How live events are adjusting to the “Touch Screen Generation.”

I remember reading this article from The Atlantic six years ago as a concerned parent raising children from the “touch screen generation.” These days, and for different reasons, I’m reading “Irresistible” which is a fascinating book about “irresistible addictive technologies” and how they affect the way we live.
Six years later, the connection between both readings triggered a series of thoughts about the way that addictive technologies and “the touch screen generation” are interacting and how important “the human connection” is and will be for the Gen Z and future generations.
Knowing that 96%+ of this generation owns a smartphone and was born using touch screen tech for reading newspapers, magazines, blogs, books, watching movies or tv, playing games, listening to music, and so many other things is quite intimidating.
As a tech entrepreneur and investor, I interact daily with people who love technology and the benefits that tech brings to our daily lives, fixing different problems, and adding efficiencies to our personal and professional lives. But, as an event organizer (I organized trade shows and conferences for 25+ years) I also interact with companies and individuals who are convinced that live events and the personal connection between buyers and sellers at a trade show or convention and the fan experience at a music or sporting event are almost irreplaceable.
Is this the last generation who thinks this way before Gen Z takes over the world and run their lives touching buttons on screens instead of participating and interacting with live events? Are live events and the experiential marketing industry undergoing their last generation as we know it?
Let’s take a bit of perspective here. Smartphones are only ten years old, tablets seven years old, and while our exposure to screens and digital interactions continue to grow exponentially to staggering numbers, we are still in the very early days.
Adoption for AR/VR/MR technologies could bring a new experience layer, and I could be experiencing an NBA game through my Magic Leap glasses or attending a concert or interacting with product demos or education from my office instead of flying to a trade show in Vegas or London.
Are these technologies the end for the live events industry?
My guess is probably not.
As Adam Alter says, “the more time you spend with people face to face and with nature, the more restored we are as human beings against the screens and digital interaction.” Many people are aware of apparent matters, but a reminder is essential. Humans need human interaction and live events, whether for business or entertainment, as they offer significant opportunities for experiencing real “human connection.” A face to face meeting at a trade show or conference generates an entirely different level of interaction, trust, and connection than the best possible video call tech available. Dinner and social (human to human) conversation after that meeting can spark ideas and opportunities between companies and their executives that were unthinkable before the meeting. A group of friends enjoying an NBA game together or attending Coachella will generate a different bonding experience that those who choose to participate in these events online.
Nevertheless, each and all of the technologies mentioned above are creating a massive impact on the way that humans connect, interact, and experience these live events. The experience is no longer a couple of hours at a soccer match, an NBA game, or a concert. Nor is a conference or a trade show limited to just a couple of days. The experience and connections start before the event, could and should be significantly better onsite, and should continue following the event. Technology will continue to become a fantastic tool to improve but not replace face to face human interaction.
Modern venues, event organizers, and tech companies are realizing that Gen Z and future generations will be demanding a completely different experience and are rethinking different ways to keep building a new generation of event experiences engaging technology on the core and not as just “one more thing on the to-do list.”
When I co-wrote The Face of Digital with my friend and partner Jay Weintraub, we shared our ideas about how tech could and should improve events instead of imposing a threat to the industry. Two years later, we continue to see clear validation on some of the technologies described in the book, and more importantly, in the way that people and companies are interacting with technology in order to improve the overall experience and return of investment.
The intersection between massive technology investments and successful startups impacting the live events, retail, sports, venues, travel, hospitality, and other related industries is finally generating concrete opportunities for all parties involved (event owners, sponsors, exhibitors, and visitors/fans) as well as excitement on all fronts.
The touch screen generation will continue to accelerate adoption, use cases, and more importantly, provide a new generation of entrepreneurs ready to bring better and more relevant innovation to the live events industry while ensuring that “human connection” continues to be a significant factor even for those that were born and raised depending on screens for “almost” everything.
Many investors ask me why the live events industry is not being disrupted as were the media, hospitality, travel, and many other industries year after year. It’s not a simple answer, but the manageable way to look at this is that the “human connection” that live events provide is not easy to disrupt. However, I am more convinced than ever that “the live event experience” applying “best in class technologies” to improve our “human connection” is undoubtedly a bulletproof value proposition for live events owners and organizers and will continue to provide premium added value to all live events participants. Even for the Touch Screen generation!

Originally published at