Freeman Report Identifies 10 Tech Trends for Events

July 14, 2014

Freeman recently came out with a report, the Freeman Connections Report, which looks at the trends impacting the face-to-face event industry. Using the insight they’ve gained from producing more than 15,000 events each year, the report highlights 10 key technology and device trends they feel are having or will be having an impact on events.

The 10 technology and device trends highlighted are big data, 3D printing, augmented reality, proximity technology, wearable technology, mobile internet, second screen, telepresence and virtual events, flexible technology and nano-technology.

I asked Chris Cavanaugh, president of Freeman/XP, which trends he finds most exciting. While he thinks they are all interesting in their own right, he said that wearables are more interesting to the public right now.

Most are familiar with wearable technology such as fitness bands, smart watches and Google Glass. While this technology has been around for a few years now, recently it has been gaining popularity.

“Wearables are going to be big in the greater macro,” Cavanaugh says, adding that the challenge is in figuring out how best to integrate wearables into the user experience. The question to focus on is how we collect data from individuals and use that data to inform what we tell them, what they want to hear, and what they want to see.

Cavanaugh sees a link with wearables and near field communication. When you combine those two technologies event organizers will be able to collect real-time data, which in turn allows them to create a more highly customized and personalized event experience. “The more relevant your content, the more relevant your program,” Cavanaugh adds.

Then there is the phenomenon of 3D printing. Cavanaugh sees the potential in this technology as a way to bring the community together and get them involved through self-generated content such as “buildathons.”

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) partnered with Local Motors, Inc for what they are calling the first-ever 3D-printed car design challenge. The concepts resulting from that challenge will be incorporated into a vehicle that will be printed live at IMTS this September in Chicago.

Another interesting trend is second screen technology. Cavanaugh said we are past the first wave of incorporating attendees’ devices into our events. The second wave is figuring out what types of content will augment the experience instead of distracting from it. Allowing the attendee to go deeper with the parts of a presentation they care about.

While the report explains these trends and how they might impact future events, incorporating them into an event should not be taken lightly. This is not about the flash-in-the-pan cool factor of technology. Event organizers must have a clear vision and solid plan when taking this technology on.

Cavanaugh thinks the technology that helps attendees connect to the event experience through their device will be most widely adopted first. This connectedness will amplify the live event to a wider audience via social media.

As far as what will prevent our industry from moving forward in their use of these types of devices and technology, Cavanaugh thinks it is a perceived threat of changing too much too quickly.

“The biggest obstacle is our own willingness to evolve more quickly, to take calculated risks, to pilot new technologies, new programs, new approaches, in environments where programs are fairly successful,” Cavanaugh said. “As the economy does better and people are coming back to programs, we must continue to challenge ourselves to evolve.”

He added that the trick was in figuring out a way of evolving without ultimately upsetting the core. You do not want to be at the place where you are reacting, because then there is a sense of urgency because something shifted more quickly than you thought.

Reports like this are helpful for organizers who don’t get to go to a large number of events outside of their own industry. It gives them an opportunity to see how technology is being implemented and what is working and what is not working.

“I’m really proud of the index and the report,” Cavanaugh said. “We do see and touch so many different venues, programs, clients and verticals … this really helps deliver on our value proposition.”

You can find and download the full report at connections.freemanxp.com.

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