Event Management & Data

From Zero to One: How to Plan Your First Smart Event

Victoria Rudi
November 15, 2017

Table of Contents

If you want to plan and run a smart event, you must understand how to correctly integrate event technology into the experience of your attendees.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? After all, that’s what you’re already doing, isn’t it? Not so fast …

Have you ever seen the movie Her?

It’s a skillful construction of romantic relationships between humans and artificial intelligence, where the analog and the digital merge. What’s striking about this movie is observing the dichotomy between an advanced tech society and the absence of any gadgets whatsoever. The interaction with technology seems fluid and natural.

In the movie, you won’t see people walking on the street and compulsively checking their phones. Technology is nowhere, yet it’s everywhere, deeply rooted in both the social construct and the human everyday life.

Oddly enough, there’s a curious affinity between the constantly evolving technology and the experience of our attendees.

By adopting new event technology, we tend to increase the complexity of our events. Subsequently, we end up asking for more digital engagement from our attendees. Whether it’s to use beacons to interact with the environment or constantly check push notifications, we try to harness “real-time participation,” while depriving our audience from a nondisruptive event experience.

As Deanna Ting, hospitality editor at Skift, argues, “Tech companies need to get out of the lab and test their products in the real world, meeting planners say. New technologies, too, shouldn’t hit you over the head but ideally work in the background, and be engaging for attendees.”

Each time we hold an event, we are asking the attendees to engage with others or with the event itself through the digital layer. This may come as a distraction. We need a smarter approach.

What is a smart event?

Drawing the comparison between a smart city and a smart event, we identify the following similarity: A seamless and nondisruptive integration of technology with the environment.

When attending a smart event, people don’t feel forced to use technology or different apps to navigate their own experience. On the contrary, the interaction with the event technology and the environment feels natural and easy to explore.

In other words, you don’t have to figure out how to make your guests download the event app or to use the event platform.  Planning a smart event equals designing a friendly context in which your attendees will engage with the digital layer without feeling forced to do it.

Planning a smart event it’s about taking great care of the needs and the habits of your attendees. You should integrate wisely the digital layer in their onsite experience. Just like the movie Her, your guests shouldn’t feel as if their experience is facilitated exclusively by the app or the event platform.

What are the features of a smart event?

Feature #1. Massive value. A smart event is all about using the apps or platform to ease the interaction of your audience with the environment itself. You must know what your reasons are for using the event technology and how this technology can add incredible value to your attendees.

Feature #2. Painless integration of technology. When planning a smart event, the use of technology should strengthen the attendee experience without too many disruptions.

Feature #3. Inclusivity. A smart event involves the use of apps and platforms that are accessible to everyone.

Feature #4. Attendee-centric. We usually employ technology to meet our goals. However, in the case of a smart event, everything revolves around the attendees’ needs and interests.

Feature #5. Safe infrastructure. The use of technology involves a series of digital safety risks. A smart event must provide a safe atmosphere for everyone.

So why should you plan a smart event instead of regular one?

The number of tech solutions and features is constantly increasing, each day becoming more complex and demanding. Considering this, we often forget about the attendee experience, and instead push the digital experience as much as possible.

If not executed wisely, this can disrupt the added value events can provide. Focus on your attendees and don’t let technology muddle their event experience. Instead, use it to enhance your audience’s well-being.

How to plan a smart event

Step #1. Map the interaction between your attendees and the event technology

Make sure that for every tech use context you’ll design, there’s some sort of “quick win” for your attendees. The use of technology at your smart event shouldn’t be focused on just your needs. It must add value to your attendees and help them have a memorable experience. For example, if you want to gamify an activity for your attendees so that you can gather more information about their behavior, think about the added value this decision can provide.

Instead of gamifying the use of the event hashtag on social media, you could gamify a learning experience. Think about setting up a gamified dynamic that would help your attendees better assimilate the event content. Planning a smart event equals provide a win-win situation. Use technology to deliver massive value to your attendees, while at the same time extracting the results you want to achieve.

Step #2. Provide reasonable contexts

Making people download your event app only to “stay connected” and check the activity feed is not the best way to increase engagement. People are already overloaded with information. They don’t need another app that will throw even more piles information at them … Nor an app that will nag them to actively participate in the digital discussion. If anything, that will make them want to use the app even less.

A smart event revolves around designing friendly contexts in which it will feel natural for attendees to use the mobile app. For example, more and more people prefer to text their questions than use the mic. A reasonable context for the use of technology is to offer attendees the choice of participating in the Q&A session through the app. It’s easy, it’s not disrupting their habits, and it’s also a safer space.

Step #3. Ask less from your attendees

The more steps the attendees must take to interact with the event technology, the greater the chances are that they’ll lose interest in using it. Make sure the event app or platform you adopted is user-friendly and interactive. Apart from that, decrease the number of times the attendees will need to access the event app. Make sure you won’t disrupt their experience by asking them to engage with the event environment through an app or platform only.

Step #4. Help your audience interact with the event technology

Your attendees aren’t bound to know how to use the event app or platform. Although we live in a tech-savvy society, a smart event will always provide assistance in the use of technology. Make sure to create a safe environment for your attendees in which they won’t feel abandoned in the face of the new digital demands for a successful navigation through the event.

Final thoughts

Planning a smart event isn’t just about using technology wisely—it’s also about designing a digital experience that emphasizes attendees’ interests and needs. It’s wrong to evaluate the success of your event by summing up the number of event app downloads, for example. Instead, we should focus on providing the natural and undisrupted experience that can add massive value to our attendees. That’s why we must design events where technology works in the background, being less intrusive.

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Victoria Rudi
Senior Content Specialist
With a Master’s degree in Event Management and a keen follower of SaaS technologies, Victoria is an event content master, producing insightful and valuable for Eventtia’s blog and beyond

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