Liesl Venter looks at some of the meetings technology trends to look out for in 2017.
Fast seems hardly an apt description for the rate technology is changing at nowadays. Yet, change is increasingly the only constant when it comes to technology.
“Keeping up is not easy,” says Adriaan Liebetrau, former ceo of Saaci. “But not keeping up means being left behind and left out.”
Bigger, faster and better have become the order of the day. Increased connectivity and automation, apps that can do the near impossible have become essential as technology continues to embed in the hearts and lives of people.
The MICE industry is no different, says Jannine Adams of Amadeus. “Technology is becoming increasingly important in the MICE sector in South Africa and across the world,” she says.
What is trending?
According to international meetings technology expert, Corbin Ball, there are seven top trends for 2017 to look out for. They are:
- Social media channels targeting events with a focus on video and live streaming.
- Data analytics enhancing attendee experience and improving events.
- Software integration tools becoming the answer as a beginning-to-end event-planning software solution.
- Marketing automation finally incorporating events.
- Engagement becoming an increasingly key component to events.
- Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) starting to make headway at events.
- Facial recognition, biometrics and sentiment analysis will be used to measure attendees’ mood, engagement and demographics.
According to Liebetrau, not all of these and other technology trends are always applicable to the South African environment immediately.
“The reality is, as an industry, we don’t move fast when it comes to technology. We definitely have a wait-and-see approach locally and only start implementing when we see it being successful elsewhere in the world,” he says.
One such area, says Liebetrau, is that of VR and AR, which is definitely increasing around the world, yet still very far from actually becoming a common feature locally.
While companies are starting to incorporate these elements at exhibitions, primarily as part of their stands, they are not gaining ground nearly as fast as in the US and Europe.
“I recently attended a conference in London and was surprised at how they were using AR and VR as selling tools. Brochures are no longer printed and there is very little paper available. We still have a long way to go locally, but what is encouraging is the fact that we are increasingly integrating technology into our events and meetings sector.”
Ball says AR and VR are trends that will continue to be highlighted annually as it will take years to fully develop these advances, but with billions of dollars being spent by technology firms such as Google and Microsoft, it is inevitable that they will proliferate at events and exhibitions, conferences and meetings.
The increased use of data analytics to enhance experiences and improve events is definitely one trend that is being seen in South Africa as well, says Liebetrau.
“Doing things better and more efficiently is becoming increasingly important and technology is offering a very real way of doing just that,” he says. “There is a definite understanding in the local meetings sector of the importance of innovation and doing things differently and delivering experiences unlike before.”
One trend they have seen emerge, says Adams, is the need or desire for smart apps. “Check My Trip has, for example, become a very popular app for MICE travellers. Generation Y delegates love the fact that they can share their itinerary on Facebook or other social media, while delegates from every generation enjoy the fact that they can either share their trip through messaging platforms such as Whatsapp,” she says. “The itinerary can also be saved quickly from the app on to the delegate’s Outlook calendar. And, if the meeting or conference runs late, delegates can quickly and easily check into their flight from the boardroom through the app. This kind of convenience is what MICE travellers today are looking for.”
Convenience, says Ball, is exactly what meetings technology increasingly has to deliver. It is with this in mind that building a beginning-to-end event-planning software platform to meet a wide range of needs has gained traction. At the same time a plethora of engagement tools is working into events in a big way and will transform the impact and power of face-to-face meetings in very substantial ways.
The ROI of an engaged attendee is simple: attendees who are emotionally involved/committed get more out of the event. They also rate the event more highly.