You better make sure your phone is working, because it’s time to talk bad event tech! And more specifically, good event tech that ended up going bad. You already know this podcast is here to bring you all the latest news about event technology. But this week, we decided to change things up a little bit and talk about the awesome tools that for some reason went south.
Our favorite nerdy and tech-savvy hosts Will Curran and Brandt Krueger will guide you through this rocky road. Because you know those moments when everything sounds great in theory? But then you try it and everything is just wrong? And you wish you knew how you could have avoided it? We’ve all been there. That’s why this week’s episode is nothing short of a god-send. So, are you ready to talk about good event tech gone bad event tech? Press play, it’s go time!
Bad Event Tech – The Apps
Kicking things off, our hosts immediately dive into what is probably one of the most annoying things that can happen. “I think the greatest example of this is just it not loading. It’s just not loading, not working right. And I feel like every event app that’s happened to, at least at one point”, says Will.
The Fundamental Job Of An Event App
Brandt gets particularly frustrated when event apps don’t get the most basic things right. “We love all the interactivity, all the games, and all that kind of stuff. But you have to remember that at your core if you’re an event app, you got to be able to show people the schedule in a way that’s easy to read and makes sense. Maybe give the speaker bios, all that kind of stuff, and then show them the maps”, he says. “So, you go, and you open up the app. And you can’t find the map like it’s loading, or it’s this like, bitmapped, jaggy PDF that doesn’t zoom when you click on it. It’s like, dude, you’re failing at the fundamental job of being an event app. And so, that really sours an attendee experience”.
Another pet peeve of Brandt’s is a situation with bad event tech that would make the most patient human on Earth completely lose it. “So, a lot of times we’re talking more and more about engagement, and so we want to do networking. And we want here’s the list of attendees, you want to be able to send a message from this attendee to that attendee. Or I want to connect and get their information. So, frequently, what I find on a lot of event apps, is then you’ll get this list of a thousand people”, he explains. “You click on the name, it opens up, and then you close it. And it goes back to the top of the list. So, it doesn’t go back to where you were on the list, I see that all the time on an event app”.
The Event Planner Side
“You know, the problem is that no one who hires these technologies ends up using the apps”, says Will. “As a planner, how often do you become the person who actually uses the app? The problem is you look at it for a minute, you see a demo, you see it, and you see the back end a lot. You spend a lot of time in the back end, but you never see the front end”. Brandt agrees: “And in those demos, it’s always got a test data set of like 15 people, so it looked great. So, you want to scroll down, and then you click on that, and there’s their name, and there’s their info, fantastic. But then when it’s in reality and you’ve got 1,000 people in there, it’s a whole different experience”.
Will has a pro-tip to overcome this problem. “You should never just buy the tech and implement it right away. Build out a big, long trial process. Abuse it. Use it a ton. So, for example, let’s say I just got this new scheduling software, I really want to use it. Get in the software, click through every menu, look at every setting. Look at everything like that. Make yourself an attendee profile, become the attendee, build out a fake data set. So, use it like you were going to use it, then decide to implement it”.
One of the most exciting technologies coming around the event industry are chatbots. But Brandt does have a word or two about the way you should go about using them and how avoid the bad event tech path. “If you do start to go down this road of, we want to get rid of the event app and we want to go entirely through using a chatbot, you have to change your mindset a little bit”, he explains. “You can’t just have this same mindset of, we’re going to blast out because text messaging has a different feel to it. It feels more personal. It’s one of the reasons that it’s so effective, is that it’s got like an 86% read rate of anything that you push out. So, if you’re getting that kind of read rate on anything that you push out, you need to be sensitive to that. You need to be aware of that, and not abuse that privilege, not abuse that right. Or immediately, people are going to start unfollowing the app. They’re going to start unfollowing the bot, and say, “Just leave me alone.”
“And I think also, at the same time, too, be careful of the platform on which you’re reaching people”, adds Will. “Because for example, text messages, I think, show up as the top notification on my phone. And when I see the text message notification, only people who have my cell phone number had that ability, so it’s usually someone really important that I really want to talk to. There’s a reason why the engagement’s so high. It’s because most people are always looking at their texts”.
Bad Event Tech – Live Demos
“I think far too often that technology’s the idea of like, we can now show live demos of things. And we have the ability to show these technologies and how it works on big, gigantic screens, and things like that. But then them not working is so bad”, says Will. “It’s just one of those things that if you’re going to be doing these types of a live demo. Does it have to be live or could it just be a screen record that you just walk through and talk over? Why does it have to be live? You know exactly what you’re going to click on and what you’re going to type. So if that’s the case, just do it once, record it, and then you’re able to play it back. And then you don’t need to spend four grand for a hard line internet connection”, adds Brandt. “It’s one of those things that there are alternatives to doing a live demo, 99% of the time. There’s really not a good reason, most of the time, to do a live internet demo”.
Recently, Brandt ran into an issue related to the engagement app for an event he was working on. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t working for some people because of the several networks available on site. “What was happening was, is that the person was logging onto the app in the meeting rooms, and connecting to the meeting using the meeting code. All that kind of garbage on meeting Wi-Fi networks. And then what happened is they moved just five steps to the right, and their phone decided that the close, stronger signal was the Wi-Fi in the lobby. Which was an open Wi-Fi connection as well, and maybe they’d connected on it the day before or something along those lines”.
“So if you’re going to be using these types of engagement apps, or even an event app. Anything that’s going to hit Wi-Fi, just be aware that if you’re close to another network that people might be logging into, you could run into these types of problems”, he concludes.
Why Is No One Using This?!
What happens when it comes to this amazing software that you’re super excited about but…no one uses it? What’s up with that? Is it just plain bad event tech? Well, “you can’t just buy the software and throw it out there. You have to promote it, you have to tend to your garden”, says Brandt. “Because you can’t just throw a bunch of seeds out back and call it good, and then suddenly vegetables grow. Pull the weeds, give it water, you have to all this kind of stuff. And so, any time you’re using a mobile app, the way you’re going to get 80, 90% adoption rates, is you have to tend it. You have to send out email blasts, who hasn’t done it? Give them a reason to do it”.
Pay Attention To The Weight
Brandt and Will bring up a pretty interesting story, that ends as a cautionary tale. “A pretty fascinating article that was about this really amazingly cool LED circle, a sphere, that the DJ could sit in the middle of the sphere. And it was all custom-built, and the effects were eye-popping, amazing”, recalls Brandt. “They broke the venue and had to cancel using it for the rest of the tour. They spent all this time and all this work making this gorgeous effect, and they only used it once”. Ouch!
“So if you’re going to come up with some kind of custom solution, for some amazing effect, you might want to pay attention to the weight”, Brandt concludes.
Alexa, Play Despacito
Will had a curious instance when a client wanted to do a demo on stage, using an Echo to answer back. “We were totally cool with it. Just no one thought about the fact that it wasn’t going to work perfectly if you just plugged it in. How are you going to mic it up? What’s all the tech stuff to go into it?”, he recalls. “So, we ended up doing Simon Says, pre-recording all the responses, and playing it back. But, the problem was, we needed to put it on stage. Because if people didn’t look at it, it would just seem like it was pre-recorded. So, we ended up putting it on stage. We found one that had, not an Echo Dot, but a full-size pillar that had a headphone jack. So, we literally plugged the cable into it that went nowhere, so it wouldn’t make noise but would light up. I think we fooled everybody 100%”.
“So, anyone that’s looking to do a little something fun for an opening session, or something like that. You would be able to do it exactly the way that Will described it”, adds Brandt. “So you pre-record the responses, and then just use a disabling cable of some kind. And then play them back as part of the cue sheet. You could do stuff with the lights, you could do stuff with the sound. I mean, there’s actually a lot of fun that you could have with that”.
Bad Event Tech – Backups
“I’ve heard multiple stories about festivals and concerts going completely cashless. And I believe, if I remember right, also completely cardless”, says Brandt. “The only way to do it, the only way to pay, was using this type of technology. So, you have to ask yourself, as an organizer, what happens if it goes down? So, even if it’s just a matter of having a single Square terminal in the back, something, some way to be able to accept. At the very least, a credit card, I think that’s a reasonable backup plan”.
Do It Like This, Not Like That
“I think a big learning experience about good tech gone bad event tech, too, is also be prepared for the unintended consequences of how people are going to use the tech as well”, says Will. “Either be ready to pivot and run with it, or be ready to change it as well”.
“I think the important thing is to keep in mind that even with the best-laid plans, things can go bad. So always make sure you’ve got a backup plan”, adds Brandt. “But always remember, what is the fundamental reason, why are you bringing in this tech? Making sure that you’ve got a reason behind it, and are staying true to that reason. So, if the reason you brought in an event app was to replace paper, and replace the paper schedules, and the bios, and all that kind of stuff. Then make sure it’s good at doing those things. And is going to be able to provide a good experience for your attendees. Same with all of the rest of this stuff. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of custom building a set-piece, make sure that it doesn’t weigh five tons and is going to break the first venue that you bring it in on. Think about these things, think it through a little bit. Slow down, think it through”, he concludes.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s edition of Event Tech Podcast! Soak in all of the tips and best practices. But most of all, remember to sit down and be mindful of the reasons why you’re choosing a specific technology. Hopefully, this way you can avoid all the bad event tech talk. Don’t forget to tune in next week for more conversations about the ever-evolving world of event technology!