EventTech 2016's Five Big Themes and the Single Question That Blew Everyone's Minds

The must know takeaways and talking points from this year's EventTech conference by Event Marketer.

The 2016 edition of EventTech, the three-day conference created by Event Marketer, has recently wrapped. Each year, EventTech represents our industry’s biggest and best opportunity to network with brands, vendors, and agencies alike, present our thinking, perform research for the next edition of our popular Event Technology Landscape, and—most importantly—get a first hand feel of the evolving and growing pulse of the overall world of experiential marketing.

Here are the most important learnings we took away from EventTech 2016.

Measurement Wins the Iron Throne

Each year, EventTech illuminates the singular, dominate technology-enabled focus of our industry. For the past few years, social media was the darling of the event. In 2016, we saw the dominant focus evolve to a new point of emphasis: measurement.

When our client, IBM, took the stage, Colleen Bisconti, vice president for all of IBM’s global conferences and events, informed the audience that at IBM, events are their second biggest marketing spend. Yet, critical to their sales funnel, 58% of the new business that IBM closes is touched by one of their events. Ms. Bisconti’s ability to reference these stats were, to many attendees, a point of envy.

This focus was reinforced by the findings of new research produced by the Event Marketing Institute (EMI) and Cvent on how B2B marketers are using technology across their “entire event ecosystem.” EMI’s research showed that, when asked about forward-looking technology-based innovation, event marketers overwhelmingly responded that they wanted enchanted data and analytics.

EMI further explored how event marketers will use their data. The research showed that event marketers priorities were to merge their data with their CRM, and to measure attendee engagement across their journey while quantifying brand lift and the impact of their key messages.

Throughout EventTech 2016, the conversations about data and measurement remained center stage. On the data front, we saw powerful examples like Spotify’s data-driven storytelling at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Lexus’s guide to data-driven events through their Pop-Up Concert Series powered by Pandora, and IBM’s unpacking of their data-driven strategy for their first “cognitive event,” World of Watson.

Additionally, while capturing and aggregating data is critical, the post-event assessments are based on an event marketer’s ability to analyze and measure their impact. In this case, EventTech 2016 profiled the best tools for measuring the ROI of mobile tours, measuring the performance of an activation’s staff performance, and for measuring the impact an event has on a sales pipeline.

Together, data, tools, and measurement, ultimately drive the key needs of event marketers in 2017 with the end goal of proving ROI and driving strategic planning for future events.

The (Other) Big Themes of EventTech 2016

As all event marketers know well, the rate of change for event technology is accelerating. Outside of measurement, we have identified these as EventTech’s other four key areas of exploration and discussion:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Drives Personalized Experiences

Across all industries, AI has moved into the mainstream. From case studies, like how IBM’s World of Watson uses AI-based technologies to create “unique experiences” for each of their 15,000 attendees, to thought provoking ventures into event-based AI’s code of ethics and legal infrastructures, artificial intelligence is now being adopted by event marketers as we reimagine our attendees’ individualized journeys.

2. Alternative Interfaces Capture Imaginations

With multiple groups showcasing their work using augmented reality and virtual reality devices such as Microsoft Hololens, the world of mixed reality came to the forefront. In real reality, attendees explore the new types of wearables, the emerging methods for eye tracking, and, through one of Cramer’s sessions, the rise of conversational interfaces.

3. Gen Z is Becoming a Focus

In 2017, the first members of Generation Z will turn 21 and begin entering the workforce. With presenters like Peter Nicholson, chief creative officer of Periscope, leading the way, EventTech 2016 attendees uncovered the profile of Gen Z'ers and dug into how social media, digital content strategies, and brand experiences will evolve in the coming years.

4. Future Forecasting and Trend Spotting Gather the Crowds

Through presentations like our own “15 Tech Trends to Bet On,” the EventTech 2016 attendees continued the exploration of what’s trending, what it means for event marketers today, and how we can capitalize on it tomorrow. Learn more about these, including virtual actualization, the quantified self, experiential art, and biometric hacks here.

The Single Insight that Blew Everyone's Mind

One session asked a big question and, in answering it, captivated, entertained, and astounded its audience.

The question is fairly simple:

"How do we create experiences that the brain cannot forget?"

The answer is based both on an understanding of the latest neurological and sensory perception breakthroughs. In other words, a better, modern understanding of how memories are formed through the stimulation of individuals’ multiple senses.

To stimulate an attendees sense, we needed a better understanding of what our senses really are. It turns out, Barry Ross Rinehart of Multi Image Group explains, we do not have five senses, we have ten.

Neuroscience shows that there are the commonly known, traditional five senses: vision (ophthalmoception), hearing, (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfaction), and touch (tactioception). The five unknown-to-most senses are:

Pain (nociception)
Vibration (mechanoreception)
Temperature (thermoception)
Balance (equilibrioception)
Space (proprioception)
With this broader view of the senses, experience planners and designers are able to expand their thinking and focus on creating a sensory strategy. For each event, that sensory strategy should look to cluster, enhance, alter, fool, and evoke each of the ten senses. For the more senses we engage (and influence in our favor), the most likely we are to create unforgettable experiences for our attendees, thus driving brand loyalists.

Aside: To see our latest exploration on this topic, grab a Cramer Cardboard, download our app, and dig into our new virtual reality experience focused on the alchemy of moments.

Until Next Year

EventTech 2016 was, once again, a rallying point for all experiential marketers - the makers of memories. Each of us, with brains that crave novelty and long for the extraordinary, are already looking forward to what we will see at EventTech 2017.

425 University Ave
Norwood, Massachusetts 2062
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425 University Ave
Norwood, Massachusetts 2062
United States

November 21, 2016

By Scott Connolly