Antony Reeve-Crook asks whether event technology can make us money directly as well as adding to the attendee experience?
If you want a car to get you through the desert, it helps to select one that’s suited to the job. There’s no sense in selecting one without four-wheel drive if one is available, no matter how much you like rear-wheel drive, and while a cabriolet may help you enjoy the view, it will always play second fiddle to a solid roof with good air conditioning. All that matters is that the manufacturer knows what it takes to navigate the terrain.
The same is true of technology for the events industry. The value of using a company that creates software dedicated to the events industry should not be understated. There are many pretenders circling our industry with software that is merely an adaptation of software built for another purpose, or worse still – built on the back of freely-available online networking tools that we may already hold accounts for, such as LinkedIn.
Or, in the words of Noodle Live’s Clemie Hardie, the mobile app a registration provider supplies “is likely to be nothing compared to an app provided by any event app specialist”.
Noodle Live provides mobile event apps and RFID/NFC smart name badges, but while it provides its own proprietary service, it refers to itself as a technology-agnostic firm capable of creating effective tech solutions for clients from not only its own products, but those of third-party approved partners.
It defines itself by its ability to establish and understand a client’s brief in order to create the best value proposition it can. The company caters for business events ranging from a 50-pax brand experience to a two-year permanent installation, a three-day conference for 1,000 C-suite executives, or a 15,000 pax exhibition. And it therefore requires a working knowledge of the industry, as with such variety, one size will most certainly not fit all.
“Every project requires a different approach and I don’t endorse trying to fit the requirements of every brief within the constraints of a single product or platform,” says Hardie, adding that essentially, event tech buyers are divided into two camps.
The first of these is the client who knows what they want as a product (“those who come to us knowing they need an event app or NFC smart badge”) and are “savvy enough to assess how a platform will meet their particular brief”. These people then use their internal resource to plan, manage, deliver and report on the event with occasional support from the supplier.
The second is the client who knows they need technology to achieve certain strategic aims and objectives, capture data and demonstrate ROI, but need a partner who can use their expertise to suggest the right tools to meet their brief; then plan, manage, deliver and report on the event.
If a company providing the solution in either case is doing so secure in the knowledge that their product is primed for the needs of the market, and developed with that market in mind, then so much the better.
Make money, don’t spend it
One of the key benefits of working with such specialisation, is that it becomes simpler to observe the habits of those we are catering our events for, and subsequently to reach them with the right message…or sales proposition.
Because, while most of us think of event technology as a cost centre, fulfilling operational objectives at a cost to the organiser, few of us think of a show’s digital companion as having a direct positive impact on our bottom line.
Feathr, a US-based company that produces bespoke technology solutions for the events industry, claims to do just that.
The company focuses on two main features products.
The first is attendee acquisition and conference and exhibition marketing, specifically getting people to sign up and register for the event. The second is revenue generation; enhancing the package for event sponsors with digital exposure before, both before and after the show.
It’s a fair departure from the company’s original focus, producing event apps. And as follows, Feathr’s product is not adapted from existing technology, but developed specifically with the events industry in mind.
Aidan Augustin, the firm’s CEO and co-founder, claims conference and event marketing tools currently in circulation are built for either a marketing person or a publisher. “There’s no tool built for both, which is what events are. The advertiser on the one side and the publisher on the other, so to speak, because they are running ads on behalf of another person,” he says. “They are playing both sides of the market – and most tools out there are serving either one or the other.”
“The main asset that the event has is the audience and this is the commodity that they typically monetise only in person,” says Augustin. “But there’s no reason to not continue monetising those people the year round. It’s not like business grinds to a halt the day after one of these [events] ends.”
The industry keeps moving, and they are still trying to be reached by the sponsors and advertisers during the 12 months following the event.”
They’re just spending that money with other people, Augustin points out. “We think events are letting that money fly out of the window, because the same people would continue spending money with them if they had ways to spend that money all year-round. By only focusing on three days a year in person, the event is only offering a narrow slice and therefore they are only getting a narrow slice of that budget.”
There is a direct corollary here with conventional publishing. Advertisers place a half-page in a monthly magazine four to 12 times a year, but what they are actually after is prominence on a regular basis, relevance exposure in front of their chosen audience the year round; daily not monthly.
“That is something that digital and programmatic advertising is uniquely suited to,” says Augustin. “You can say: ‘I want to show my advert five times to everyone who has visited the Comic-Con website in the last month’ – and it can be done.”
The fact is, you can’t actually offer this sort of return using physical events because – for example – you can’t guarantee they will walk past your booth at a tradeshow five times, nor a sponsored point of interest. You can only achieve this by instituting the resource-heavy practice of concierge, or hosted buyer schemes.
The benefits of knowing a market inside out can lead to much more than efficient technology; it could even find you new revenue streams.