7 Ways Digital Transformation is Changing the Event Experience

digitization in the events industry

The global events industry is growing more and more every year. And with that growth is the need for event technology that will enable planners to meet the needs and expectations of attendees.  Here are seven specific ways digitization is benefiting the event planning experience.

1. Paper Brochures

Who has ordered way more brochures, flyers or stickers from an online print shop just because they were cheap? If you just said, “I have”, you’re definitely not the only one. But you’re also probably familiar with seeing coffee tables or trash bins full of those print outs once attendees are done reading them.

Despite this, there’s still so much temptation to get a deal. The more print products you order, the lower the price per-piece. But think about this: for every kilogram of flyers, you produce 1.5kg of CO₂ emissions. Paper production includes wood as a resource, a large amount of water, transportation, printing, as well as the recycling process. And all of this for a few seconds we take to look at those paper products. Moreover, if and how long people look at flyers is difficult to measurable. So you might order thousands of flyers, brochures, stickers, but there is no evidence that this form of advertisement actually works.

This is where digitization comes into play. There are a countless number of simple and effective solutions for replacing flyers and brochures. With people now constantly on their phones and online, it’s easy to use an event app, onsite digital signage, email marketing, and social media to communicate with your audience. The benefit: it’s measurable, flexible and you don’t have to throw thousands of brochures out if there is a rebranding or change in schedule. Even the feedback forms you hand out on paper can be digitized and measured with just a few clicks. 

2. Connectivity & WiFi

At any event, there is usually a heavy reliance on WiFi to view event content and stay connected. So it goes without saying that WiFi at an event is a must-have, not a nice-to-have. Many digital applications at events rely on WiFi, such as event apps, attendee networking, product showcasings of exhibitors, and push notifications. 

To calculate your need for WiFi speed, it depends on the amount of attendees and devices that need access, and how heavily they are expected to use it. Also, keep your exhibitors in mind! If you have a tech area at your event, they will need WiFi to showcase their product. 

In terms of benefits to your organization, WiFi can also be used to advertise your brand or showcase a sponsor when people log on for access. 

3. Event app adoption

The word “app” is not yet naturally associated with the basic requirements of a business event. When people hear that word, they usually think of communication apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook, secondly of “leisure apps” such as gaming or dating apps.  Nonetheless, people are always on their smartphones so it’s a natural channel to take advantage of in achieving your event goals and creating a better event experience for attendees.  

Many planners worry about the adoption rate, i.e. the percentage of attendees using the event app. In particular, older attendees. But in our experience, people are curious! We see an average adoption rate of 70%, as most attendees can find something useful in an event app. It’s 100% for events where everything can only be found on the event app (e.g. event program). Adoption is also particularly high if the app is essential for interactive features such as live polls or if it contains beneficial content such as documents. 

4. Networking

Meeting people is difficult; few of us are naturally born networkers. That’s why meeting the right people and making the most with them is key to a successful event attendance.  With online educational formats available and cuts to travel budgets, business events have to fight for attendance more than ever before. Despite digital networks, face-to-face networking is still the #1 reason people attend events. Often it’s small things that hinder successful networking. Luckily, these are just as easy to overcome.

For instance, badges hang too low or the font is too small, the business cards don’t have photos on them or the event organizer doesn’t provide sufficient time and space for networking. Technology is here to help! Almost every professional has a LinkedIn profile, so ask new contacts to type in their name and connect immediately. 

An event app can help you with networking before, during and after an event. Just like LinkedIn, everyone has a profile where they fill out details related to their job and company. Attendees can scan the list before the event even starts. It helps them find the right people to talk to! Tools such as personal chat, group discussions, and appointment booking support the quest to make connections. For shy people, a digital message is a great icebreaker for a face-to-face meeting.

5. Hosting a digital event

Today, everything is digital! It’s THE thing to talk about! But there’s still a lot of bait-and-switching going on that really fails to live up to attendee expectations. Many events are advertised as “digital” or promotional content shows futuristic depictions of a blurry Macbook, a literal network of airy strings, everything in blue, etc. But when attendees actually attend the event, there are still a lot of old school ways of doing things – little paper stickers as badges, poor WiFi, and thick catalogs of exhibitor listings and programmes that are no longer up to date.

Digitalization is not necessarily complicated and expensive. Many tools are now available to help save costs, time, and impress your attendees. Digital elements need to be incorporated into the way the overall event experience is designed. Of course, not every single small event needs to overflow with flashy screens and the latest tech gimmicks. Keep your target group in mind and opt for simple but efficient solutions people WANT to use.

6. Event management tools

An overwhelming amount of event planners still are using Excel for their planning. But why?! It’s a one way street of information with different versions lying around on hard drives and doesn’t allow for collaboration. It’s a visual nightmare and usually leads to an overflow of data in several spreadsheets. 

Excel is incredibly flexible but when looking at tools to improve your workflow, there are many more efficient and easy-to-use options. And you don’t always have to get everything new. Identify areas for improvement and use integrations with tools you already work with. For instance, Slack integrates with lots of other tools such as Salesforce to make sure data flows seamlessly. Pick your tool, train your people, and stick with it – it will save you time and streamline your team efforts in the long run.

Last, but not least, invest in an event management tool. What makes them different from classical project management tools is that they integrate event-specific processes such as venue and hotel sourcing, registration, email and marketing, attendee communication, budgeting, and invoicing. They are highly efficient if you organize a large amount of events. You’ll be unlikely to find a provider that can do everything you need, so again: integration is key. 

7. Goodie Bags

At the Oscars, nominees receive a lavish gift bag. The gift bags are worth over $100,000 and include luxury travels, jewelry and beauty treatments. While those are clearly literally the Oscars of swag, smaller business events also have the opportunity to impress attendees with welcome/thank you gifts. The problem is that it’s usually all the same: pens and lighters, more pens, awful chocolates and sweets produced en masse and the odd tech gadget. 

In addition, the packaging is usually done by volunteers or interns. So swag bags not only get thrown into the trash shortly after attendees sort through them but they also take up a huge amount of time for your staff to organize.

Withstand the temptation to get a lot of low-quality things. Instead, invest in local, sustainable, high quality gifts to show your appreciation. You surely will see more benefit from that. Another important thing: purchase swag according to your target group.  Most importantly: Go digital! There are plenty of companies out there offering digital goodie bags. Within an app, attendees can choose which item they want to redeem – from digital copies of books, vouchers and tickets to physical t-shirts, which you go pick up onsite if you want one. Digital goodies bags allow for customisation – give different attendee group different goodies – and analytics, to offer more value to your attendees and sponsors.