How many times have you been asked to provide a "wow" factor for a group — especially with all the new event technology available? Technology has completely revolutionized the meetings and events industry, from the way rooms are booked to the development of custom apps, so it's no surprise that hoteliers are increasingly expected to keep up with the latest trends. And of course, you're doing this while managing complex group booking arrangements and providing the top-notch, personalized service that guests have come to demand from hotel brands. Here's a look at how technology is transforming events — and how hotels can keep pace with the change.
Putting AI to Work
According to the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), artificial intelligence (AI) is among the top emerging event technologies. The innovation involves the use of machines and computer programs that react as a human would. Think back to the last time you called your bank or a credit card company and interfaced with a human-sounding voice to access your account. That's AI at work.
In the events world, AI applications come in many forms. For example, AI interfaces called chatbots can serve as virtual, 24/7 customer support reps through a custom website or mobile app. Does a delegate have questions about the venue or the neighborhood? A chatbot can provide answers any time of the day or night, right on the delegate's smartphone or computer.
Another option is creating an audio virtual assistant, similar to the Siri, Alexa, and Google assistants that are already popular. Similar to chatbots, virtual assistants can answer questions about the venue, event, and more. They can be integrated into signage or a custom website or app. Not only are they able to provide information to event delegates, but they also gather information on what people are asking about in real time. Want to know the most popular questions? An AI interface can tell you.
Hoteliers shouldn't be afraid that delegates might be put off by virtual assistants or chatbots. People are already used to asking their appliances and devices to perform tasks and searches — and they're increasingly open to that kind of interaction at an event.
Make It Virtual (Reality)
Another trending event tech is the emerging field of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The basic difference between the two is that VR creates an immersive experience through goggles, while AR creates digital images that overlay reality on a smartphone or tablet. With AR, digital signals are sent to a person's smartphone to show enhancements to reality. If you remember the Pokemon Go craze a few years ago, it was a great example of AR. VR, on the other hand, completely shuts out reality.
Event production and rental company Meeting Tomorrow has noted an uptick in VR being used at meetings and events. While they still consider this technology in the novelty phase, the price of VR equipment is dropping and the rise of AR games like Pokemon Go has brought AR and VR into the mainstream.
Kiosks and booths that feature VR equipment can be set up nearly anywhere, and event attendees can participate in everything from product demos to 3-D tours of buildings and neighborhoods. Like virtual assistants and AI, this provides a custom, interactive activity for attendees.
Tune Into RFID
Finally, radio frequency identification (RFID) is on the rise. Because RFID uses a radio frequency to transmit data from a sensor to a reader, the most common use is as a wristband or token that transmits information to electronic readers set up at different areas of the event.
Eventbrite created an entire tip sheet on why RFID is a great way to streamline events and provide a seamless attendee experience. Wristbands contain an RFID chip that stores an attendee's credentials. By waving the wristband over a sensor, an attendee can enter the event and other designated areas. They can also store payment information on the chip to pay for merchandise, food and drinks, or other items. RFID wristbands eliminate the need for paper tickets, reducing printing costs and paper waste.
In recent years, meeting delegates have come to expect technologies such as branded event apps and digital check-in and registration. Implementing the latest technologies at your property provides the "wow" factor that many planners and guests are looking for. It can also enhance and streamline guest experiences and get people talking about the event — and the venue.