The Digital Evolution of Events

Thirty years ago, event invitations were sent by postal mail. People called travel agents to book flights and accommodations. Companies printed thousands of agendas and marketing materials, and attendees brought handfuls of business cards in preparation for a rare networking opportunity.

The modern event landscape has changed dramatically thanks to technological advances. Events are no longer analog experiences, and organizations with the highest event engagement are using technology to their benefit to amplify engagement, employ targeted personalization, and drive lead generation.

Let’s explore a few monumental occurrences in the digital transformation of events:

The Shift to Paperless

Wide adoption of email usage in the late-90s led to the first major technological revolution that altered the event landscape—paperless communications. Today, invitations no longer need to be printed and mailed, and RSVPs are submitted through a company’s website, event registration tools, online surveys etc. Supporting materials can be attached to emails and shared with attendees for reference before, during, or after the event, eliminating the need to print hard copies of eContent or collateral at every presentation.

Paperless is praised as a “green” option, and it allows companies to eliminate considerable expenses related to printing and postage costs. What it means to be paperless stretches beyond the initiation phase through all touchpoints of the event. For example, with QR codes and an easy QR code reader, we begin to see ‘ticketless entry’ show up to the party allowing event planners to manage attendee lists and registration through a mobile app or service, then leverage QR codes for quick, easy, and painless check-in.

The Rise of Social Media

Major social media networks arrived in the mid-2000s, revolutionizing the way businesses publicized events and communicated with attendees. Social media offers many advantages for event organizers. Social media enables enables event promotion through large pools of network users, targeted users, or even down to the nitty gritty #hashtag specific event campaigns.

Social media goes way beyond event promotion however and manifests itself in other ways leading up to and live at the event. With large-scale, interactive digital displays, companies can reap the benefits of social integration with customer engagement walls that grab attention and increase engagement. These larger than life installations push real-time, aggregate, attendee-generated content straight to the wall or other placements of activity streams throughout the event to create a sense of community and keep event attendees looped into what’s going on around the venue or show floor.

Let’s take it one step further with live content. Facebook recently released Facebook Live, a video streaming service that allows event organizers to broadcast presentations. Because their algorithm prioritizes live video over other posts, Facebook Live provides a new way to build event anticipation and showcase event highlights in order to increase reach.

The Adoption of Mobile Apps

By 2014, more than half of adults in the U.S. owned a smartphone, and event organizers began taking advantage of smartphone capabilities by adopting mobile event apps. Exemplifying what it means to be “mobile” in the event digitization era, mobile event apps provide attendees with a wholly transformed customer experience journey throughout the event lifecycle combining ‘paperless’, ‘social’, ‘cloud’, ‘interactive’ components bundled in a beautiful bow for the ultimate present… ‘metrics’.

  • Before the event, attendees can view agendas, make travel plans, and connect with others who plan to attend the event. This builds event anticipation and simplifies logistics. For organizers, it provides valuable insights into attendee interests and allows for targeted personalization.

  • During the event, attendees can engage with presentations through polls and surveys. Event materials, supporting content, and speaker bios can be accessed within the app, further reducing the need for printed materials.

  • After the event, organizers can review app metrics to gain valuable insights on engagement, to identify successful and unsuccessful presentations and activities, and to access valuable data on the interests of prospective clients for continued engagement and future conversions.

The Integration of Beacon Technology

The most recent advance in digital technology that’s amplified the mobile journey for events is mobile beacons. Combining mobile apps with beacon technology allows event organizers to offer each attendee a personal concierge, greeting attendees as they arrive, guiding them to places and presentations they’ve expressed interested in, and recommending additional activities based on their interests. Small, inconspicuous beacons provide a huge, noticeable difference in event engagement.

For organizers, mobile beacons provide a means of driving traffic to important areas and presentations during events. After events, organizers can review visitor engagement patterns that offer valuable insights for sales follow-ups and allow for strategic, data-driven planning of future events. It’s like a heatmap for your event.

The Importance of Digitization

Strategy&, a global strategy company, refers to digitization as a megatrend, asserting that the adoption of modern technologies is critical for organizations who want to “remain relevant in the digitized environment, achieve growth, and fend off competitive threats.”

Organizations that adopt new and exciting ways to incorporate digital initiatives into their overall event experience enjoy a number of benefits, including reduced costs, increased engagement, and improved conversions. Additionally, these technologies provide a better experience for attendees, making adoption a success all around. So… what are you waiting for?