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Why engagement won’t be enough in 2019

Why engagement won’t be enough in 2019

I was on a flight from Barcelona to London recently and found myself contemplating the predicament event organisers face today when it comes to the use of technology. The reason for my trip was to attend an industry trade show at which our company was exhibiting. These shows are a good way to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry and to that end, I managed to find some time to attend some of the keynote speeches.

It didn’t take long to notice a recurring theme.

Time and time again keynote speakers and exhibiting vendors spoke passionately about one central objective: engagement. Event audiences in the past were merely passive spectators, so the argument goes. But today, with sophisticated technology available at our fingertips, we need to engage attendees. Apps, slide sharing software and passive engagement technologies are the instruments PCOs have at their disposal to boost engagement. And the client expectation is to have some guidance as to which technologies to pack into their event in order to maximise the number of interactions.

But has the industry lost its way in its quest for engagement?

Event organisers naturally want good outcomes for their clients. And there is huge pressure for organisers to understand the technology landscape, which is littered with thousands of event apps – some encompassing turnkey engagement solutions, others offering very specific applications. The problem is that at any event there are often several different apps, requiring attendees to scroll through digital distribution platforms and then search within an app for very specific information. While you could argue this is engagement, you could equally say it’s a distraction. And an unnecessary one. So how can event professionals embrace technology effectively into their events?

Build a vision for your event. The technology will follow.

If 2018 was the year of engagement, I believe 2019 will be the year of immersion. My own background is communications and marketing. At the heart of my profession is good story-telling. Any successful brand will be able to communicate its values clearly and succinctly to maintain its relevance and vitality in our fast-moving world. In the same way, events need to tell a story, and if we want real engagement at the emotional level, events will need to convey a consistent and coherent set of values at each step of the planning process.

Why is your event taking place in this location? How are your speakers and performances relevant to the overarching message you are trying to convey? How are you taking into account your audiences specific needs and do you have a diversity policy to cater for the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of your audience?

As the plane landed at Heathrow, I concluded that to overcome the technology predicament, these are the kinds of questions that need to be addressed at the planning stage. If organisers can do this, they will be well-placed later down the line. Once a logical sequence of events has been planned with an examination of the demographics of the audience, event organisers will be well placed to seek out technologies from suppliers who share their values and are therefore able to make an immersive and transformative event. Make sense of the event. Turn it into a journey. And show the audience you have thought about them. Then you will have an immersive journey that people will remember.

This article first appeared in Event Industry News

Kim Ludvigsen

With an engineering and business degree, I have worked in the financial industry and with start-ups for over 25 years. However, I have always had a keen interest in languages. My mother tongue Danish is only spoken by 5 million people, so when I after high school moved to Switzerland, I had to expand my language command. I discovered that with a positive attitude and a bit of effort, I could learn a new language in two months and today I speak seven actively.

While working for Swiss Post 2004-2010, I sometimes used interpreting and I was very surprised how old-fashioned the underlying technology was. A few years later I met with my old colleague Peter Frei, and together we picked up the idea of developing a remote interpreting platform, using browser-based software and mobile apps. A team of competent language and software specialist was quickly assembled, and by the end of 2014, a prototype developed and Interprefy incorporated.

I quickly discovered that the technology we started developing turned out to be quite controversial, or to use a modern Venture Capital expression "disruptive", meaning that is has the potential to radically transform an entire industry.

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