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How will real-time data and analytics change how we organise and attend events?


The events industry has always adapted to new technology early. Holograms, laser light technology, beacon and geo-location based activity, live polling and several other innovations have all been trialled, tested and used en masse with audiences at events.

Creating a memorable experience that enthrals and gets people talking has long been the mainstay of the industry. Remember when 2Pac came back to life at Coachella back in 2012 via hologram?

However, beyond the lights and show spectacle, the proliferation of software as service (SaaS) technology, applications and data analytics is leading a silent revolution in events.

This is a revolution that is enabling organisations of all sizes deliver the best experience and increased efficiency, levelling the playing field between big and small budgets and increasing engagement amongst all stakeholders.

As more information goes online, real-time data and analytics is redefining experience and engagement across events of all shapes and sizes.

A recent study by American Express on the meetings and events industry noted that technologies provide planners with greater opportunities to increase engagement and generate and capture real-time feedback; while attendees gain a richer and more connected experience throughout the event life cycle.

So how will real-time and data analytics impact businesses, event organisers and attendees?

More immediate actions

Imagine organisers of a three-day food festival getting to know a visitor’s planned route around the event, their stall and purchase preferences, ‘must-do’ lists and their social media engagement real-time.

Organisers then have the ability to tailor event elements for the next day based on current observations – instead of having to wait until post event to debrief and analyse and only use insights at the next event.

DoubleDutch, a US-based global leader in events applications, recently launched a first-of-its-kind analytics platform that generates data about the event content and engagement as it is happening, rather than post-mortem, once it is over.

It’s only a matter of time before others follow suit with similar market tailored offerings. 

Big data style analytics helps organisers generate the most up-to-date reports and tailor experiences based on accurate understanding of various performance parameters. Missed opportunities will be reduced and operational efficiencies will increase.  

Evolved planning, creative and design roles

Previously, especially in the case of big events, planning, creative and design roles usually ended at the start of the event when it moves into execution phase.

With real-time data and analytics, planners and creatives are taking a more active role in the execution and through the course of the event. Senior management will be more involved in key decisions through the event as well. 

Last year, W Hotels in New York City offered a “Social Media Wedding Concierge” to guests booking the venue. For US $3,000, the concierge would create hashtags, live tweet the wedding, upload pictures to Pinterest and Instagram and perform a range of other functions.

Similarly, on a business front, the American Express study says that meeting apps are leading the charge as the best way to engage delegates and are considered essential for scheduling meetings.

As conversations take place real-time across many other tech-progressive industries, everyone involved in events will work together more cohesively right through different experience touchpoints.

Better consumer context

Marriott recently tested beacon technology in 14 hotels, becoming the first hospitality brand to use the low-cost transmitters that offer indoor positioning through Wi-Fi and allow companies to offer more personal experiences with consumer context.

Shazam will use it to offer personalised song recommendations, Virgin Atlantic uses it to send its Heathrow passengers information on phones, and Rolls-Royce uses it to give museum goers multi-sensory experiences.

Technologies such as Bluetooth and iBeacons will help event and exhibition organisers add value to the event experience.

In addition to other tools such as event navigation apps, gamification elements (like Kia’s event app for the Australian Open Tennis) and targeted marketing activities, organisers can offer personalised experiences that deliver better value to attendees.

Broadcast messaging will give way to personalised content tailored to the individual’s experience.  

In spite of the event industry’s early adoption to new technologies, it has fallen back where real-time and data analysis is concerned – especially when compared to retail, travel and leisure.

But as the role of planning, executing and experiencing events becomes more democratised and cost effective, we can expect to see it leading the way yet again. The power is now with the people.

Lauren Hall is the co-founder and CEO of iVvy, an award winning events and hospitality tech company. Lauren has successfully built multiple companies from start-up stage through to financial and strategic exit – in Australia and her home country of South Africa.