Focus

Many options – but no “musts”

Algorithms are shaking up the event industry. Technology provides almost boundless investment opportunities. But it’s the people who decide, and the technology should serve them.

McNeel Keenan, Senior Director Product Management bei Cvent Photo:Cvent

Göran Göhring, Geschäftsführender Gesellschafter Stagg & Friends Photo: Stagg & Friends/Patricia Eichert

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers the clients of Dr. Michael Liebmann’s company “doo” an edge on competition. The key to this is the ability to personalise events. Doo’s “Smart Event Automation” comprises invitation management, online registration, entrance and tracking, as well as apps and feedback. Personalisation is based on a self-learning customer relationship management (CRM) system. According to Dr. Liebmann this generates “30 to 200 per cent more registrations and a real ROI.” Only five per cent of all e-mails are ever read; individualisation helps you “quadruple” that figure. Other fields of application include “an agenda with data from the attendees‘ journey” and “targeted match-making”. Doo realises an “all-in-one platform“, the founder promises.

“Special self-learning digital tools, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), chatbots and algorithms facilitate processes and make it much easier to share information,” concludes Göran Göhring, Managing Partner of Stagg & Friends. Thanks to digitisation, AI is also increasingly used in event and live communication. It is hard to say what services will result from this. But for Göhring one thing is certain: “All fields of communication – including our industry – are undergoing a shake-up. Algorithms search databases in real time, filtering information. VR and AR use emotional visualisation and enrich the real world by striking aspects of the non-natural world: “That will be standard in two years’ time,“ predicts the head of the Düsseldorf-based agency.

Bonn-based FastLane offers a full service for guest management with solutions such as full-colour live badging, admission management and event apps. FastLane is the first German company to offer facial recognition (Face-ID) for events with strict security requirements or a large attendance, says Werner Schiffer: “Our technology creates a biometric profile of the face based on a photo uploaded by the guest. The resulting biometric profile is encrypted and stored in an ID code. The photo is not saved. At the event a live image is made of the guest and compared to the biometric data. It takes only eight seconds to print a badge. As the biometry of a face is unique, only registered guests have access.”

Schiffer says: “Algorithms could enable us to monitor visitor behaviour and analyse emotions. This would allow us to evaluate presentations and scan where the audience is looking.” The expert predicts that the technology could also be used in HoloLenses for faster and more mobile registration.

Some 1,100 engineers at market-leading Cvent work on optimising data flows between the company’s many products for event planners and solutions to increase engagement. “At Cvent we are all about tracking the attendee journey, so event organisers can accurately measure attendee engagement at their event to deliver more targeted and relevant content to their attendees,” explains McNeel Keenan, Senior Director Product Management at Cvent. Many customers opt for the long-range RFID-based attendance tracking solution OnArrival. Less complex rival products only use RFID as if they were scanning bar codes, criticises Keenan. “We know that is the wrong approach as it’s just not accurate. At Cvent we leverage a sophisticated algorithm to produce the most accurate data around session attendance and stand visits. We are able to aggregate all of the RFID reader data from every hallway, doorway, or tradeshow floors along with handheld scanner data and mesh this with the event agenda,” explains the Director. The algorithm processes millions of data points to produce accurate booth visit dwell time and session attendance durations for all attendees, and it does so in a matter of seconds!”

Algorithms are something Göran Göhring is also already seeing a lot of at events: Chatbots can communicate with attendees and share information via messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. “A chatbot can also send programme changes or attendee surveys effortlessly, and individualise communication to meet all needs,” says the agency pro. “Voice recognition systems can deliver personalised experiences to guests. Cloud-based event management platforms automate and facilitate processes, saving time and money. Smart attendee data analysis makes it easier to monitor your success.” Digital and self-learning tools help evaluate learning achievements, says Göhring: “Interactive survey systems optimise methods and content by collecting knowledge data and product feedback.” As a motivation tool, the Stagg & Friends Director even imagines “experience catering with 3D printers”.

All this passion for progress gets a damper from the Hamburg-based Institute for Management and Economic Research. Its study “Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace 2018” reveals misgivings about algorithms. While over 70 per cent of all Germans approve of AI, only 47 per cent consent to its being used to predict their behaviour or demand. Only 42 per cent agree to AI conducting conversations. Those who use algorithms, must deliver a great performance in order to gain acceptance and avoid misinvestments. As Göhring aptly says: “It is important that the focus is on people, not on the technology. AI and algorithms should facilitate processes and make life easier for staff but should not replace personal encounters between people, brands and products.”