The first quarter of 2019 is just about up, bringing with it the Brexit deadline. March also sees the publishing of Event Academy’s Industry Trend Report 2019, and it’s no surprise that the report reveals event experts and other respondents regard Brexit as one of the biggest challenges of the year, with the knock-on effect of reduced budgets as another.
However, what is surprising, after years of fast-evolving technology being cited as a major challenge for the events industry, is that less than 10% of industry experts and just 11% of other respondents contributing to 2019’s report now consider that evolving technology is less of an issue than other challenges mentioned.
In the context of Brexit, maybe this isn’t so surprising. Most industries across the UK, from farming to creative and performing arts are highlighting Brexit generally, and a No-deal Brexit specifically, as a pain point for 2019. So perhaps it’s in comparison to these national concerns that event technology presents a far lesser challenge?
Event technology – less challenge in context, or just less challenging?
Brexit aside, one reason rapidly developing events technology might present a lesser challenge for 2019 is that the latest round of would-be events professionals coming into the industry are Generation Z (those born from 1995 – 2012).
With the older end of Generation Z now reaching 24 this cohort, popularly dubbed ‘digital natives’ because they have never been without the internet in their lifetime, have already integrated technology into their lives, experiences and habits: for knowledge; productivity; entertainment and communication – many of the same reasons technology is booming in events.
Certainly, data shared by Globalwebindex identified that Generation Z is very much a go-to-tech generation, with 98% owning a smartphone. This device, seen as an extension of themselves, is used by over half of Generation Z to engage with online content and communications for over 10 hours a day.
Additionally, and as differentiation of experience and expectation between the generations has already been observed when it comes to attending events, for instance in Cvent’s Inside the Mind of Event Attendees study, it certainly makes sense that the Generation Z mindset now influences expectation and experience when it comes to managing events in 2019.
With around 1,000 students a year studying Event Academy courses, Principal Claire Derrick recognises that Generation Z has a key role to play, observing that “young people entering the workforce will bring a natural shift to AI, social media, using digital not only in everyday life, but also in creating, promoting and executing live experiences.”
Clearly, not only are Generation Z coming into professional event management and helping to drive the shift towards ‘doing’ digital, their capabilities also reduce the industry challenge of incoming event professionals not having the digital competency to manage upcoming technology.
All of which also supports another theory as to why the technology side of events could now be less of a challenge; because technology isn’t so much a side of events, but an integrated part of modern event management – with digital platforms involved at all phases from pre-production and participation, right through to evaluation and data reporting.
As highlighted in the Cvent blog back in January, integrating digital technology into all kinds of events, and particularly in ways which personalise participation, is key to driving engagement for attendees. It’s also growing in popularity for enhancing data-rich evaluation for brands and corporations behind the events. As a result, there’s increased demand and expectation for integrated technology across all event sectors.
And as technological methods for tasks such as ticketing, data sharing and virtual attendance evolve in response to this demand, becoming completely embedded into event logistics, existing event managers and their teams are starting to get to grips with technology as the latest part of their roles, whilst Generation Z expect technology to be the role.
Where does the event tech challenge lie?
But whilst evolving technology in event management may have been identified as less of a challenge for 2019, and the arrival of Generation Z as the newest professionals coming into the industry may be help reduce this further, there’s still an issue for the events industry. In the experiences of the event experts and wider industry respondents quizzed for Event Academy’s trend report, the industry is currently struggling with skills shortages in several areas.
And Claire Derrick particularly identifies technology as one of the skills-shortage areas: “We remain hindered by a lack of skills and confidence in the adoption of digital tools and use of platforms. Technology cannot benefit the industry if individuals are unable to use it to its fullest.”
For established event professionals, it seems that the greater part of the ‘lesser’ challenge presented by event technology in 2019, is keeping up with technology, learning the skills to use it, gaining confidence with how it works and embracing what the latest trends in digital production and event logistics can bring to events.
Hot trend meets lukewarm challenge?
Keeping up with and embracing the changes in technology is clearly on the minds of event professionals. When asked to comment on 2019’s hottest trends, half of the six top trends identified by Event Academy’s expert respondents relate to technology in events, specifically:
- Remote participation in events, including ‘artificial’ attendance and “live streaming” identified by Johnjo Glynn, Venues Director of Whitelight as a rising trend for 2019.
- Mixed reality technology (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality), with Richard Bradshaw, Group H&S Manager, News UK, highlighting: “Integrating augmented and virtual reality into live performances” as a major trend for 2019.
- Technology-enhanced personalised experiences – everything from chatbots and selfie-bots, to automated, personalised ticketing, and mobile event apps which directly engage audiences with speakers. The Trend Report quotes Mark Riches, Founder and Non-Executive Director of First Agency, who anticipates that “greater experiential touchpoints will be built into all live events.”
It would certainly seem that the rise of event technology, particularly in response to the “more – different- better” demands from clients of event companies and creative agencies, supports technology itself becoming less of a challenge – it’s now necessary to integrate it into every type of event not just through popular, but professional demand.
Future evolution of tech in events
Overall, whilst it’s good news that evolving event technology may be perceived as less challenging, the professional skills technology demands of event managers remains something of a challenge to meet. From the insights of the Event Academy Industry Trends report, it’s clear that a response which invests in and integrates the technology and the top talent could be the way forwards.
After all, Forbes highlights Gen Z’ers as unique in their tech-savviness alongside their drive for personalisation when it comes to communication. So, in an industry such as events, which now demands greater tech-fluency and personalisation as a means for engagement, Gen Z event managers hold the prospect of not only being able to manage the tech, but also to use it creatively, with imagination and with full integration.
In relation to the Event Academy Industry Trend Report insights, responding to the (lesser or greater) challenge of evolving technology in events by nurturing a generation of event professionals whose professional development evolves alongside technology could not only result in greater engagements at events, but should also attract more tech-fluent talent into the industry at the same, exciting time.