It's rare to hear from someone in the events (MICE) sector speak at a PhoCusWright conference.
But it is a corner of the industry which not only handles huge revenues, especially via its connections to corporate travel, but is also facing its own challenges and opportunities with the application of technology.
Step forward Reggie Aggarwal, founder and CEO of Cvent, a company which just ten years was almost on its knees but now commands a prominent space in the event booking and management sector, topped last year when it listed on the New York Stock Exchange and raised $135 million in the process.
Aggarwal, obviously borrowing cheekily on the mantra pushed heavily by Concur in recent years, says providers such as Cvent are "now thinking about the The Perfect Event".
This idea is heavily dependent on a number of elements - technology-led venues, connections through mobile, and an eagerness by delegates at events to make the most of their attendance at conferences, meetings and exhibitions.
Gazing probably not THAT far into the future, Aggarwal introduces a few scenarios where and how this might all eventually come together.
- Rather than wait for marketing materials to prompt a customer, or just knowing that an event is a regular fixture on the calendar, systems should be able to suggest other events which might be important for people to attend, based on their previous registrations or where their contacts or friends have been. These would also be based on recommendations and ratings.
- There should be a form of universal sign-on for attendees, giving them access to everything involved with an event, from programme information to accommodation and travel management.
- Events should provide an on-demand pick-up tool for attendees arriving at an airport or other rail station, utilising local ground transportation services.
- Attendees should be able to check in to their accommodation en-route from within an event's own app or the hotel website.
- iBeacon technology, for example, can be used in venues so that delegates do not need to queue to pick up their event materials - the system recognises that they are registered and in attendance, with mobile devices used to swipe in and out of certain areas.
- Back to the social element, conference providers should be able to suggest sessions for an attendee based on perhaps what they have listened to before, what their colleagues or contacts have recommended, who might have been a popular speaker in the past or elsewhere. Over time this database of recommendations becomes more useful, plus also puts a certain degree of pressure on speakers or panellists to perform well.
- Closely aligned to this element is the delegate social network - suggestions on who to meet, who is available for introductions, where the most useful networking events will be, all based on a combination of historical activity and recommendations.
- The content (speeches, panels and debates, case studies) within the event itself should be instantly shareable around a delegate's existing social networks and, in what could be a break from the norm (due to heavy registration fees), instantly downloadable. Instant replies should be available, too - on-demand keynotes, for example.
- Mobile polling should be standard, not an often clunky app-driven nice-to-have.
- Looking perhaps slightly further ahead into the future, not least because of costs, but augmented reality technology should eventually become the norm - where delegates can use a wearable device or mobile phone to find other delegates or booths, but also - more usefully - discover during the process which people or companies are most appropriate to spend time with (a "relevance to you"-type tool, again learning from previous activity or suggestions).
Perhaps where many events are missing a trick is that they exist in a vacuum, just running for a few days each year.
Technology, should in theory, be able to increase engagement at other times, but more importantly allow providers to learn more about their delegates, past, present and future.
Needless to say, tech and social-driven platforms such as Eventbrite (which Tnooz uses extensively for its own event registrations and information bulletins) are also dipping their toes into some of these areas.
But Aggarwal (and Eventbrite would no doubt agree) argues that the notion that technology such as video conferencing and a supposed squeeze on event budgets for attendees, does not mean the beginning of the end for the MICE sector.
Far from it.
Aggarwal says inevitably (but probably correctly) that, in fact, "technology increases interaction".
Given the increased attendance at many tavel industry events of late - WebInTravel, World Travel Market and PhoCusWright itself - there may be some way to go before Aggarwal's vision is utilised to that extent, but the eagerness for events does not seem to be wavering.
NB: Exhibition image via Shutterstock.