Emerging technologies and corporate events: Are business cards and paper agendas becoming a thing of the past?

In a world of emerging technologies, there are not many areas that have not been revolutionized in one way or another by the adaptation of new devices. Next on the list of technological revolutions is the corporate event that many of us have been dragged to over the course of our lives. As corporate events transition into the digital age, common practices such as paper tickets and itineraries are being replaced by badge swipes and electronic agendas. Many companies, including event marketing agency Cramer, say technology at events will allow corporations to get more out of their event, whether it be finding new customers, making better professional connections, or reaching people outside the event.

Software for event management began as simple tools for registering, viewing the agenda, and seeing who else was attending the event. Now, a variety of vendors offer organizers the ability to create a mobile app that can perform various functions such as ticketing, maps, connection to social-media feeds, and ways for attendees to connect with speakers and more.

Although it is unclear which direction most event planners will take, application backed or social media backed events, the trend is clearly going digital and is leaving older event methods such as business cards and paper agendas in the past.

More notably, and subjectively more impressive, is the new Hiver technology that is being used at some of these events. Hiver is a company based out of London and is one of several companies offering a tracking beacon for event attendees. The tracking beacon may be attached to a lanyard or clipped onto an article of clothing and, when connected to a mobile phone, will track attendees’ movements throughout the conference. The beacon will then produce data on who the wearer has interacted with and for how long; attendees wearing the tracker my also view the list of interactions they had along with a LinkedIn profile of the people they had met. As for the exhibitors, they will be able to use this data to determine the average time people visited their booth and when the busiest times were, and can help companies adjust their tactics for the next conference. Other devices such as tracking mats counting the number of people stepping on them and cameras at charging stations will provide similar, but not as extensive data.

In addition to these Hiver-type beacons, there are also other technologies and programs that are emerging to improve the networking side of conferences. Networking apps such as Klik allow people attending an event to pre-select other attendees on their mobile app they agree to meet at the conference. While at the event Klik participants wear a light-up wrist band or other wearables and will display the same color as another participant they agreed to meet when they are near each other.

The rise in all these technologies seems promising, but some event organizers prefer to use social media over a special app. As Jonathan Meyers, general manager of events at CNBC, explains, asking people to download and figure out a phone application for a one-day conference is too much of a challenge; it is easier to connect with attendees on platforms they are already using such as LinkedIn and Facebook. This approach seems to cutoff the potential benefits the technologies discussed above will have, but, as Meyers put it, convenience may be the key to the most beneficial experience if these new technologies prove to be too complicated for a one day event. Although it is unclear which direction most event planners will take, application backed or social media backed events, the trend is clearly going digital and is leaving older event methods such as business cards and paper agendas in the past.