The Seven Event Technology Barriers

The top 7 event technology barriers as identified by over 100 event organisers at Tech Fest in 2015 were prioritised as follows:

  1. Delegates won’t use it so what’s the point!
  2. We had some event tech and no one used it
  3. It didn’t deliver on the investment in time and money
  4. Even when they download it fully no one used it
  5. It was downloaded but too complicated for delegates to use
  6. Participants worry about security or privacy issues
  7. Delegates were ‘up’ for using it but the client didn’t encourage presenters or the meeting team to use it

event tech barriers

Over attendees voted on the most important and we looked at four in more detail

  1. Delegates won’t use it!

Essentially the majority of delegates at Tech Fest were saying “We’ve thought long and hard about which technology to use, set it up and then surprisingly the participants don’t seem to want to use it on the day!”.

This is frustrating. Despite everything that the organiser has done: all the due diligence regarding options, seeing different systems in action, bringing internal stakeholders on board, the event starts and the delegates don’t adopt the technology on offer.

The barriers:

Through our discussion we identified three common causes:

  • The technology was really designed to meet the needs of the event’s organiser or meeting owners rather than the delegates
  • There was generally a lack of effective communication to ‘bring the delegates on board’ either in advance or simple ‘how to’ guides available or on arrival
  • There was little change to the traditional meeting format to encourage use

So how to overcome these barriers?

  • Think about ‘what’s in it for the delegates’. Does it save them time? Give them access to real time information, allow them to take notes or documents home with them? Encourage networking? Make the technology meaningful and relevant to delegates first and foremost and you will have more success.
  • Assume you have a mix of technology savvy participants. Start with the lowest common denominator and shape the communications accordingly. The tech savvy delegates will be there ahead of you anyway!
  • Change the meeting format to encourage use of technology. For example communicate that you will only answer questions through an app, documents to take away will only be available through the app, refer to the value of the technologies throughout the event and have a ‘help desk’ on hand to problem solve for the meeting owners as well as the delegates in real time.
  1. We had an in event app once but no one downloaded it

This area generates a significant amount of discussion when the subject is raised amongst event technology specialists. Surely there is always a cohort of delegates keen to give the tech a go?

We identified 3 key barriers

The barriers:

  • No prior warning that event technology will be used followed up by a lack of effective communication not making it clear where and how to download or engage with the tech
  • Choosing a venue with below par internet or Wi-Fi which causes the download to fall over or freeze when delegates are trying to download and they think ‘why bother?’
  • Choosing a technology or App with ‘known’ or perceived issues or problems may for example be linked to privacy issues

So how to overcome?

  • Make the downloading easy. Anticipate the steps that infrequent users of event technologies and Apps will have to go through to be effective. Encourage downloads to get the audience to critical mass through support pre-event, on the day and create complementary communications to share the benefits
  • Keep it simple. Don’t try to oversell or over hype the technology. Don’t over promise and under deliver. Certainly don’t add any functionality that begins to look like spam or appears to breach security or privacy issues
  • ‘Ring-fence’ the Wi-Fi. Anticipate the level of bandwidth you will need and do your utmost to get the location to prepare for ‘worst case’ requirements. Think about technologies which work independently of the internet
  1. It didn’t deliver on the investment in time and money

This barrier always generates significant discussion. The conversation here sits broadly in two camps. The time necessary to set up and measuring a tangible outcome.

The barriers:

  • The time necessary to get the event tech right is often under estimated
  • Very few of the best apps and technologies are set for immediate use without some set up and configuration
  • Event tech is often purchased and used without a clear view on what a successful outcome or perceived value to delegates or the company running the event
  • Event teams expect too much. Most event techs have aspects of the functionality where you can configure and brand for specific events. Most apps however are created to meet a specific need or niche and very few can deliver everything you need from an app in splendid isolation from other technologies.

So how to overcome?

  • Start with the end in mind. Work with event owners to determine what a successful outcome looks like. The number of downloads, delegate use, volume of questions generated within the app, participant feedback scores? All are possible with the appropriate pre-event planning and configuration
  • Truly understand the value and benefits of the technology you have chosen and understand the limitations. Insist on demonstrations in advance, trial the technology in advance, share it with keys stakeholders, get views from previous users
  • Be clear who is supporting the technology on the day. Speak to the experts. Talk to the technology ‘owners’ and understand what arrangements need to be in place prior to, during and post event
  1. Even when they download it fully no one used it

A common challenge. Great success setting up a great interactive piece of event tech. Download numbers look positive and you sit back awaiting interaction and engagement. Then you wait, and you wait and you wait………

The fact they are not using it suggests that the delegates don’t understand or see the value in using it.

The barriers:

  • It’s the wrong technology in the wrong event. For example it’s a networking App for a team that meet regularly and know each. Delegates don’t see the value
  • You ignore the app responses early on in the event. You set up to take questions through an app but then presenters ignore the app questions and use more traditional methods of collecting questions.
  • Delegates don’t see value. Through a mixture of poor Wi-Fi, challenging usability or poorly designed features and functions there is no obvious reason why they would want to use it.

So how to overcome?

  • It seems obvious but choose the right technology. Start with the intent and need then track down the relevant technology and buy what you need rather than what you are offered
  • Reinforce the value of the technology early on in the event. Mention it at the opening, set up some early interaction, and demonstrate the value the speakers and organisation get from the use of the technology
  • Show the delegates ‘what’s in it for them’. This may range from access to materials in-event and post event, the ability to shape sessions through real time feedback and the chance to network and connect with participants and speakers they don’t already know

It’s what you do with it that makes a difference

Ultimately event technology is just technology! Start with the end in mind and think about whether event technology will improve the outputs and engagement for both the delegates and the Meeting organisers.

Leslie Robertson hosted this session at Tech Fest in 2015. Leslie is a Meetings Architect and Engagement Consultant at Open Audience.

Leslie is kindly providing a FREE event tech session at “More and Better Events” seminars taking place in Edinburgh on the 20th October and London 5th November.

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