engaging an online audience

The Five Event Technology Fears

When it comes to making changes in our events barriers are easy to see. Fears are often hidden. When looking to implement event technology it can be easy to identify who has to be won over. It may be your client, your boss or others in your team. But behind every obvious barrier to the implementation of new technology you will find at least one of the five fears I am going to cover today.

The Five Event Technology Fears

To enable change event planners should do all they can to identify which one of these fears, or more, sit behind the resistance to use new technology. When we identify the barrier and understand the fear that lies behind it we have a much better chance of seeing successful implementation of event technology.

1. Cost – The Fear of the massive price tag!

There is a perception that any new piece of event technology will come with a large price tag. In some circumstances that will of course be true. Many systems by their very nature will be complicated and will come with a commensurate fee so the fear has to be met head on.

On top of the actual monetary amount the costs can rack up if there is a need for staff to spend a considerable amount of time understanding the system or working with the technology company to bespoke the service. We’ve probably all seen this happen especially when a organisation has looked to implement something like a full service event management system or a contact management system. The fear for many organisations is that these costs when they are add up will simply never be covered. All that time and effort, gone. And for what?

Overcoming the fear:

Even if there is a large fee for a piece of event technology organisations have to look at the cost as an investment. The cost is likely to come out of one years budget but the saving will come across several years so ensure that this is taken into account when arguing for the investment. If organisations have done their due diligence the cost should actually be a worthwhile investment. The planner will play an important role in demonstrating and explaining the difference between the cost and the investment. 

The best way to tackle this fear is for that fear to be totally dispelled. Very often the big price tag for the piece of event technology just doesn’t materialise. Platforms come free in many circumstances with paid for addition features available. Rather than whopping one of charges many platforms offer per reg, per download or per use.

Many organisations are amazed just what you can get for free, or for very, very little. Often and increasingly technology is easy to use and can be mastered after a few hours dedicated to the system and I would say in almost every situation by a few weeks continued use. There may be a cost but that should be seen as a development of the business and an investment in the organisation.

2. Never see any actual value –  that it is a vanity purchase

At the heart of any decision to use technology we should find value. The concept is pretty simple. If the technology adds enough value it should be considered. If it doesn’t add enough value it shouldn’t. The decision to use a mobile app should be made with the desire to add value to the event experience not, for example, to “keep up” with a competitor event.

The concept is simple but measuring that value is not always easy. The fear is real. The idea that a lot of effort will go into purchasing the technology, training staff to use it and in the end it will add very little value is one that has to be addressed. It is important to allay this fear at the very earliest stage.

Overcoming the fear:

What can happen is that at the initial stage when discussing event technology there is little awareness of what the value of using the technology will be or where the value should be delivered. So to overcome this fear we have to look at the value and break it down. Before taking the project forward the planner should identify what the likely value is and who will perceive this value. If the technology is likely to add value to the planner then they should be asked to estimate, for example, the amount of time it will save. If it is customer focused the value should be measured on the impact on the customer experience.

The value of technology can be spread much wider than those who oversee it or those who use the technology so you have to look for it everywhere. For a client a few years ago  I was asked to help implement an on line booking system. Now I could see the value for three very separate stakeholders; two were very obvious and one was less so. We could argue strongly that the value would positively and directly impact:

– the event managers and

– the customers.

However with this particular client I needed to decisively tip the scales in the  favour of implementing the event technology. So for this online booking system we looked at the journey of a paper booking and found that considerable value could be found in the accounts department. Removing paper bookings didn’t just make it easier from an admin perspective in the team. It didn’t just make it easier for attendees to book. It significantly reduced the workload of the accounts team. Value identified and spread across stakeholders is value increased. 

3. The Fear of any kind of change

There is an understandable fear of change. This fear relates not only to the implementation of technology but to any change experienced by almost any organisation. It has made my list because it is particularly acute when technology is involved.  A planner can suggest the smallest change, for example using a handheld device to take votes from an audience, but the barrier to change can seem insurmountable. But thankfully there are many tried and tested ways to support organisations to overcome this fear of change. Even when it is technology related.

Overcoming the fear:

1. Identifying an external threat is a well used tool to help an organisation focus on change. As Winston Churchill said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. The threat can be a drop in delegate numbers, the rise of a competitor or the fall in sponsorship sales. The key is to identify this threat and explain how the new technology you wish to use can help you or the organisation as a whole mitigate or remove that threat.

2. Use benchmarking. Many organisation’s fears dissolve once they see similar organisations using the certain piece of event technology. There is wisdom in crowds. Taking the first step is much harder than following in an other organisations footsteps. So look across the industry and outside and try to find good examples.

3, Use your stakeholders real life experience. I often ask clients to talk thought a simple real life technological experience. So for example if I was addressing concerns about a new online event ticketing platform I’d ask the client to to talk about the purchase of a plane ticket. I would then ask them to try and buy a ticket for their next event. They are taken out of the perspective where they look through the organisation’s eyes and start to look at the process from their client or customer. This has a very powerful effect.

4. The fear that no one will use the event technology!

A real risk for a lot of organisations is that after all the hard work no one will use the technology. Unfortunately this is a fear which is often realised. I have seen instances where a Mobile App costing a five figure sum has been downloaded and used by less than 25% of the audience. We all know that many sophisticated systems are only used by 20% of those who should, with that low percentage only using 20% of the functionality. Under use is the soft vulnerable underbelly for most bits of event technology.

Many organisations can battle against those who don’t want to see new technology in place. They win that battle but the under use of the technology sees them lose the war. There are of course ways to avoid this happening; ways to dampen the fear.

– The crucial first step is to involve every stakeholder in the initial decisions to use the technology. A sure fire way to ensure no one uses the technology is to ask no one their views. If a planner is arguing for the use of technology they should always consult with every stakeholder. Sometimes even just having the conversation with others in the organisation will remove the fear of the unknown.

Often with cross organisational systems – like content management systems and databases – Events come low down the priority for many organisations. Too often I see organisers working on new technology that does not offer them enough support. So we know that event planners can be on both sides: persuading the organisation to use technology and also ensuring their views are listened to when cross organisation technology is implemented. Planners must do all they can to engage with everyone when new technology is being discussed.

– Find an unwanted fan. It’s often easy to identify a fan of the technology as they will probably be supportive from the get go. We know that it is always helpful to have others supporting you. But rather than going for the low hanging fruit, it is a great idea to spend some time trying to turn round the views of the an ardent initial opponent (probably not the most ardent!). It is likely that if you can transfer this person across to your team many others in the organisation will at least give the technology a try.

– The third most important area to remove the fear of low usage is to spend a considerable time in communicating the benefits of using the technology. Too often we don’t address the “what’s in it for me” when looking at event technology.

So for example the benefits of using an app can be very obvious to the planner but unless the benefits are communicated properly to the attendees the app is never downloaded. If the event technology will make the job easier for internal staff, planners must have the support of senior management. One of the biggest drivers for the use of event technology is to remove administration. The time saved should then be spent in the creative, value added side of the business. This has to be communicated widely and clearly.

5. Never fully trusting the technology

The final one on my list is the biggest one. How to win trust in technology. The idea of removing that feeling of control from the people and the paper and placing it on line, or in the cloud creates such a big trust issue that many organisations just can’t take that leap of faith. The fear alone stymies the use of many bits of great event technology.

So here’s how event planners can overcome that fear:

– Trial. If you come across this fear you should ensure that the organisation tests the technology in the lowest risk environment possible. Your regional seminar should use your online reg system before your annual congress. A small team meeting should use your slide sharing platform before the AGM. Build the use of the event technology from a position of power.

– To overcome the fear factor the event planner should be on top of the technology. If an event planner is going to push for the use of a bit of event technology they should know a lot about it. The planner does not need to be an expert but they do need to have a solid working knowledge of the technology to be able to instil trust in others. The planner should be well briefed by the tech company, perhaps even using them to do the demonstration, before they pitch the technology. Trust has to be won. In the world of technology it is seldom granted.

– Initially provide a backup Not this isn’t an option for every piece of event technology but for many providing a back up (doing what you have always done) can provide the initial support needed to remove the trust issue. The back ups are the stabilisers on the new event tech bicycle. So for example with the leap to an app have paper copies of the agenda available, print off the attendee list and have a way of communication outside of the app. Do what every good planer does, save the presentations on to a stick if you are using a cloud based delivery system. All of these traditional fail safes should be considered until the technology has proved itself; until it is trusted.

Behind every shake of the head or closed door the planner will find one of these five fears. By identifying them and approaching them in a systematic manner it is likely that the planner can help their stakeholders overcome them.

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