In this month’s industry insider column, Matt Mclean, strategy director at Action Impact, explores whether there is any reason for both individuals and companies in the industry to still be ‘scared’ of utilising technology to its full extent.
Technology in the event industry
As event marketers, it is essential for us to embrace the world of technology to connect people with a message or a story; but which comes first - the content or the technology? While technology can be an attractor or focal point of an exhibition or an event, the story (i.e. the content) must come first.
In today’s, ‘always connected’ and ‘content on demand’ society, the event industry needs to embrace both technology and innovation that will enhance the customer’s journey.
What’s more, in the UAE - where the mobile population is more than 16 million active users, equating to 193 per cent penetration of the population; one of the highest in the world - it would be foolish to ignore the needs of these users.
All eyes on Dubai
The UAE government has created six themes to enhance the lives of its residents in the latest 2021 plan. These are: 1) a city of happy, creative and empowered people, 2) an inclusive and cohesive society, 3) the preferred place to live, work and visit, 4) a smart and sustainable city, 5) a pivotal hub in the global economy, and 6) a pioneering and excellent government.
These themes clearly indicate the vision of the country and, as the UAE’s infrastructure expands and connects nodes across the land, there is a growing need to ensure that communities have a sense of belonging and a connection with each other. Certainly, technology is an enabler to achieve this.
The MICE industry in the GCC is worth around $1.3 billion; an industry where the number of events has doubled between 2008 and 2014. The Middle East is the fastest growing international meetings market in the world.
By the year 2020, Dubai will host 20 million visitors per year, with a high percentage of these visitors attracted to the events, meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions across the country. Surely then all eyes are on us to deliver the most compelling, engaging and rewarding experiences? How would we do this without technology?
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Technology: the future?
So what is there to be scared about, and will companies succeed without an online presence or adopting technologies? Yes, there are areas of concern but ignoring internet and technologies in general is a sure road to failure.
The key is relevance, and there is no better example than the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talks events to prove this principle of technology and content relevance. Starting its business in 1984, TED celebrated its one billionth video view in 2012, which equates to 17 new page views a second. This is a remarkable and powerful brand success story where an audience is hungry for compelling, focused and integrated content.
The internet celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. On the back of this, Pew Research Centre conducted a detailed report of how digital life in 2025 would be. They canvassed 2600 experts and technology builders to gather the data. The results were striking.
Experts predict the internet will become like electricity — less visible, yet more deeply embedded in our lives, the report concluded to a notable extent. Even though the experts agreed on the technology change that lies ahead, they disagreed about its ramifications.
However, most believe there will be:
• A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment connected via smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centres creating the Internet of Things.
• Augmented reality enhancements to the real-world input that people perceive through the use of portable/wearable/implantable technologies.
• Disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably finance, entertainment, publishing and education).
• Tagging, databasing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms.
Joe Touch, director at the University of Southern California’s Information Science Institute summed up the conclusion very well: “We won’t think about going online or looking on the internet for something — we will just be online, and just look!” The fact is, the human race has accepted that the only constant is change.
We are now adopting new technologies faster than ever before. In 1876 it took the landline telephone 35 years to be used by more than one quarter of Americans, while the mobile phone in 1983 took 13 years and internet only seven years in 1991.
Our audiences are now becoming hungrier for compelling and engaging content. Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina and founder of ibiblio.org stated: “Television let us see the global village, but the internet lets us be actual villagers.” The internet has made it possible to use one of our unique graces — the ability to share knowledge, which was not possible before.
The future holds great opportunity for us to connect one-to-one with 7+ billion humans on this planet. We will — sooner or later — be able to connect to each other and fix destinations via the Uber-net, an extension of the Internet of Things.
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At Action Impact we have embraced the internet and technology for our own purposes and for our clients’ needs. Our content marketing strategy via our Purple Majilis blog, AI Insider e-newsletter, and responsive website is providing returns and valuable insights to our client’s requirements.
Over the last 10 years we have used technologies and online campaigns to engage and interact with our clients’ customers throughout their decision journey to purchase.
Starting with online/social media campaigns, to winning tickets for a concert, product awareness activations on Twitter, interactive wristband technology at concerts and product launches through to live streaming of events, Geo positioning, near field communication, QR codes and RFID technologies.
Robert Cannon, an internet Lawyer and policy expert, rounds it up very nicely. He says: “The good news is that the technology that promises to turn our world on its head is also the technology with which we can build our own world. It offers an unbridled ability to collaborate, share and interact. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. It is a very good time to start inventing the future.”