In the advertising world, technologists are co-leading creative teams and offering expertise as developers and “digital storytellers.” In events, technologists’ roles are running deeper. While they used to remain behind the scenes managing the network or the app, today they have a front-row seat, collecting and interpreting analytics, live wiring experiential touchpoints and inventing experiences, too.
To gain some insight into the evolving role of technologists in events, we turned to Dannette Veale, manager-
experience strategy, global sales events and talent, who manages the digital practice for Cisco Partner Summit and GSX. For Veale, technologists in events are more connected to the business of events than ever before.
Event Marketer: We hear more about the “technologist” as a major role in events today. How have you seen this role evolve?
Dannette Veale: I think the shift started in 2009 when budgets were challenged and the trend toward virtual and hybrid got underway. Prior to that, a technologist was being asked to look at the basics—the registration systems, badging and those kinds of scenarios. What [that shift] did was help to expose, at a critical time, how technology can help to extend the reach of an experience. How it can be leveraged beyond those usual pre-event engagements to really help drive the conversation, potentially even mold the actual experience that’s going to happen on-site.
EM: Where do you see the role of a technologist going from here?
DV: With the advent of the technologies that are coming out of both Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus and what Google’s doing with Cardboard, it’s going to enable us to bring those kinds of bells and whistles into the basic breakout session, and it’s going to dramatically change how we approach trade shows.
There are so many new technologies that are going to enable us to move well beyond the “Like” or “Share” button. We’re going to get into spaces like biometrics where an attendee badge has technology that will enable me to understand whether their current heart rate is spiking up or down, or if I am giving them an emotional arch. Or it might help me understand facial expressions. I don’t think it’s that far off. So definitely wearables and biometrics are going to play into how we’re evaluating and looking at real-time audience sentiment—and technologists will be behind that implementation.
EM: Focusing on Cisco, what’s an area of technology that you see impacting your events?
DV: We continue to really push the envelope on how we leverage our own network infrastructure, and one way that is unique, but is not going to stay unique, is how we manage transportation. We have 17,000 salespeople at GSX, really large people movement between a number of different properties, so with one of our Cisco partners Davra [Networks] we’re actually going to put infrastructure onto the very simple router that we put on all of our buses that allows our fleets to be interconnected. At any given time I can understand how many buses are actually up and running, if any have a mechanical issue. If I have major queues building, I can reroute, in real-time, buses from one property to another property. It’s allowed us to be much more nimble, and so we’re looking into the next evolution of transportation, how we can publish real time waits and more—it’s one example of how we’ll use real-time technology to power our events.
EM: How does someone “break into” a career in event technology?
DV: In order to be a good technologist now you’ve got to really understand everything that goes around the event from the operations to the content production, solutions that can help with things like transportation—areas that would not have normally sat within what a technologist from an event perspective would be asked to do. It’s not an unlearnable skill, it just requires a passion and curiosity to some degree. I would tell anyone who is pigeon holing themselves into that tech-only side of the conversation that the opportunities nine times out of 10 are going to lie outside of it.
Agency Perspective: Four Ways Event Technologists are Impacting Events
1. Bridging Organizational Gaps
Despite the inter-connected role technology plays in business, often the organizational structure of a company has not kept pace. The CTO, CIO and the CMO pieces may not interact with each other and that can create points of friction. “A lot of what we do for clients is look at how systems talk to each other and bringing systems together to help organizations,” says Jason Snyder, CTO at Momentum Worldwide.
2. Streamlining the Process
When it comes to the RFP and creative process, technologists are helping create efficiencies. “Instead of mood boards, today you might be demoing something for a client that shows them how a technology would work or a specific example of something that’s been deployed with some ideas on how it can be modified to meet the idea for the event,” says Matt Pensinger, svp, managing director at Jack Morton Worldwide.
3. Driving Innovation and Research
Technologists are transforming agency offerings through innovation labs, developing proprietary software and engineering digital tools. They’re also seeking out other experts and inventors. “Innovation is a profit center,” Snyder says. “My engineers have equal footing in terms of not just the execution but the ideation, development of concepts and really bringing stimulus into some of the creative teams so that we don’t fall into that path of a bunch of creative guys sitting around and Googling stuff they might think is possible.”
4. Helping the Industry Perform Smarter
Agencies and clients are still after that “Holy Grail” of creating a seamless stream between existing data (the reams of it), new data and leveraging it all to inform strategy. Not to mention getting all the various tech touchpoints from registration to mobile to talk to one another. And this is where technologists have the biggest influence.
“Our clients are looking to create more closed loop kinds of activations where the role of data becomes one that’s less about collection, which I think everybody does pretty well, and more about actionable analytics and creating insights that not only inform an existing or soon to happen activation, but can inform and therefore make more targeted subsequent sales and marketing activities,” says Scott Kellner, vp-marketing at George P. Johnson.