Networking Technology for conferences and events is changing at speed of light. Over the past decade, we have witnessed how the transformational power of technology has revolutionised many industries, from commerce to education and leisure. As a result, the events industry is not an exception. In recent years a series of new trends have emerged proving that technology can improve the quality of networking events and, as a result, bring higher returns on investment.
One of those trends refers to how individuals attending an event are increasingly becoming perceived as active and engaged participants. Rather than as mere receptive audiences. People no longer attend events for the sake of attending or networking: they want to become an active part of them and have more control over their experience. The widespread availability of mobile devices and the adoption of social media for business purposes are one of the main reasons behind this qualitative change. Gamification is another key trend that has the potential to transform the way we think about and organise events.
Event planners have begun to realise the power that games have when it comes to motivating and engaging people. Event and conference mobile apps are part of the most popular ways of gamifying an event and of incentivising productive interactions. Lastly, digitalisation is playing a crucial role in shaping the way we produce and consume large amounts of information. There is a growing awareness about the possibilities that digital technologies can offer to events management, with a focus on enabling meaningful interactions and helping discover opportunities for collaboration. Below we discuss some examples of how to use technology for networking at exhibitions, conferences and events to benefit both event organisers and attendees.
Networking technology can provide a useful platform that makes event planning more efficient, less time consuming, and more engaging. Therefore, for the majority of event planners, it has become common practice to focus on the social aspect of things, using social networks to promote an event, interact with participants to create a sense of community, get a dialogue going, and build enthusiasm before the actual event. Big data can also be used to improve the effectiveness of networking at events. Information collected through social media profiles can be used to target the interests of participants and create activities based on common interests.
Use big data to let attendees set up and edit profiles before the event, and so find participants with similar interests, making face-to-face interaction easier and less awkward. Other event organisers are already experimenting with technologies like iBeacons, Bluetooth, and NFC in an attempt to make a more efficient use of big data. In addition, some typical applications include badge collection, surveys, digital vouchers, and the delivery of push notifications. These are all especially relevant ways of using networking technology at events to deliver a targeted experience and to transform interactions by giving them a personalised and meaningful edge.
The fact that event attendees are now considered active participants has put additional demands on organisers. Consequently, many planners have been focusing on architecting memorable experiences. Instead of simple events that can be ticked off a calendar. Some emerging trends with regards to this new emphasis on the experiential side of events include:
Use wearables e.g. as a wayfinding tool, to make check-in faster and easier, or to quickly arrange meetings with other participants.
Smart conference badges rely on RFID technology to collect and store vital information about attendees. Helping to keep track of things like who they interacted with. Or which sessions they attended, or which vendor booths they visited. As a result, event organisers can also use the data collected by smart badges to generate analytics for subsequent follow-up.
Digital business cards are another smart application of networking technology at events. These cards allow attendees to exchange and manage contact information seamlessly and to take advantage of “matching opportunities”. Furthermore, organisers can use them to build digital directories based on common interests or other relevant information.
Give participants the chance to get online using their social network logins. This puts a wealth of useful data at the fingertips of event organisers. This data could include:
Some organisers are already using in dedicated event apps that offer seamless communication opportunities between participants (such as app messaging tools or proximity networking apps) and between speakers and attendees, such as apps that filter the most relevant questions during Q&A sessions.