he has pioneered innovations in the event management services field, developing technologies such as the Chime Live ℠ event app, which enables planners to incorporate a variety of digital technologies into their events. He answered our questions about the future of the events industry.
What trends are happening in event technology?
It’s an interesting period for event technology for sure. Post-pandemic we’re seeing a lot of provider consolidation in the market, with virtual event platforms transitioning back to in-person events. For obvious reasons, there’s been a lot of talk and R&D around the metaverse over the last few years and how that could be applied to virtual events. With that return to in-person, the needle has shifted back to tools for best facilitating engagement at in-person events.
How might planners take advantage of new and existing technologies to elevate their in-person events?
With the shift back to in-person, technology becomes less about a platform to deliver the entire event and more about tools to support the objectives of the event. It can accomplish that in several ways, for example by facilitating engagement with things like polls and networking, but also more broadly by making content easily available in accessible and environmentally friendly formats. My advice would be to look at the objectives of the event and your desired outcomes, then go to the market to get advice on what digital technologies can best help deliver the content.
With so many events returning to in-person meetings, what should planners who are thinking about hybrid meetings take into consideration?
The learnings from the pandemic era are that event planning doesn’t need to be entirely about the ‘live’ experience. Videos and content available on demand mixed with live components mean the remote participant can have more flexibility to fit the event into their working day and use on-demand to give their full focus to the content. Our own Chime Live event app is a good example of that. It was an in-person second-screen product that we were very quickly able to pivot into a virtual and hybrid event delivery platform. The interesting thing is that was on the product roadmap long before the pandemic prioritized it. What’s changing now is how people are using those technologies. There’s less of a focus on trying to make the virtual experience the same or equitable with in-person, but rather on how a platform can add additional value to an event that is predominantly in person. Hybrid events can provide planners with new avenues for engaging attendees, and allow a wider range of people to participate, whether they can attend in person or not.
What are the most significant challenges you see impacting planners? How does that impact your approach to development?
There are still some uncertainties around in-person, so work with providers who provide flexibility. We recently had to quickly pivot from an in-person Chime Live experience to a hybrid one when a number of attendees we unable to fly into Germany due to an air traffic issue. Economic pressures around costs, labour availability, and supply chain pressures all mean adaptability and contingency planning are key to successful event delivery.
For those of us who work in the development of digital solutions, it means we’re looking at building solutions that are easier to set up and configure and can be used in multiple ways. To do that, we’re investing a lot of time in interviews and other research to best identify and understand those pain points.
What role can today’s technologies play in supporting the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to planning events?
This is an area where technology can play a strong part. As an example, by using a digital application to receive participant questions anonymously you can remove any unconscious bias in the choice of question to answer during a presentation. Analytics on participant interactions can measure whether everyone at the event is participating and help identify any potential issues with how the content is being provided to a diverse audience. We’ve invested a lot of time making our own Chime Live product accessible to International WCAG standards to make content available to the broadest possible audience. Visual aids and transcriptions provide text that allow participants with visual and hearing impairments to follow along with your graphics, videos, presentations, and speeches. And make sure that your documents can be read by computer technology, so that assistive screen readers can accurately explain PDFs and images to participants.
How has Chime Live changed recently? What do you see in the future for this technology?
For us, with the Chime platform that started out as an in-person engagement tool that pivoted to virtual, a lot of the recent changes have been around returning to a focus on its in-person use: providing engagement features to the returning larger in-person audiences.
I see the future very much being about providing content and experiences in ways that capture the imagination of participants and keep them engaged.
As event attendance grows throughout 2023, planners will be able to take advantage of many innovative technological solutions to make their events more efficient, accessible, and successful. Emerging technologies like Chime Live provide planners with a level of flexibility unavailable in the past, enabling new levels of participant engagement as well as immediate responses to even the most unexpected developments. And as more events return to in person, these technologies will enable planners to deliver more vibrant, engaging, and effective events than ever before, applying the best aspects of the virtual realm to a superior face-to-face experience tailored to your specific objectives.
Our experts offer free consultations and workshops if you want to discuss your event needs. We’d love to help you develop a transformative experience for your participants — so that your events can be more effective and engaging with measurable results.