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Events industry has ‘long way to go’ on personalisation

The events industry still has “a long way to go” to improve in-person experiences through AI-powered tools, according to an expert.

Matthias Tesi Baur, founder of the ETT Club, was speaking on a webinar panel dedicated to latest findings from the Event Tech Forecast 2024.

It found that personalisation of experiences was the biggest opportunity for digital solutions to make a difference, with 64% of respondents choosing it as a key area for development.

He said: “The question is what is the main problem we can solve through digital? Or what is the main gain for exhibitors and visitors? How can we help them in the best way?

“I think the main thing is the personalisation of experience, the seamlessness.

“We are at the beginning of the journey, I think we have a long way to go.”

Tanya Pinchuk, CEO and co-founder of ExpoPlatform, highlighted how the technology we consume in our private lives on an almost daily basis is miles ahead of the events industry in terms of this experience.

This sets a good level of ambition for industry professionals, as well as strong expectations from end users.

She said: “We have already established quite good practices in terms of recommendations for content and people, but we are not yet doing it in as seamless and mature way as we see in all these apps we use on a daily basis. 

“We are not yet there, filling this gap – being at the same level of expectations of people who are visiting our shows.”

This is the third study of its kind from the market-leading technology provider ExpoPlatform – including insights from industry experts about opportunities, challenges and more.

AI-powered features had dropped down to joint last in this part of the survey, which took responses from eventprofs all over the world, receiving votes from 40%.

It had been in the top position for tech opportunities in the last edition of the Forecast, published in July.

Jens Schindler, director of DACH at ExpoPlatform, drew attention to the massive surge in interest ChatGPT tools gained last year.

He said:  “Clearly 2023 was the year of AI – the buzzword was AI, everyone was interested in it, everyone wanted to learn about it.

“We also all had the first chance as individuals to experience the power of AI using various chat tools. 

“Here we can see that people have now learned about that and they still see the value.

“They are going back to focusing on what we actually need to be delivering in terms of the opportunity and what is that value to the customer, with personalisation coming out on top.”

On the other end of the scale, proving exhibitor ROI was chosen as the biggest challenge facing eventprofs – 76% of choosing it

Comparing this with findings from previous studies suggests this is a persistent yet growing issue facing planners.

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It was also found to be the biggest challenge in January 2023 with 55% and 64% in the July edition.

Jens said: “When looking at all of these factors, they all follow on from the crisis because they’re all sort of budget related. 

“Clearly the exhibitors are under ever stronger control to bring value home and show what value they got from exhibiting. 

“That of course reflects in this ever increasing pressure on us to deliver that high value.

“There’s still a quite clear connection to the crisis here, even though it’s rippling out.”

Tanya picked up on the continuing challenge of proving ROI while also highlighting how higher expectations brought through digital solutions had added to this.

She said: “During Covid-19, exhibitors and visitors – the buyers and sellers – had to switch to remote interactions.

“When you interact remotely you start with marketing metrics that we apply to traditional marketing or digital marketing. 

“You start to apply to your business interactions and when you come back to exhibitions, you continue to have high expectations on the number of leads.

“We have to show the exhibitor how many leads they generate online and on site all together in this omnichannel way.

“Return on investment for exhibitors will always be one of the highest challenges, because this has been a pain point with high expectations that the exhibition industry has to deliver on.”

One of the new sections introduced to this edition of the Event Tech Forecast focused on the metrics for success used by organisers.

The number of leads reported at their show came out as the most important metric for the respondents, with a weighted score of 8.8 out of 10. 

But the results show this was in close competition with customer retention hitting 8.7, while engagement and revenue came out with 8.6.

This comes as lead retrieval is one of the biggest areas that event technology can make a huge difference for exhibitors and event success. 

For instance, ExpoPlatform has shown how an omnichannel solution can boost the number of leads at shows by more than 250%.

The Lead Intelligence solution does this by bringing all online and onsite interactions into one real-time dashboard for exhibitors, giving a clear overview of their ROI – helping to tackle one of the challenges highlighted in the report. 

Another exclusive finding from this latest edition shows 72% of organisers report the digital component of their budgets will increase, while no respondents stated this part will drop.

The previous edition found 64% believed these channels would grow.

Jens: “We can really conclude here that the group of people who have said in the past ‘we are not investing in event technology’ is now really coming to an end.

“Technology has become really accepted in our standard, to have them in the middle of the market that has stayed the same.

“The takeaway here is that the change towards event technology is actually not changing so much anymore, but it has become the new normal.

“People have accepted the fact that digital is now here – and we are going towards dealing with it in a way that is business as usual

“That’s how I would see it, rather than life changing from black to white.”

Matthias added: “It’s a purely anecdotal feeling, coming out of many conversations I had when the pandemic slowly came to an end, that our industry is a little bit divided over that question.

“Some people said ‘the crisis is over, forget about digital, back to our main business’ and other people said ‘we’ve learned our lesson, we moved into digital unprepared. Next time, we want to be more prepared so let’s continue exploring digital’. That doesn’t come as a surprise. 

“I belong to the second part of the group. I always was an ambassador for digital opportunities, but I experienced the industry was more divided over this question.

“Your slide indicates that we have learned our lesson here. We want to move more into digital and we see it also as a positive.”

Find out more about how digital tools will impact live events this year by downloading the free Event Tech Forecast here.

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