In one of my previous blog posts, I mentioned that I personally thought that nothing can beat a live event experience. In particular, I emphasized the importance of this video from Polish Philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, where he gives an ingenious explanation about the difference between a real friend versus a Facebook friend, and the huge difference between a network (online connection) versus a community (personal connection).
I received great feedback from this post and was able to have some very interesting conversations around this topic, with various people and different perspectives on this subject.
As a consequence of those conversations, I have been thinking about this concept a lot during the last couple of months, particularly as part of many meetings with CEO’s, CMO’s, investors and business executives who are trying to maximize their digital presence, but while also creating a real personal connection with their employees, customers and partners around live event/face to face opportunities.
All companies, regardless their size or industry participate in live events as part of their marketing activities. Many of those companies organize these events on their own, or hire event planners or agencies to support their specific needs. Some of these companies also participate in their respective industry trade shows, conferences, festivals and travel the world looking to connect with the right buyers, partners and experts within those respective businesses.
Billions and billions of dollars are invested annually on all these meetings and events (based on the Frost and Sullivan report from late 2013, the events industry is $565B+ in terms of size with +5M meetings and +500M attendees worldwide) and it’s very clear that technology is playing a critical role in the future growth of this massive industry.
As Mr. Bauman mentions in his video, digital technology can easily generate social networks with billions of users around the world interacting with each other on a daily basis. This could be enough in order to keep a healthy number of Facebook (or name your network) friends, but it’s definitively insufficient for generating real connections and relationships.
These relationships are a crucial part of creating trust between human beings, which is the beginning of a long and sustainable business relationship between buyers, sellers, vendors and partners. Of course this is relevant to all aspects surrounding human relationships, but I will focus on business relationships in this article, for simplicity’s sake.
Technology is invading every single aspect of the marketing industry, and live events is no exception. Thousands of event technology companies are working hard to resolve different problems throughout the industry and are creating new opportunities (and challenges) for all parties involved within live events (visitors, buyers, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, organizers, artists, teams, etc.etc.) These technologic solutions have continued to create new and better ways of linking all the parties involved throughout the live event experience in ways that we never imagined, but probably the most important question for organizers of all types (trade shows, conferences, sports, music, corporate, etc.) is the question that Mr. Bauman suggested in his reflection: Are we creating social networks or real communities?
This question translated to the event organizer world would look something like: Am I creating shallow relationships (social networks) around my own event or creating real opportunities for human connections and experiences that enable trust generation that’s sustainable year-long in communities surrounding my events?
This question and the respective answers for each event category should trigger a whole new conversation around the live events industry.
The relationship between a fan and his or her sports team or their favorite rock band could and should change because of technology and, when properly applied, the results should create unique opportunities for better human connections and experiences between fans and their respective teams, sports athletes or rock stars. The same thing holds for digital technologies- they should impact trade shows and conferences to create new and better opportunities to match the right people and interests, dramatically improving the return of investment for live events.
New digital technology, including for example virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality are facilitating a completely different live event experience. Matchmaking technologies are allowing event participants and sponsors to be significantly more selective on how they use their time throughout an event. Mobile platforms and apps, marketing tech, besides many other categories are affecting every single part of our live event experience, allowing the organizers to expand the event experience many days, weeks or months before and after the live event itself.
In summary, some companies and event organizers are using new technologies for their own benefit, and have continued to create trust and improve human relationships between community members, while others are simply wasting the opportunity with useless digital activities without real purpose.
Many years ago, when I was still in charge of a large event organizer company, I heard one of my customers say something like, “nobody wants or needs more events, we simply need better and more relevant events.” I think that my customer was right. We are bombarded by 5+ million business events per year. I would guess that the events that will survive in the future are those which are going to be the most “relevant” events that create real opportunities for the communities and the human beings involved and interacting at these particular events. Every generation, from millennials to baby boomers is using technology and attending live events, and their specific goals and needs are, in many ways, very similar. They want to spend their time and money going to the right places, meeting the right people, and having the best possible experiences. They are probably aware (or not at all) that technology is playing a critical role in achieving or failing to meet these goals.
But technology is not the goal, it’s simply a tool that event organizers and companies could and should use to achieve those goals. In the end, the correct social network could be the perfect opportunity for identifying the right members of a future active community. Some event organizers and companies are still thinking that their live events will not change or be affected by technology, and these events will probably disappear pretty soon, but those who will be able to identify technologies that allow them to convert people from “social networks into active communities” will have huge opportunities to shine and expand their events for many decades to come, creating amazing and unique experiences for all parties involved.
The next time that you visit or organize an event, think about if you are using the right technologies to create more, and better opportunities for you and your community to connect at that particular event.
Think carefully, is if your event is creating a network or a community?
Originally published at www.marcogiberti.com.
Also published on Medium.