Alexa, Will Event Chatbots be the Future of Events?

February 7, 2018

Jay Tokosch

Jay Tokosch is the CEO of Core-Apps, a technology provider and mobile software company for the trade show and events industry.

Event organizers know that balancing tech trends with the realities of business and budgets is a challenge.

Roll something out too early, or to an audience that doesn’t fit, and it can easily fail. Hold back on new tech and your event can feel dated.

So how do you make sense of “bots” and voice-activated technology like Amazon Alexa? Well, the first place to start is understanding the difference between a new trend and a new technology.

Bots, AI (artificial intelligence) messaging apps and voice-activated search are here to stay. This is not a "trend" – it's a technology. There is a massive difference! For example, Pokemon Go was a trend but augmented reality is a technology.

But you’re not alone in coming to grips with what this means for your event’s technology enablement. Our team has mixed feelings about the future of bots or automated personal assistants, too, either inside of an event app or included as part of the show floor or beyond.

Here are the thumbs down and thumbs up perspectives from our team.

Thumbs Down

We've seen a few makeshift bots inside of event apps but as far as we know we haven't seen a good solution that doesn't need a bunch of preloaded human time or human resources during the event to run it.

We’re not dismissing artificial intelligence and voice-activated technology because we think bots done right can be a good solution. But we've seen this sort of buzz in the event industry before for a lot of things like gamification, leaderboards, ibeacons, etc. Sometimes the buzz is louder than the actual use cases or stability of the technology.

We’re keeping on our eye on bots and AI and when the tech and the demand are there it will feel more appropriate to include it in the overall event technology experience.

Our recommendation for show organizers is to take a pragmatic approach toward vetting out any new technology. It should not be a box to just check when thinking about innovation. It needs to be a good experience, solid technical infrastructure and not feel like fluff, but useful and well made.

Thumbs Up

We feel the best use case for event app bots is as a personal assistant. The Core-apps Global Activity Feed already lists popular events and this is where things can get interesting with an AI chatbot experience.

We feel the best use cases for a chatbot within an event app or overall event tech experience includes the following:

  • Event reminders for when something on your schedule is about to start
  • Voice or text commands to get directions. Similar to our Locate Me flow, it asks you where you want to go and what you're near, done via a conversation with voice or text
  • Popular recommendations: "What should I do today?"
  • App help: "How do I share my schedule?" Or if they're still having problems, a way to get a human to help
  • Show help: FAQs loaded by organizers
  • Fuzzy search: "What sessions are happening today that are about stem cells?" – sometimes it's way easier to phrase a question like this rather than type in a search
  • Security: "There's a suspicious looking bag that has no one around it"
  • Personalized recommendations: We've had a lot of requests for personalized recommendations but one question is where do you put them? When the bot launches, it's already suggesting a few things to you before you query it

Are event bot assistants a killer feature yet? Time will tell, but we do have to admit that as Alexa and Assistant have gotten better we've hesitated less at asking Alexa questions instead of pulling out our phones to figure out the answer to a question we’re having in a conversation.

What we can tell you is that as technology gets better, be prepared to interact more and more with these automated experiences that have machine learning baked in.

Check out this video from tech influencer Gary Vaynerchuk that really speaks to the future and opportunity of voice and AI.

Want to find out more about our predictions on event tech trends for 2018? Visit our webinar HERE.

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