How to overcome the event technology barriers at your next event

We’ve all been there. We have some great technology available before or at our event that no one is using. We’ve all been in this position because persuading attendees to engage with technology is a mountain of a challenge and one that we all must overcome if we are to use technology to improve our events.

No silver bullet

I really wish there was some simple words of wisdom that I could impart that would see the rise in your attendee use of everything from the event questionnaire, to the mobile app, to the RFID badges. I also wish that we had technologies that we could seamlessly integrate in to our events with ease. But unfortunately neither the sagacious words or the simple mind blowing tech exists in the world of events. So what I’ve decided to do is to come up with a typical Gallus Events top ten. So here we have:

“10 ways to dismantle the event technology barriers” 

1. give your attendees time

The majority of our attendees first start to engage with the event in a meaningful way around a week out. We can and should do as much as we can to encourage them to start thinking more about their engagement before, but we are where we are. We all know this hockey stick engagement (most noticeable through the #hashtag spike) and I think we fall into the trap of starting to speak about our technology so close to the event. My advice is to start engaging and informing your delegates as soon as they book on to the event and with your speakers as soon as you confirm them.

2. tell them what’s in it for them

This is almost always missing when I receive, for example, a “sign up to the event app”. The info tells me that the app is fantastic and that it has loads of info but it does little to tell me WHY I should engage. Same goes for things I’ve received as a speaker. How will this add to my event experience? How is my engagement helping my association or profession? We really need to understand that, like you and I, attendees aren’t just going to do something because we ask them. Everyone needs to be persuaded that engaging with the event technology is a valuable investment of their time. If this answer to why your attendees should engage isn’t obvious to you maybe you shouldn’t actually be using that bit of event technology?

3. tell them why you as the organiser are using the particular bit of technology

I think this is one of the best ways to get over the technology barriers from your stakeholders. I’ve found that simply explaining why you are using the technology increases the engagement. I am a massive fan of event technology that creates time for organisers to be creative. So if a bit of tech is helping you as an organsier tell your stakeholders. Tell them that their engagement will allow you more time to make their whole event experience much more valuable. This short haiku deck below gives some background to the event technology that supports planners.

4. give your attendees and other stakeholders really useful and accessible information

If you are using a bit of technology and it doesn’t come with links to tutorials or simple instructions seriously consider choosing an other bit of #eventtech.

5. offer training and support pre-event

Many larger events have pre-event meet-ups. So why not have a little session while attendees gather looking at the technology you will be using during your event? This is a great way to introduce event technology to your attendees in a less pressurised environment.

6. build time for tech into your event

I fell foul of this last year. I had the most fantastic RFID badges which were linked to the event app (Noodle Live if you are interested!) Attendees picked up their badge at the registration and even though most of the attendees had read the instructions (oh yes, they had, I followed most of my own rules) and there was a “Geek” (see point 7) there to help, attendees still needed time to use them and to understand them. I should have allowed extra time during registration for our attendees to get used to the new technology so they were ready to use it once the event started.

Used by a very happy attendee.

Used by a very happy attendee.

During your event if you are using an app to say rate speakers immediately after their session then make sure you have a couple of minutes after each session to do this. Build in the time and it removes a massive barrier.

7. offer a tech coach at your next event

If you have new technology on show you should have on hand someone who not only really understands the technology but can demonstrate how to use it. Give them a t-shirt and a big sign that says: “Geek – here to help”.

8. ensure the tech you use it useable

This is so simple that I really shouldn’t have to put it on the list. But I will turn the statement in to a question: how many eventprofs actually road-test the bit of technology fully before they use it? We really should have the confidence to say that any event technology we use comes with the organisers personal seal of approval.

9. don’t over do it

You won’t be surprised that as the Curator of Tech Fest I tend to see a lot of simply fantastic event technology: technology that really adds value. So it’s only natural that I would want to include as much as I can in my events. However that seldom works. I really don’t think that introducing more than two bits of new event technology for each group of stakeholders at a time will ever really add value. For your attendees an event app and a RFID badge is probably enough. For your exhibitors a scanner and a data portal is probably about the maximum that they can cope with.

10. make the alternative to your event technology less of an easy alternative

Time for me to be a bit controversial. Try removing a barrier by adding one. I know this doesn’t make sense without a bit more of an explanation. So here goes: if an attendee knows that they can ignore all your technology and they can still turn up and get all the paper then their is little chance you are going to change that person’s behaviour. However if you really don’t have an alternative available they are more likely to use that technology. So basically, really, don’t have any paper available. A case study and a longer blog is available on the Tech Fest website.

Even when we organise an event for tech savvy attendees there are still issues around uptake, or downloading, or signing in and engagement with the technology at our events. I am sure that every single organiser at some point has wondered how to increase the engagement of event technology? I hope these ten ways to break the event technology barriers work for you! How to remove these barriers will be certainly be something we will be covering at Tech Fest.