I was reading this article from The Economist today with a smile on my face.
After 25+ years around live events (I’ve organized 500+ trade shows, conferences, etc.), media and tech, I’m quite passionate about “the intersection between digital and live events.”
I’ve co-founded and invested in companies throughout the areas of live events and event tech, and I can clearly see the amazing opportunities (and challenges) that current event organizers are facing because of the different ways that consumers are experiencing live events and how technology plays a critical role in the experience.
Regardless of the way that you experience a concert, sporting event conference or trade show, technology is affecting that particular event today and will be making a significantly bigger impact during the next couple of decades. There are strong debates and arguments around how technology could and will disrupt live events, and there are various theories and theses circulating from different experts which are extremely interesting to analyze.
After almost ten investments with event tech startups, countless experiences as an event organizer, and after almost finalizing a book about this topic (that will hopefully be published this summer), I can only say that we are still on the very (super very) early days of event tech.
As The Economist journalist perfectly posed in his article, “why would you pay thousands of dollars for attending a musical or concert if you can experience HD quality or virtual reality experiences at a fraction of the cost?” Or why would you pay thousands of dollars, travel all over the world and spend days of your life to attend a conference or trade show if you can literally access similar content and networking opportunities using different existing technologies like B2B marketplaces or online executive education platforms?
The answer is simple and complex at the same time. Nothing replace the human connection at live events. If it’s about entertainment or passions like concerts, festivals or sports, being there instead of watching (tv, livestreaming or VR/AR) makes your experience unique and memorable. If it’s business like trade shows, conferences or corporate events, nothing replace the face to face connection opportunity. The handshake, the personal meeting, the trust that you create being face to face is extremely difficult to replicate online. As Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman explained in a genius way when he was almost 90 years old in this video, there is a huge difference between a facebook friend and a real friend or between a social network and a community. Live events create a unique experience through human and personal connections that is extremely difficult to replace through technology.

Now, does this mean that technology is not affecting live events? No, just the opposite. You can improve and increase the live event experience through technology.  Technology is affecting every single category of live events and will continue to have a huge impact throughout the industry. There is more than $1.4B invested in more than 1,600 event tech startups since 2011, based on Tracxn event management report. Many of these companies are reinventing and disrupting different aspects of the live events experience and are backed by several of the most sophisticated tech investors on the planet. It would be naive to think that most of these companies will not affect the live events industry during the years to come in a pretty dramatic way.

Is this good or bad for event organizers and the industry? Are we going to see an Uber or Airbnb player disrupting the whole category?

These and many other important questions are still being analyzed, but as an entrepreneur and investor who has spent enough time around live events and tech, I must say that I’m more optimistic than ever about the future of the industry. I’m convinced that smart and innovative event organizers will capitalize on new technologies in ways that will allow them to grow their companies faster than ever, produce better event experiences for their customers, and maximize the return on investment from their investors and shareholders. Technology is and will be the best partner for these event organizers and will help them reinforce a universal truth: Nothing can beat a live event experience.

originally published at www.marcogiberti.com