Wearable Tech: The Future Of Experiential Events?

This is a sponsored post by klik. More information about Event Manager Blog’s sponsored posts.

Ever wanted to walk in your attendees’ shoes? Experience the event the way they do? Understand why they would flock to one booth and desert another? This requires reliable real-time data and insight into your customers’ journey through your event. 

The depth and richness of the data you can collect now is unprecedented. From footfall and adoption rates to more qualitative data, like opinions and biometric happiness-related measurements, you can dive further into the attendee experience than ever.

But how do you know what to collect? What data leads to actionable insights that improve your event year over year? And how should you collect it?

While check-ins and surveys have become staples, they don’t necessarily deliver the richest data available. Event apps offer real engagement metrics, but are there alternatives that let you collect them while keeping attendees’ attention on the event rather than their smartphones?

The answer: wearables.

They are about to change events for event planners, exhibitors, and attendees.

In this article, we will review some exciting developments in wearable tech and show you how you can use them to improve everybody’s experience. We’ll address the following questions:

  • What wearables are available on the market?
  • Why is it important to consider them?
  • How do they compare to similar functions on event apps?

What Are Wearables?

When we talk about wearables, we are referring to those devices that basically reinvent accessories or items of clothing with a new layer of functional technology. What usually comes to mind first are health and fitness related items (e.g. Fitbits) or Smartwatches. But there is a lot more to it: think glasses, clothing, earwear, even tattoos.

The market for wearable devices is expanding quickly with a forecast increase of 26% between 2018 and 2019 (as shown in Gartner’s latest research).

IDC research also predicts a rise in eyewear and other clothing with built-in tech that capitalizes on the growing interest in smart assistants.

So chances are that you will find them everywhere in a not so distant future. Here are the main types of wearables that you might want to consider for your next event:

  • Smart Badges
  • Wristbands
  • Smartwatches
  • Earwear (e.g. real-time translation for international conventions)
  • Eyewear (e.g. facial recognition on smart glasses)
  • Clothing (e.g. recharge your phone as you go through your T-shirt)

The first three on the list are now widely used, and event engagement platform klik is already making advancements in using smart wearables to gain event data and convey those insights through their software.

While the other ones still need more technological improvement to completely integrate within an event strategy, they are exciting developments for the future!

How Do Wearables Compare?

  • Automatic data.

    Wearables collect data passively at all times, without any cost to engagement or concern over response or participation rates (another advantage).

    Event apps are great for aggregating the data and providing a complete dashboard for the attendees and exhibitors alike, but they only generate data when people actively decide to use them. Badges require an army of QR code-scanning personnel at every entrance or booth.

    While these remain necessary and useful at events, wearables can be used to bolster data collection. Wearables collect data passively, in real-time, through participation in event activities themselves; attendees are not required to scan something, answer questions, or enter the data manually.

  • Immediately actionable insights.

    Real-time data can be collated into dashboards and translated into feedback on areas of improvement, which you can use to make adjustments during the event. This is a huge advantage over slower data-collection methods, like surveys, which take time to process and are mostly used to provide feedback for the next event.

  • Logistical simplicity.

    Wearables require less in the way of onsite manpower. While wearables might require an initial set-up of infrastructure and hardware, depending on the wearable, the onsite staff required to manage them during the event is less than most alternatives.

    Many partners like klik include an onsite staff member from their own team to assist. As such, wearables make it easier to get insights without delay and with minimal manpower involved – an advantage over data collection methods that consume a lot of time/manpower but yield comparatively limited benefits, like post-event surveys.

  • More productive meetings.

    More focused attendees means higher productivity. Wearables offer a controlled environment that delivers everything the attendee needs to navigate the event – without sending them to their smartphone, where the chance of distraction is particularly high. (How many times have you pulled out your phone to set a timer and been distracted by a text message?)

    The wearer rarely has to stop what they’re doing to feed the device information. Even if they do, their interaction with the device is minimal and limited to that action.

  • Better face-to-face interactions.

    Connecting with others finding business opportunities, and learning are the main reasons why people attend events, making it important to keep people engaged with each other. Technology should boost these aims rather than distract from them.

    While event apps are very useful, they can reinforce an already problematic behavior: interacting more with their phones than with other human beings.

    Wearables, on the other hand, can easily capture another person’s information, just by touching two attendees’ wristband together or clicking on a badge. This information can then be retrieved later on through the event app. For example, klik smart badges, sleeves, and buttons allow attendees to exchange information with a single “click” of the wearable.

Wearables for Different Event Stakeholders

Many problems faced by event planners, exhibitors, and attendees can be eased by the use of smart wearables during events.

How Wearables Benefit Event Planners

For the organizer, traditional events mean having a lot of people around to scan QR codes on badges, register visitors (waiting lines), etc. It also means relying almost solely on post-event surveys to get feedback.

Event Planner Goals

  • Gather reliable data on your attendees’ behavior to improve your event
  • Get your target audience to come back, and to talk positively about their experience and attract more people through word of mouth
  • Give sponsors and exhibitors as much exposure and as many business leads as possible

The main benefit of wearable tech for event planners is that it allows for the gathering of real-time data without detracting from your attendees’ productivity.

Professionals in the B2B events space particularly value their time above all. If you can manage, through the use of wearables, to make them feel like they are more productive, you will increase the satisfaction of customers who will, in turn, be more likely to come back.

Implement Wearables to Advance Event Planning Goals

Here are some ways you can use wearables to support your event planner goals:

Access control.

Handle check-ins and access to restricted areas (e.g. the VIP section) in a more convenient and economical way.

Engagement/interaction tracking.

Generate footfall heat maps to track attendee traffic at any given time, see who the attendees interacted with (other attendees, exhibitors), and collect biometric data to determine their engagement levels in realtime.

At a 2014 concert, Pepsi used wristbands to monitor the energy level of the crowd and sent that information to the DJ, who adjusted his set accordingly to improve the engagement and mood of the attendees.

Smart guidance.

Give attendees relevant alerts and signals when they are close to sites of interest, like promising booths or other guests with common interests.

Encouraging the right attendees to visit booths based on predefined matching criteria will increase the exhibitors’ ROI for this event, making it easier to have a smooth debrief with them afterwards.

Real-time improvements.

Combine footfall heatmaps and biometric data in real-time to determine problem areas and take steps to resolve them.

For example, use the data to isolate and respond to bottlenecks and congestion. This could be as simple as removing an obstacle or erecting more signage to facilitate movement.

Identify underperforming booths and help exhibitors find ways to generate more interest before the event is over. Depending on the wearable, you can even send timely prompts or branded pop-ups to stimulate traffic.

Sparks, a brand experience agency, reckons that “locating your attendees as well as gauging their movements throughout an event can be a vital metric in identifying bottlenecks and improving overall visibility by attendees.”

ROI demonstration.

Figure out what worked and what didn’t, and which parts of the event were the most/least successful to determine what to remove next year and what to double down on.

Offer your exhibitors insight into their booth traffic, and cite the number of attendees who clicked a booth’s touchpoint and who exactly they were for insight into the number of qualified, high-quality business leads they were exposed to.

Similarly, give sponsors accurate information on how many attendees were exposed to their brands based on traffic to sponsored sessions or physical spaces where their branding is prominent.

Hot Tips

Here are some tips to help you get started with wearable event tech:

  • Meet with other important event stakeholders to define your goals and event objectives, and decide what kind of data they require you to gather. Then choose the most appropriate wearable to achieve that goal.
  • Smart badges are more cumbersome than wristbands or smartwatches, but they state who the person is, which wristbands can’t do. On the other hand, wristbands can provide biometric data about the attendees’ emotional states.
  • Don’t forget to check how the wearable integrates with the event app you have chosen (if you need help choosing an event app, you can check our reviews of some of the best ones on the market).
  • You want the wearable solution to be integrated with your event app. If it is not, you may miss out on some key benefits, like allowing attendees to share and collect the contact information of fellow attendees or exhibitors. You might even want to consider using the wearable provider’s own app.

How Wearables Benefit Sponsors and Exhibitors

For the exhibitor, traditional events involve going around and trying to drive people to your stand, exchanging a ton of business cards without a good idea of how qualified the lead was, getting a lot of people at your booth who are not part of your target market (think competitors, scholars, etc.), and missing out on the most interesting potential leads. It has always been a struggle to gauge the ROI of an exhibition, mostly because of the way the data is collected (way after the fact, often accurately, and without filtering unqualified leads).

As a sponsor, sponsorship in the physical space of the event often means contending with only very general attendance numbers and very limited information about brand exposure, especially if the event or venue didn’t come equipped with the infrastructure for measuring traffic.

Exhibitor Goals

  • Get as many good leads as you can to maximize your ROI
  • Gain more information on your booth’s engagement, representatives’ performance, dwell time, and more
  • Generate leads as painlessly as possible

Sponsor Goals

  • Get as much exposure as you can to maximize your ROI
  • Engage the widest possible audience of qualified prospects with your brand and raise brand awareness
  • Gain demonstrable engagement through event data and analyze your ROI

Wearables offer exhibitors valuable show floor traffic and engagement data in real-time, which allows them to make necessary changes during the event. They don’t have to wait until it’s all over to assess their performance and make changes for the next event. The short-range technology used on wearables also provides proximity-based alerts that can prompt relevant prospects in the vicinity to visit interesting booths nearby.

Implement Wearables to Advance Exhibitor Goals

Here are a few examples of what sponsors and exhibitors can achieve with real-time data collection:

Higher quality leads.

Use wearables to facilitate productive connections between attendees and exhibitors. Wearables can allow you to suggest booths to potentially interested attendees based on predefined criteria. Exhibitors can then be notified when valuable prospects visit their stand.

In the case of klik, wearables can also interact with a wireless booth touchpoint that prompts the sharing of digital information the exhibitor has defined in return for the attendee’s interest. This can provide a premise for following up with quality leads.

Booth performance insights.

Wearables that track attendee traffic flow offer exhibitors insight into how much time attendees spend at their booths and, for large booths, potentially measure the success of certain activations by combining slowed traffic with biometric data.

This could potentially provide a lot of value to exhibitors who’ve invested a lot in, say, a product demo or a digital wall, and who might be interested to know if it was worth it. It also offers them an opportunity to pivot on their show strategy in real-time and salvage their ROI.

The foot fall on the overall show floor can be used to show exhibitors high-value real-estate, which they may want to invest in over less busy areas.

And lastly, you can use the data to compare different booths’ performances, which will allow you to provide exhibitors with meaningful averages, medians, and trends that they can use to optimize their investment next year.

Extra sponsorship opportunities.

Sponsors can gain invaluable insights on where the optimal exposure and high-traffic areas are, allowing them to make data-backed decisions about where to place their branding. This also gives sponsors and planners more transparency during negotiations.

Wearables themselves can be branded as well, giving sponsors more opportunities to showcase their brand and planners an opportunity to alleviate the cost of the wearable itself.

Hot Tips

  • Exhibitors can make the most of the technology offered by featuring attractions and activations that make good use of them.

For example, at the 2016 Pebble Beach Automotive Week, car manufacturer Infinity used biometric data collected by wearable armbands to measure attendees’ emotions as they engaged with the cars on display. This data was then transformed into digital artwork on LED screens for social sharing, making the whole experience more engaging for the attendees.

  • Sponsors can use footfall data to indicate the level of brand exposure they received, but you can use that data to drive exposure as well. Particularly if you’re using digital screens, offer your sponsors dynamic placement at a premium to guarantee that your top-tier sponsor is always front-and-centre throughout the event.

How Wearables Benefit Attendees

For the attendee, going to an event usually means carrying around a badge that only gives minimal information, exchanging business cards, relying on the event app on your smartphone to figure out where the next conference is, and ending up with no battery on your phone (and not being happy about it).

Attendee Goals

  • Make the most productive use of your time
  • Make interesting, valuable connections
  • Learn as much as possible
  • Have a good time in the process

Here are a few ways wearables can improve the attendee experience:

Simplified experience.

Offer those with wearables easy/fast-track access to certain sessions or positions. This might look like attendees clicking a button or scanning their device near a touchpoint positioned at the entrance of a specific area (a booth, a conference room, etc.). For a good example of this, take a look at Disney MagicBands and Universal TapuTapu.

If your wearable is integrated with your app, you can even send attendees timely prompts via light paging when bookmarked sessions are about to begin or they are close to a booth they wanted to visit.

Moreover, by registering attendees’ credentials in advance, event organizers can offer easy payments via wearables at food stands or stores while ensuring that sensitive data is secure (i.e. via cashless payment environments).

Better connections.

Get information about the exhibitors by, for example, installing touchpoints at each booth that attendees can touch with their wearable to trigger a request for information (farewell, bulky brochures…).

Attendees can also receive suggestions based on their behavioral data regarding people they might want to connect with, booths they might be interested in visiting, and conferences they might like to attend.

And once they do meet other guests and exhibitors, wearables offer a way to exchange contact information with one single click – without requiring them to access their phone at a moment in which they should be focussed on making a connection.

Enhanced engagement.

Wearables that integrate with the event app allow attendees to gather contact information more easily as they make connections with exhibitors and other attendees. This allows them to maintain their focus on the connection itself, which makes for a more human experience overall.

These details are then retrievable through their dashboard on the mobile event app.

Hot Tips

  • If you provide wearables during your event, make sure the attendees know what to expect from using them. Taking care to communicate the value will ensure that attendees use the wearable tech and that you get a good ROI from it.
  • Be transparent. Tell them what type of data can be collected and why (i.e. to make the event a better experience for them), and offer them the possibility to opt-out if they don’t feel comfortable with it. Consider pointing them to your provider’s data collection policy.
  • Give them sufficient onboarding. Offer simple instructions when you hand over the device, no attendee should be left in the dark as to how they need to operate the wearable.
  • Point out where the wearables will be collected at the end of the event if appropriate, and where the charging stations (if needed) are located (ideally, close to the smartphones charging stations), etc.
  • Make using them fun by including wearables in gamification. At Hilton America’s Leadership Conference 2017, they issued wearables that attendees could use to exchange contact information. Participants were awarded points for each exchange, which could then be traded for merchandise at the event store.


As an event professional, your goal should be providing the best experience possible to your audience while gathering accurate data to support your exhibitors, sponsors, and other stakeholders. This data can be used to improve your date in real-time and inform future event decisions accordingly.

Wearable tech can be a powerful tool to help you achieve that, giving you the best of both worlds: making the experience fun and enjoyable for your attendees while getting real-time and personalized data that corresponds to their event goals.

As a tech-savvy event professional, it’s incumbent on you to keep abreast of all the developments in wearable tech. Stay ahead of the trend, be creative in your applications of the technology, and work with your suppliers to give your attendees a better event experience.

Wearable-based solution klik is leading the events market, offering a complete end-to-end solution. Click here to learn more.