Confex 2014: Is tech innovating the events industry?

After attending the panel on Academia meets Industry I met up with Irina from the MICE blog and we went along to listen to the Leaders Briefing: the new rules of event innovation panel.

This talk was chaired by Miguel Neve (Senior Online Community Manager for IMEX Group) and the panel was made up of; Julius Solairs (Founder & Blogger at Event Manager Blog), Jez Paxman (Planning Director at Live Union), William Thomson (Event Consultant & Blogger at Gallus Events) and Jonathan Bradshaw (CEO of the Meetology Group).

This was quite an interesting talk that looked at event tech and innovation. I’ve not engaged that much with the development of the technology area in events, due to the fact it isn’t an area that is often discussed on my courses and because the events i’ve worked on haven’t used anything other than the basics. I’m not sure if that is a common experience that most event students have had?

L-R: Miguel Neve, Julius Solairs, Jez Paxman, William Thomson & John Bradshaw (credit: @RRV_Raquel

It was great to hear the different opinions for the four panelists as they had some very different views on certain topics. Whilst Jez Paxamn described this as the most exciting time to be working in the events industry – because we’re going from just sharing information to now sharing ideas and technology is enabling that – William Thomson stated that there is NO innovation in the conference and exhibition area of the industry. He also said that we need to be thinking of grand ideas and be making events much better and not sticking to things just because that is how they have always been done. Both William and Julius Solairs noted that there is a big difference between people who are embracing innovation and those who aren’t, along with the idea that events need to look at how tech can add value to events.

Julius made a very interesting point about how it is too easy to blame the lack of technology at events on the event professionals, whereas he thinks technology companies should be showing how their technology will give benefits to the event organisers. John Bradshaw adding an interesting discussion point in that current event professionals outsource catering to people who hold those skills, so could that be something that happens with event technology i.e. calling in people with that knowledge and skill?

However they all agreed that it was very difficult to talk about technology and innovation when simple tech such as wifi is still not a ‘normal’ element of all events, this led to the best quote of the talk from Julius “If you take wifi away from me, it is the same as taking away the toilets from events“.

When asked to provide one example of technology or innovation that each panelist would recommend they all mentioned something which gives back to the attendees or event organisers making aspects simpler, my favourite were William’s Speakers Score & Julius’s recommendation of throw mic such as the Catch-box.

Whilst it was an interesting talk there wasn’t any definitive points about the new rules for innovation, the only point that everyone agreed on was the fact to use any tech you needed to make sure it was relevant to the goals of the event & to what the attendees would be expecting.

I think the area of event technology will be interesting to see develop into areas of the events industry that don’t have such a focus on it such as weddings and large outdoor events such as concerts. There is obviously a need to make sure event organisers don’t just think as tech as a small secondary element but incorporate it from the very beginning.

Do you think technology and innovation are so directly linked? Is the events industry scared to use tech because it adds another step and focus into the planning stage, or do we just not know enough about it? 
  • williamevents

    Nice write up guys and I think you captured the points that we all wanted to get across. I think one was missing though: that you should try out as much technology as you can, You just never know if might add a lot to your event and maybe save you time in the planning process.

  • Well written Caitlin. I believe you signalled a great problem in your post, the fact students are completely left unaware of the technology developments the event industry is undergoing.

    Million of dollars of investment are being poured in 900+ startups that are creating exciting changes for a very traditional industry.

    It is a great shame the academia is not embracing such change and that students who should be at the forefront of this movement are being taught what was relevant 15 years ago. I know some courses are doing an excellent job in promoting tech knowledge but the overall research reach is somewhat depressing.

  • Thanks very much William, that’s a very good point about never knowing what technology will help add ‘something’ to the event.
    The panel was interesting in seeing the differences in opinions but overall I think everyone was in agreement that the most important tech to use are ones that fit in with the events aims, and improve the experiences for the attendees and event planners.
    Good Luck with Tech Fest 2014

  • Thanks for the overview, I missed this session! I did catch a talk around tech within conferencing and I think I drew a similar conclusion that there was some interesting discussion but there weren’t many examples of what people are doing right now.

    It’s really useful to know what the possibilities are but I would have loved to have seen some more case studies on how organisers are already making technology work for them – I suppose that could be giving too much away!

  • It does seem strange that event courses are not as up to date with the events industry as they claim to be. I think it would be incredible and really interesting to learn more about the tech coming into events & I am defiantly going to be paying more attention to this area! Thanks for the interesting discussions in the panel!

  • That is a good point Sam, it would be great to hear of more examples of tech being used by organisers – hopefully this will start to happen with the progression of tech in events! It is great to hear that another talk came up with similar points, obviously shows event technology can be used across the whole industry!

  • Nice sum up! When it comes to wifi at events, this picture depicts it the best.

  • Ha, thanks Juraj I think that pictures is pretty funny! I’m glad you liked the post!