It’s tempting to dismiss the impact of technology on exhibitions and event management as a passing fad, but in reality it represents a paradigm shift – and from my perspective an entirely welcome one. Tech can add layer upon layer of appealing functionality to your event, but there is one caveat: moderation. Your event shouldn’t become a sales demo for the latest tech, or indeed a showcase for everything that tech can do – this will only serve to overwhelm the audience. Instead, you need to cherry-pick the tech that adds real value to your events or exhibition stands.

Did I say one caveat? Actually there’s one more: reliability. For live events, tech failure is not an option. Even off-the-shelf solutions require expert tweaking before they will work reliably. Made-to-order solutions are especially demanding when it comes to designer/programmer/engineer expertise. The bottom-line here is that you must choose your tech partner carefully. Check how many tech-enabled events they have to their credit. Ask about implementation teams and strategies. Enquire about back-up systems and emergency planning.

Caveats aside, there’s no doubt that tech can really enhance and enrich event management and exhibition stands. But where it truly excels is ‘engagement’. Tech can powerfully engage the audience not just at the event, but before and after it as well. It helps extend the journey for visitors, so that the event is more than just a day out of the office. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking!

Before the event A mobile app (or mobile-friendly microsite) made available as part of the registration process offers different ways to drive engagement prior to the event. At the passive end of the spectrum it can be used to share speaker bios, event particulars, whitepapers on key topics etc that can be browsed at leisure. But at its most dynamic, the app facilitates dialogue between event organisers/speakers and attendees – allowing content of presentations to be adapted to what really grabs the audience’s interest. For exhibitions and trade shows, apps can allow prospective clients to request meetings in advance, and also permit staff to pre-book conference rooms at the venue.

At the event At large exhibitions, the use of near-field-communications (NFC) allows delegates and visitors to effortlessly download e-versions of brochures and catalogues onto their mobile devices – thus negating the need to carry around (and later travel with) heavy printed materials. An event app can also offer interactive maps to aid navigation at huge venues, as well as an exhibitor directory complete with contact details.

Apps can also encourage live interaction with speakers and fellow delegates – even during presentations. In fact, people are more likely to ask relevant questions if they can do so without having to stand up in a hall full of strangers – they simply use the app to type and send in their questions from their mobile device. The same tech can be used for instant voting, gauging audience understanding and driving engagement.

From an organiser’s perspective, apps simplify the collection and analysis of all kinds of metrics and data – going well beyond the simple measure of how many people attended the event. Organisers can also consider live feeds and Internet broadcasts – allowing delegates and visitors to participate remotely. Though these require a lot more tech, they greatly extend an event’s reach and impact.

After the event Tech makes it a lot easier to solicit feedback/suggestions from visitors via automated questionnaires and surveys. But it needn’t end there. Specially-created post-event content can help reinforce key messages, reiterate the event’s value and drive desirable action well into the future.