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Tech trends in 2015 for Events and Meetings

Never before has technology advanced and transformed at such a pace as today. We live in an exciting time. New ideas, apps, solutions and hardware, that have amazed us in Sci-Fi movies just a few years ago, are popping up every day and becoming part of our reality. The MICE business of course is not exempt from this transformation.
Predictions in this fast moving environment are hard to make, but here at RTA we gathered the four biggest tech trends and transformations of 2015 that we believe will change the way we experience Meetings, Events, Exhibitions and Conventions in the future. These are processes you could already observe in the last years, depending on your business environment. Adventurous early adopters or rather traditionalists. One thing that can be said for sure is that many trends and technologies, which were only used by a small minority in the MICE sector, will become a standard in 2015.

1. Mobile Apps and Smartphone integration on Events

The most obvious trend. On events you see almost everyone handling a smartphone. The two requirements, spread and willingness to use, are met among the exhibitors, meeting planners and visitors. All big events and conferences are already offering specific apps. At the moment most of these apps focus on replacing existing traditional processes to make them more efficient. Paper event programs, maps of the venue, exhibition guides can be view and navigated on the app instead of carrying around a whole folder. Appointments are scheduled and synchronized with the app, surveys can be taken on the phone instead of distributing keypads or on paper sheets.
Social media networking is integrated in the app and direct alerts or announcements to the targeted audience can be sent with one click on the app. Exchanging business contacts and peer-to peer messaging becomes easier.
Mobile apps highly facilitate and augment the event experience and their potential is only being started to be used.

On big upcoming events like the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona or the IMEX in Frankfurt, you will see how real this trend already is. According to global surveys 92% of corporate event marketers are already using apps for their events.

Mobile apps, however can not only improve and replace established procedures, but can also add entirely new services and opportunities, as the next two trends show.

2. Geofencing might change our whole event experience

A trend that set off sedately in the last years, but now finally seems to experience its well-deserved breakthrough. Apps that use geo-fencing allow an administrator to set up triggers so when a smartphone or tablet enters (or exits) the boundaries defined by the administrator, a message is sent to the device. In the environment of an event or conference this trivial sounding technology offers and multiplicity of opportunities to enhance the experience for visitors and make communication and marketing much more efficient for exhibitors and planners. Geofencing can be achieved through GPS tracking, but much more interesting is the technology paired with Bluetooth beacons, that are strategically placed for example on exhibitor stands or at the passage to a new thematic area.
Nearly all major event app developers have already incorporated some kind of geofencing in their programs or plan to do so. Just to name a few of the sheer endless ways geofencing can be used on events and meetings:

– Automated and interactive product presentation on the visitor’s smartphone, when getting close to an exhibitors booth. These presentations can be personalized to the visitor by setting up profiles with interests and buying behavior in the event app (e.g. business or leisure tourism customers, interested in small groups or large groups travels etc.)

– Interactive navigation through the event venue with recommendations where to go according to the set preferences.

– Information about waiting times on exhibitors stands, restaurant queues or other facilities by measuring the amount of devices present in the respective area. Thereby waiting times can be drastically shortened and bottleneck avoided.

– Exhibitors can send notifications to targeted visitors when they have an activity or show at their stand to increase participation

The list could be continued for pages. But we don’t want to take away the fun of discovering some of the possibilities yourself at your next event.

With Apple recently having released very cost and energy efficient Bluetooth beacons for geofencing, the spread of this technology has passed the biggest barrier. To not frighten off users however, app developers, marketers and organizers have to be careful to ensure protection of data privacy and to not overwhelm customers with notifications, offers and information.

3. Analytics through mobile event apps becomes one of the most powerful tools for exhibitors and organizers

Event data management was used to be carried out before and especially after the event. Statistics about attendees, no-shows, drop-ins, closed deals, new contacts, product popularity are being made and analyzed. This precious information of course is also very helpful after the respective event in order to adapt for the next upcoming event, the next-years reunion or the general marketing. But imagine how great it would be to have all this information and even more data in real-time, put into-graphs, just a finger touch away on your smartphone while you are on your stand and wonder if you should change your schedule to meet more clients from Arabic countries or from USA, or if you should rather start to promote the Incentive trips to Valencia, then the Leisure holidays to Rome or if you are wondering if right now is a good moment to head over to this one interesting stand at the end of the hall without an appointment. With the mobile event apps, paired with the above mentioned geofencing all these decision can now be backed up with real-time data collected from the devices of all the visitors.
Some information is obtained through direct and active feedback of the attendees. This can happen by “liking” a product, a speaker or a show on social media through the event app or by attending in pollings or surveys interwoven for example in interactive product presentations or whenever geofencing registers that a client leaves a stand after a certain minimum dwelling time.
Other data is collected and conditioned by tracking attendees’ behavior and movements with geofencing or app tracking. Movement patterns, dwell times at stands, app usage. All this can give valuable information to organizers for example about how to avoid bottlenecks in the administration and at facilities. Is there a huge queue at the badge printing area, but the restaurant facilities are under-worked? Just quickly redistribute the service staff. Exhibitors will know on-site how much time potential customers spend on looking at which of their products. Attendees see which stand is currently less busy, so they can drop-in there, rather than visiting the overcrowded booth they might have just been heading to.
These analytic capabilities will make the whole event and meeting experience much smoother, efficient and rewarding for everyone involved.

4. Breaking the language barrier – automatic, real-time translation software become suitable for business use

Globalization is no a trend, it defines our century. With all the advantages and chances, there come the barriers. Even the biggest cultural differences in the business world can be smoothed by a respectful and open-minded interaction. Languages however are a barrier that cannot be smiled away. Interpreters are an established solution for this problem of course. But usually too expensive and inflexible in the environment of a fair like the IMEX for example. In 90% of the cases your will be perfectly fine with your English, but there might be these two business men from the Oman, with a highly interesting portfolio…and they just don’t speak English.

Google Translate, the free web-based translation tool, was released in 2007 and since then has made huge improvements in the quality of the translations. Admittedly you will hardly encounter any translation that surpasses the length of two sentences that is done completely without grammatical or idiomatic mistakes.

Developers are optimistic to achieve this one day and looking at the way computing power and big data analysis – the two critical factors to better automated translations – are improving, it seems quite a realistic dream.
However, today already the quality of the computer based translation is sufficient for daily and even business use. Usually it is enough to understand the meaning without getting all the finesses – and definitely better than understanding nothing.

Apart from the quality of the translations, app developers in 2015 mainly focus on the usability and haptic of the tools. Not the partly messed up translations, but the cumbersome handlings of the apps prevented their use in the fast moving and hectic environment of a meeting.

WorldLens is a free app, soon to be integrated in Google Translate, which allows real-time augmented reality translations. With the use of the smartphone camera, the app translates signs, slides, menus in multiple languages, by simply pointing your phone at the text.

Voice-to-voice translation apps such as Translate Voice Free and Jibbigo are now available and work surprisingly well. Google Translate also strongly improved the usability in this field, allowing full conversations without having to touch the phone anymore.

Microsoft Skype is working to integrate a real time two-way translator for video conferences.

With these tools getting better and better every day, the tower of Babylon problem might soon become one of the past.

RTA is excited to see where this is all going. We are consequently observing and following the latest developments in the MICE business and adopt our offers to keep up with the pace the technology is moving, to be always able to provide you the best experience at your meeting and events. Our partners in the IT and multimedia sector are carefully selected and always eager to advise you about the best way to improve your Incentives, Meetings and Events with the latest cutting-edge technology and solutions for your requirements.

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