Gone are the days when free drinks were enough to draw people to corporate events and mixers. And good luck getting people to buy tickets for a festival if the process takes more than a couple of minutes.
In short, consumers and corporate clients alike have come to expect far more from events and the technologies that fuel them.
As it happens, Chicago is home to some of the most exciting companies in the event technology space right now, both in the consumer-facing and corporate marketplace. We spoke with three of them about where event technology is headed in 2016.
Ryan Jacobs, co-founder and CEO of CloudSpotter believes the most important trend in event technology is toward enabling greater connectivity.
“Greater connectivity certainly applies to smarter devices and systems, increasingly working together. More importantly, however, these technologies can enable greater social connectivity,” said Jacobs. “Looking ahead, we’ll see event organizers empowered to engage with event attendees in new ways, event attendees engaging to a greater degree with each other, and these groups in turn being empowered to interact with the world beyond.”
His company lets event photographers rapidly share photos with event attendees, who upon arriving at an event can opt into automatically receiving photos they’re in. As the photos start ticking in, attendees then will have the option to share images they like with their friends on social media.
“Our photographers may carry a device that resembles a camera, but they are toting a powerful tool enabling hyper-personalized engagement,” added CloudSpotter COO Mike Dawson.
Kapow CTO Saad Rehmani notes a trend of enterprise clients’ expectations being shaped by their experiences as consumers.
"More and more corporate buyers expect the availability and details for event options to be as accessible as a Facebook or LinkedIn profile,” said Rehmani. “Like with large purchases in their personal lives, people want to see competitive prices, ratings, and reviews."
With its nontraditional corporate events that are often centered around activities, Rehmani’s company may be partly to blame for this trend. Among its Chicago offerings: ping pong at Killerspin House, mixology classes at Liqour Lab, and arcade games at Headquarters Beercade.
Ryan Kunkel, co-CEO of Red Frog Events and manager of the company’s EventSprout platform, thinks the biggest trend companies need to be mindful of moving into 2016 is that events are getting increasingly complex.
“There are music festivals that have 5K races in them, and there are beer festivals that are also food festivals. And then there’s music festivals that are also farm-to-fork dinners,” said Kunkel.
For service providers like EventSprout, that means emphasizing customizable solutions over cookie-cutter ticketing services.
It also means finding ways to meet the emerging needs of event organizers who are now also marketers, caterers, bar managers, and retailers. Early next year, EventSprout will be rolling out a new offline-enabled point of sale-feature that will let eventgoers use credit cards in areas without reliable cellular service.
This kind of capability would be a huge boon for larger music festivals, which often take place in remote areas that lack the technological infrastructure to support large crowds of Snapchatters and Periscope streamers, leading to unnecessarily long lines for beer and merchandise.
Kunkel believes events will continue to be a growth industry, as many Millennials favor spending their money on experiences, rather than goods. This trend is likely to continue, as increasingly sophisticated technology leaves organizers with more time to focus on making those experiences more memorable.
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