Will Technology Replace the Event Planner Role?

Skift Take

Eventtech is certainly changing the face of events. But will it eventually spell the end of face to face events and meetings and the role of the event planner?

Hands up all of those who have not had a talk with a client with regard to technology at events? Keep your hands up while I have a count up, can’t quite see London, New York is that a hand up?
OK got it….no one, not one single person.
We are all having event technology conversations everyday!
Let me share a perspective that will help.

A few months ago I was on the panel at an Event Huddle discussing the future of event apps and technology at events. The conversation was diverse and fascinating, but one remark really caught my attention and has played on my mind ever since. When asked how to keep younger audiences engaged, one of the panellists responded:

“The new generation hates face to face communication. Millennials could happily spend their lives just talking via apps and emojis. Technology will eventually replace human interaction.”

The general reaction of the crowd seemed to be one of agreement, but I couldn’t quite get my head around this idea, which to me, seemed completely wrong. Are we really to think that we have raised the next generation as socially backward, monosyllabic cyborgs incapable of functioning outside of social media?

Do we truly believe that the future of events – intensely emotional and real experiences – means silencing our own humanity in sight of technology?

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

I’ve been hearing a lot of chat that this is the year the event and tech worlds will collide, people are predicting they will go hand in hand in the coming year.

And that I cannot question – already we are seeing just how valuable event apps are not only to organisers and brands to successfully manage their events, but also for consumers to be able to learn, discover and communicate with the brand, enhancing their overall experience.

Not only do mobile apps provide a benefit for attendees, they also offer the option to reach a broader audience not in attendance, via livestreams and broadcasts, allowing remote users to experience the event as if they were actually there. This kind of technology is invaluable.

However, it doesn’t matter how good your app is if you cannot follow it up in real life. It’s a symptom of the modern age – you can tweet well-wishes to anyone standing by themselves, but will it make them feel less alone? Personally I do not believe there is any substitute for the raw authenticity of the human experience, regardless of how much time one spends lost in the world of apps.

Surely that’s why we do events in the first place, right?

Living in a Virtual Reality

Augmented and Virtual Reality are among the exciting new ways we are able to use technology to create multi-sensory experiences which seem truly out of this world. Train stations appear to have become the playground of choice for publicity stunts to demonstrate just how remarkable this technology can be, allowing the general public a glimpse into the future of what appears to be Experience 2.0.

One particularly memorable example I stumbled upon whilst crossing the busy ticket hall of Victoria one morning, was a promotional experience for the DVD release of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Right there in the middle of the train station was a to-scale hull of a military aircraft. And there, strapped into a harness and elevated about 5 feet in the air, VR headset over their eyes and looking terrified whilst clutching on to the side of the plane, was an unsuspecting volunteer watching the ground fall away from their feet as the plane took off.

This recreation of one of the most iconic action sequences of the film was little less than extraordinary, and was certainly drawing in a large crowd of people clamouring for a turn. (Which only further reinforces another philosophy of mine that we’re all just a bunch of sensible adult children who want to play.)

The use of virtual reality in this way is as iconic as it is successful, primarily because it offers a tiny glimpse into an authentic alternative in which anyone can experience what anything is like. But the glimpse is what is key. A snapshot of something truly remarkable will leave a lasting imprint on a person, and give them an excitement and thrill which is only solidified when they tell their family and friends about it. Humans are born storytellers, and giving them a tease of something so exciting provides a double-faceted glee. The joy of having the experience, and the joy of making everyone else green with envy when you tell them about it.

So will events eventually result in being a pre-programmed experience broadcasted to a series of headsets adorned by people slumped in armchairs like something out of Minority Report? I just can’t imagine a future where that would be true, or if true: by any means as important, successful or impactful as reality.

Technology Enhances, Not Fixes

And so, harking back to that panel discussion, I was finally reassured to hear another panellist respond:

“Regardless of generation and culture, technology will never replace face to face meetings due to the trust factor and human nature.”

Because the truth is, technology only becomes a replacement when it is a solution to a problem. i.e. the car fixing the problem of not getting places quick enough, the internet a perfect solution for not communicating over long distances quickly enough. But we are highly sophisticated human beings with complex emotional ranges, and the way in which we are so easily able to communicate that to one another is one of our highest accomplishments as a species. This is not a problem that only technology can fix.

The opportunities for expanding how we communicate are endless, but this is only to enhance on the fact that we are able to perfectly inspire, educate, deliver, explain, question and provide answers just through human speech, face to face. Which, arguably, I’d say is ten times more impactful than just reading text off a screen.

The possibilities for event apps are boundless, but we mustn’t then bind ourselves into believing that the next generation, that millennials can only understand us if we speak fluent emoji and hashtag every sentence. The whole world is obsessed with trying to figure out what young people want and how to sell it to them, but the first mistake now is believing that millennials are a different kind of human than the one we’ve known before.

Come on, it’s classic ‘kids these days’ syndrome and we’re better than that.

In Conclusion

The real point here, and for those who’ve heard me speak I say this a lot, we are and always have been the same people.
2016, 2006, 1986. we are emotional humans with needs wants and desires.
We want to be good mums and dads, fathers and mothers.
We want to belong, we want to know our place in the world, we need to be connected, amused and informed and to know that we are enough.
Face to face communication is going nowhere because it does all of those things and will always remain the most important part of any event.
But that’s not say we can make a hell of a lot more magic with a splash of code and a little ingenuity.