I often ask people which invention they think most impacted humanity to date. There are several great answers to this question, but one that particularly stands out for me is the printing press. Its invention allowed knowledge to be replicated and shared at a scale never seen before, much like the internet did when it was invented a couple of decades ago.
The reason I find it so significant is that one of the main things that separates humans from animals, and has allowed our species to take over this planet, is collective learning. Our ability to preserve knowledge, share it with each other, and pass it along from generation to generation resulted from the development of language, signs, writing, media, and other communication tools.
With each evolution, everything around us is impacted. Currently, the traditional role of brand experiences, exhibitions, and conferences is being reshaped by innovations in digital technology. Digital can fill in for live physical experiences only to an extent, as the depth and impact of face-to-face human interaction is unmatchable. Yet, change is happening and events are increasingly becoming digitized. In order to better understand the impact, we first must examine digital disruption as a whole, so we can determine how to use it to our advantage.
Digital technology has made people’s lives easier, but the exponential speed of innovation is also making it increasingly difficult to keep up. We are inundated with content on a daily basis, making it harder for us to focus on what really matters.
This is making audiences more demanding, time-poor, and fragmented. Sophisticated audiences have higher expectations for content and experiences, but have less time than ever — so marketers must be efficient. We also have multiple generations engaging at the same time, each with different needs and expectations.
How does this impact brand experiences? To start, our audiences have easier access to information and knowledge. Whereas conferences used to be the only place to go to learn about what’s new and next, the information you can get on-site is now mostly available online, and immersive and interactive technologies are blurring the lines between offline and online experiences.
Digital has also made it easier to connect and engage with other people online. Events are experiencing competition from social networking sites, digital trade media, and other specialized online communities. It is also much easier for people to create and distribute content, which means not only an overload of content, but also that offline experiences are losing the monopoly on sharing and learning.
What we ultimately realize is that digital has turned the media, content, and marketing industry on its head, giving more control to the audience. In order to connect with their audiences in a meaningful way, brands must truly create something different, engaging, and valuable.
Brand experiences have traditionally occupied a critical role in creating valuable connections between us. So what can event technology bring to the table?
To start, efficiency. Today, no one wants to go home and tediously comb through a bag of business cards and brochures — but they still want those connections and insights. Digital and event technology can make this process more efficient and improve the quality of the experience, and the quality of these connections, more so than in the past.
Second, personalization. By tapping into digital and tailoring a customized engagement journey for the audience, we make interactions faster and easier, ultimately improving customer satisfaction, branding effectiveness, and sales conversion.
Finally, performance. By facilitating more relevant connections, brands can build strong loyalty and relationships. Sponsors and exhibitors engage with more targeted audiences, which in turn leads to higher conversion rates and a maximized return on investment. What’s more, future events and products can further be improved thanks to better information and audience insights.
We are all unique, what we do is unique, and our brands are unique. There is no cookie-cutter solution for leveraging event tech in the exhibition world, but it is important to realize that we don’t need to be highly technical in order to come up with new, innovative solutions powered by technology. All that is needed is a clear understanding of the problem we want to solve and a design thinking mindset — plus the confidence to try out new things and embrace evolution.
Want more? Check out these additional perspectives on digital and event technology.