If the question is ‘Technology’, what is the answer?

I read the recent article on Exhibition World, titled “If the answer is ‘technology’, what is the question?”, with keen interest. It is a recurring theme in the events industry where event technologies increasingly find their way around the industry.

We know that technology is here to stay, everywhere. It is currently disrupting different verticals, be it finance, hotels, transportation, aviation and more. It will be naive to assume that technology will not be making it’s impact upon the events world.

Hence I would like to bring a new perspective, as a technologist in this industry, to tackle the question in a different way:

“If the question is ‘Technology’, what is the answer?

My approach here will be looking at technology management at a more micro level than the macro viewpoint that has been discussed in the cited article.

My experience when interacting with event professionals in recent times has been quite a favorable one for technology. Event professionals do understand that technology is here to stay in the industry. The relentless marketing that event technology companies have done has bear fruits for them. Technology tests and trials come and gone, which in turn makes event professionals more savvy on what works.

For the mid level professionals, who are often on the front-line in implementing technologies (maybe as directives from upper management or just independently), they don’t doubt the capabilities of event technologies. However, with all the hype about “digital” and “data” and their potential transformations that they can bring at the macro level in the industry, it is not often understood or discussed what answers or measurements should we look for, on a more micro level of technology use.

But first, we need to understand the basic types of metrics when deploying technologies.

‘Utility’ vs ‘Insights’ metrics

Examples of utility metrics being “how much time I can save using this”, “how much prints and paper I can save using this” and “how much manual work can I automate using this”. Utility metrics forms the bottomline of any technology that you would like to deploy in your event. It should be making your work more efficient and sustainable. As such, it is important to set and measure against utility metrics. For example, if event apps are supposed to save on prints and paper, it is important to measure the adoption of such apps against how much lesser demand you had for prints. If nobody downloads and actively utilises the event app, the case on utility benefits is moot.

Example of insights metrics being “do I better understand my customers and how they interact after using this”, “can this bring a new level of service personalisation” and “can I measure the value of the network potential that I have brought to the event”. Insights metrics are typically explored on the topline of technology evaluation. Typically this is where upper management sees the true value in event technology, while there is no immediate gratification for mid-level professionals to measure against such metrics. For example, does your event technology tell you how to further segment your trade visitors into different buying groups and tending to their specific buying needs, rather than lumping everyone as “trade visitors” and interacting with all of them as a mono entity?

Any good technology should take care of the bottomline utility performance, while allowing you to explore and derive insights at the topline.

New measurements required for event technologies

Event technologies that open new grounds and possibilities should be measured against their own new metrics, be it utility or insights metrics. By measuring against existing metrics, your technology can end up being a senseless exercise. For example, Jublia do sometimes get measured against marketing metrics which may not necessarily make sense. Items like “email open rates” does not tell how an event app or business matching will ultimately perform. Engagement tools like the mentioned, should be benchmark against engagement metrics: activity and usage.

How should we even know where to start finding such metrics to measure against? It is usually a 2 steps process:
1) Your provider should have a good idea of what to measure. Find out how they will measure “success” of the event technology.
2) Using the metrics from your providers as basics, modify your KPIs so that it encompasses to your business aims too. Never use providers’ metrics wholesale and at face value as it measures their “success” and not yours.

Don’t generalise. Understand the in-depth process of a technology and it’s differentiation

Professionals needs to take a step in to explore technology offerings and their differentiation to truly evaluate and figure out if it is a fit.

For example in our business, it is common to come across prospects and when they hear that Jublia does ‘business matching’ for events, we get lumped with all ‘networking’ providers right away. It will take some effort to find out what the prospects actually understand about ‘business matching’ and we will then try to explain our unique successful process and proposition . Most often than not, we found out that they actually do not have a deep understanding of what ‘business matching’ is. Typically, we find that a “messaging” function in their event app is thought of as a business matching function. Obviously that’s not the case.

I like to call this the Wasabi paradox. The layman will usually thinks that the wasabi they eat in restaurants is the real deal, although it is highly likely flavored horseradish (wasabi is actually a prized food that is rare and expensive).

Without inquiring further, it is easy to be misled on the real deal.

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With the above discussion in place, I hope it spurs us on to find our own answers from the technologies that we are implementing in our events.

Technology is here to stay and lets find the best possible answers from it.

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