Nov 03, 2017 by Ellie Andrews

When Not to Use Event Tech for Your Guests

Event technology is an impressive and important tool that can make an unforgettable event for guests – but it’s not always a silver bullet.

There are a thousand and ten ways to use technology within your event. But equally important as incorporating technology in your event is understanding when not to introduce tech.

Usually, technology is crucial for an event planners’ organization and management, and that tends to be a constant from event to event. There’s seldom a benefit to moving back to paper guest lists once you have your data neatly organized in the cloud.

But that’s not always the case for the tech that guests interact with during the event itself.

One of the greatest event tech faux pas is incorrect need: the assumption that technology sprinkled around your event will do something, by virtue of just being ‘high-tech’, that it will not. Just as with any other piece of your event’s puzzle, event tech for guests needs proper evaluation and intention.

So before introducing technology for your guests’ consumption into your event, ask yourself these three questions:

Will the attendees really understand and appreciate a sophisticated digital experience?

First and foremost, always consider who will be attending the event.

As the recently-republished Event Tech Bible says, “Not all attendees are created equal. Some audiences do not use technology outside of their personal sphere and are not interested in doing so. Therefore running a technology program for such audiences would represent an unsuccessful tactic to begin with.”

If your demographic ranges on the younger side, VR or a social media wall would probably be successful, because that audience does use technology regularly outside of their “personal sphere”, and frequently is exposed to new digital experiences. By contrast, if you’re planning a conference for a heavily-offline industry audience, you might well find more success in clever offline experiential programming.

Take it from Jens Oliver Mayer, one of the key speakers at an event tech conference called TIDE, who said that “planners should put their attendees’ needs and aspirations first, then determine how to use technology to create moments that add value to their lives.”

Sometimes it can be as simple as using a guest list app that keeps check-in lines short to make it feel sophisticated and smart for guests.

Does this technology tie into the core purpose of your event beyond its “wow” factor?

Your competitors used iPad kiosks last month. You read online that guests demand personalized apps for events now. You know “VR is huge right now”.

Entertaining your guests is very important – and to an extent, that can be a technology’s function in itself. But technology for the sake of technology, for its wow factor, can easily fall out of sync with the rest of your event. A raised eyebrow does not necessarily ensure engagement, ROI, nor convenience.

Why do you need an area for Virtual Reality? Is it an activity between lectures, or would it distract from the main attractions? Is it a way to elevate the potential of the venue you’re in, or would it restrict easy circulation? And, of course, how would your audience feel about it?

It’s not the case that every modern event needs something high-tech to be successful or trendy. It should always produce value and clarity, so don’t be afraid to ask the tough “why” questions.

Does the technology require special skills to operate or enjoy?

Having 10 drones that livestream the event as guests operate them is all very impressive, until you spot that only half the guests know how to operate a drone handset, and the other drones are stuck in the venue lighting.

Planners should put their attendees’ needs and aspirations first, then determine how to use technology to create moments that add value to their lives.

Consider the level of expertise a certain technology might require, and what balance of technical and non-technical audience members you need to make it successful. Contracting out a specialist to run the technology and instruct guests is perfectly fine; but placing a handful of VR sets on a table with no instructions would likely lead to an unoccupied table.

Even in the “2017 Preview: Emerging Event Tech You Should Know About“, vice president of creative technology at Sparks Jamie Barlow shows us that it is the quality of tech use and audience involvement that is important, not always the innovation of it:

“Being able to see the right connection between some type of technology execution and the message that’s being told is 10 times more powerful than having a new technology that is just purely interesting because it’s new.”

A successful event with fulfilled and entertained guests is up to you to determine the best way to accomplish. Sometimes, the newest, most innovative technology for guests is not always what you (or they) need, and it’s better to keep your tech behind the scenes.

Of course, this is all on a sliding scale as event tech for guests advances, and what is innovative today becomes commonplace a few years from now. The key criteria is always the same though: does it meaningfully benefit both your guests and event goal?

If so, use it. If not, there are many more tools waiting in your toolkit.