Fab or Fad? The Tech Innovations That Will Shape Events in 2019 According to The Experts

Every year brings new and exciting technology and when you’re working in events, this means new possibilities to enhance the experiences you create. From flashy ways to put a smile on your guests’ faces to improvements that just make the whole event slicker to innovations behind the scenes that help organisers better understand their guests, there are hundreds of ways events benefit from technology.

But knowing which new innovations you should consider can be tricky and it’s all too easy to get caught up in the cult of new. With that in mind, we’ve asked a range of experts from tech companies to journalists for their 2019 predictions. We’ve asked them for one new technology that will be Fab - a new technology that will prove valuable to the events industry going forward - and one new technology that will be a Fad - something that is certainly new and exciting, but ultimately will have little tangible impact on transforming and improving events.

Hamish Jenkinson, Creative Director - The Department

Fab: Different screen formats: revolving, moving, embedded, curved, transparent… they are now getting brighter and incredibly hi res.. but this is only great when utilised with the right content.

Fad: Tech for tech’s sake, technology should be used with a purpose and have a narrative.

1 Wimpole Street - Winners Best All-Round Use of Technology at the 2018 Hire Space Awards

Fab: Digital signage is continuing to grow beyond retail and infiltrate into events. Customisation and interaction with personal devices will make digital signage an opportunity for engagement with additional content and to push revenue streams.

Fad: Virtual reality is still trying to find itself in large events but ‘Augmented Reality’ is on the rise. Epson’s Moverio AR glasses are one example of a manufacturer partnering with developers to create amazing AR experiences and accessible services for events.

What possibilities do new screen formats hold for events?

What possibilities do new screen formats hold for events?

George Sirius, CEO - EventsForce

Fab: Event technology that integrates well with other systems. Organisers are using so many different data collection tools to capture and manage information around their events (reg systems, apps, check-in, survey tools etc). Having an ecosystem where all these solutions automatically talk to each other not only saves time but gives events the ‘big picture’ insight they need on all their event data. We believe 2019 will bring significant advances in data integration and analytics from tech providers – and this will help organisers improve attendee experiences and make more informed decisions around their events.

James Morgan, Founder - Event Tech Lab

Fad: Non-autonomous robots. Remote controlled robots at events don't really signify the advances in AI and where robotics is going as intelligent work and engagement tools. Intelligent machine learning robots that autonomously roam an event space is what we really want in order to create staffing and other cost efficiencies.

Tom McInerney, Director - Etherlive

Fab: Event Wi-Fi hotspots that don't require a username and password for access - they already know who you are, and that you are allowed to connect to that event network. Saves time and hassle especially for international delegates.

Fad: 5G phones and devices. There’s lots of hype but it’s still some way off, and even when it does arrive its like adding another lane to the M25 during a busy event, slow traffic is still inevitable!

High speed or more slow traffic?

High speed or more slow traffic?

Mike Piddock, Founder & CEO - Glisser

Fab: I'm really excited to see whether 5G begins to take off in 2019. It has the potential to enable a huge range of cutting-edge technologies and interesting creative options, by making high-speed bandwidth as accessible as hot and cold running water.

Fad: I'm less excited by facial recognition technologies for event registration - from a data privacy standpoint this isn't something that I am comfortable with yet - and it will take time for that trust to build.

Natalie Davies, Event Project Manager - ITV Experiences

Fab: New facial recognition and RFID softwares are allowing us to shape more meaningful, personalised experiences for guests, while digital swag bags provide them with fully sustainable takeaways. I'm excited to see a surge in automation; voice-operated devices are on the increase to mainstream audiences and I can see adaptations of this technology moving into the experiences space in 2019.

Fad: Virtual, augmented and mixed reality devices continue to evolve as media formats but adoption remains limited due to high price points and poor quality. VR technologies should be seamlessly enhanced user experiences — immersing the user in a believable, easily interactive experience. Right now, there are just too many hang-ups in the technology to make the product and content at a reasonably affordable price.

Would you trade privacy for seamless event check-in?

Would you trade privacy for seamless event check-in?

Calum Di Lieto, Editor - C&IT Magazine

Fab: Wearable technology is something I think should be, and hopefully will be, utilised more in 2019. The most obvious use is data collection, and this is a very powerful use indeed - although slightly controversial. However, I have been to events where wearable tech has been used for content interaction, networking or even simply splitting large numbers into groups. Festivals are already utilising the tech for consumers, it's time business events did the same for their delegates.

Fad?: I don't think any technology is a 'fad' in itself. It depends on how the tech is being used. VR goggles are a perfect example of something that has been labelled as a 'fad' and in a conference setting does seclude people from each other. However, if you want to quickly teleport the audience to a completely different destination, or even get them to look in the future, then VR is the answer. In summary, it's not what you use, it's how you use it.

Pocket calendars are so last year.

Pocket calendars are so last year.

Nicola Macdonald, Editor - Exhibition News

Fab: One technology I’m increasingly hearing organisers express an interest in is matchmaking services. This seems to be split into two distinct camps: the human concierge service and an automated service powered by artificial intelligence. Either way, it’s another way for organisers to make sure their exhibitors and visitors attain that all-important ROI.

Fad: My answer has been the same for several years: I think VR is still struggling to prove it is worth the time and effort when it comes to the events industry, maybe with the exception of venue tours.

Clemi Hardie, Founder - Noodle Live

Fab: In 2019 it's likely that we will start to see real-world impact from cognitive technologies such as AI and natural language programming. Intelligent machines are becoming increasingly sophisticated and readily available, so be on the lookout for intelligent, personalised greeting messages and virtual assistance around event venues. The rollout of 5G mobile networks could also have a huge impact on events this year, but it remains to be seen whether the tech will be ready in time. Live event streaming will also continue to grow in popularity, but it won't replace or devalue the in-person experience and great events will continue to draw eager crowds.

How could virtual assistants improve the event experience?

How could virtual assistants improve the event experience?

Martin Fullard, Editor - Conference News

Fab: I strongly believe that we will see artificial intelligence make huge strides in 2019, specifically around personalisation. Delegates don’t want to waste time in sessions that are of no use, so automatically-generated scheduling in accordance with their needs will be welcomed.

Fad: I’m not sure it’s a fad, but I think the jury is still out on wearable technology. While I personally like it, I fear the average delegate will view it as an unnecessary distraction and will continue to share knowledge and details in a more traditional way.

Will Swannell, Co-Founder & CEO - Hire Space

Fab: The greatest tech innovation for 2019 will be an increase in online availability and instant booking. This technology is already common for small meeting rooms but 2019 will see it spread to DDRs, party packages and larger events. While more complex events will always require a human touch, I think that this year we will see some big steps towards online venue booking.

Fad: While much has been made of virtual reality, and I've certainly seen some engaging stands at some events, it seems that the technology hasn't really caught on in a meaningful way and will pass. While there is lots to come from augmented reality, virtual reality feels more like a gimmick from an events perspective.

Why A.I. Favours the True Salesperson  - Will Swannell at EventLAB 2018

Why A.I. Favours the True Salesperson - Will Swannell at EventLAB 2018

Charlie Hepburn, Director - Be Vivid

Fab: Blockchain – a complex system but a fascinating model to watch. As NPD and innovation teams across many industry sectors will be testing out the viability of using blockchain for their business functions (we know the big banks are engaged with this already), it will be interesting to see the full capability of this system that will enhance the value and security to/of event data beyond simple ticketing.

Fad: All tech can have a positive effect in theory and should be considered wherever it might enhance engagement. I am no Steve Jobs and I certainly don’t want to discourage any innovation within our industry. Being able to predict what or wont be a fad is impossible – remember ‘chatbots’ and how they haven’t taken off in our world, compared with the success of Siri or Alexa. Or Google Glass which was launched to much hype about bringing a whole new dimension to how and where ‘content’ could be delivered.

Buzzword or brilliant?

Buzzword or brilliant?

Do You Agree?

Are the experts on the money with their tech predictions? Only time will tell but we want to hear your thoughts, whether you agree, disagree or think there’s an innovation that has been missed off the list, join the conversation on Twitter using #EventLAB or tweeting us @EventLAB_Online

Learn More About Tech, Engagement & Innovation.

For more on how technology is benefitting the events industry, why not check out some recent episodes of the EventLAB Podcast. In our interview with Sanj Surati from Tiger Heart he breaks down how you should be integrating new tech into you existing strategies, while Mike Piddock, founder of the event tech platform Glisser, joined us to chat about ways to better engage with your audience at events.