From Las Vegas to the world, we’re happy to introduce to you IMEX America 2019! In this edition, we bring you event tech from IMEX America! If you’ve been following Endless for a while, then you know this the one event we never miss. And this year, of course, was no exception. Over the course of several days, our team was lucky enough to be a part of the number one worldwide exhibition for the meetings and events industry.
One of the best parts of IMEX America 2019 was the introduction of exciting new opportunities in the world of event tech. And where event tech is concerned, you know our extraordinary hosts Will Curran and Brandt Krueger simply must make an appearance. So that’s exactly why this week’s episode is all about the amazing new technology coming from IMEX America 2019. You might want to grab some popcorn because this one is going to be particularly interesting. Press play and don’t miss a beat, it’s time to talk event tech!
This is hardly something brand new for Will and Brandt. They’ve been coming to IMEX for almost half a decade, after all. But there’s always something to be excited about! “It’s blown my mind how every year there are more and more and more vendors when it comes to the technology side for events. Specifically, we see a lot of mobile events, the mobile event apps that are out there”, says Brandt. “What was interesting to me is the number of new people getting into this space. It’s already such a crowded space. I mean, there are already hundreds of companies in there. And yet, here’s another new one, and here’s another new one”.
Where Business Happens
As Brandt explains, IMEX has become an opportunity for negotiations. “There is a lot of business at this show. There’s a lot of business that gets done at this show, both on the venue side, as far as all of the destinations and all that kind stuff. But also on the tech side that I hear that every year. And I don’t think they’re just blowing smoke”, he says.
The Search For Innovation
Before getting into the “tasty” bits, Brandt does remark on an important topic. “I didn’t see a ton of innovation. There was a lot of like the more iterative stuff of like, how do we make our product a little bit better in this area, or a little bit better in that area. Surprisingly, there was not a lot of talk about AI, at least in the folks that I talked to. They weren’t emphasizing that like they have been the last year or so. Where that was just like every single product had to mention the fact that it was somehow using AI to the point where it kind of lost a lot of its meaning”.
He continues: “What was really heartening to me this year, is to see how many of the tech companies were kind of doubling down on service. And really talking about we’ve tried to make our site easier to navigate, tried to make it easier for planners to just get rolling with an event. So you want to get a registration page going, great, we can be up and running in three minutes. Answer these few basic questions”.
Re-Doubling Down On Customer Service
The number trend we got to be in contact with at IMEX America 2019 was all about customer service. “I think the smarter companies, the ones that are surviving, and the ones that are lasting, were the ones that were more service-oriented. I’m seeing some of the ones, the companies that I think are smarter, are moving away from modules”, says Brandt. “And it’s all turned on. It’s turned on from the beginning. You don’t have to use it, but it’s there if you want it”.
Will weighs in with a pro-tip when it comes to this, on the client-side: Will: “One thing that you can always do, is if you’re like a one-step, you just need one feature of the next plan up and you don’t really need like all the deluxe features. Just don’t be afraid to hit up your customer service rep or the support thing. Just ask. Don’t be afraid. And if they are doing all the cart or if you need that plan, pro-tip”.
Free Does Come With A Price
“When we’re talking about things like VPNs or cybersecurity or things like that, free is not the best option. That’s not the way you want to go. You want to make sure you’re paying for stuff. And I think that does translate though to what we’re talking about today, that people are willing to pay for service. They’re willing to have to pay to have their hands held. Planners are busy”, explains Brandt. “That all ties back into this idea that I think finally a lot of companies are starting to come around on that. And realize that while there is a certain demographic who you can just throw the software out there, and they’ll pay you for it and use it, and you can watch the money roll in…The vast majority of people who want to use a software for a service in our industry don’t want you to forget the service part of the software as a service”.
IMEX America 2019: Talking Costs
As Brandt mentioned before, iteration seems to be taking over innovation. “I think as we look at the trends for 2020, I don’t think we’re going to see big and splashy, flashy. Even phones. We just had the big iPhone announcement, and easily 75% of the reporting that I’m seeing in that are like, cool”, he adds.
“The thing I’m seeing in a lot of headlines when it comes to that is that the price dropped too. And maybe that’s also something to look at the industry potentially as a trend, to do a little bit futurism”, says Will. “Everything’s been going so high, maybe also in technology in general, maybe we’ll see the industry eventually get that same way. And then there’ll be a return back to no, “We don’t want to pay $20,000 for Event app”.
A great example of doing new and imaginative things using stuff that already exists is IMEX America 2019 itself. Let us paint a picture for you: “It’s this massive trade show floor with these incredible, beautiful booths, and a lot of creativity. And a lot of variety. So I was kind of keeping an eyeball on that side of the Event Tech as well, right? Because Event Tech is not just mobile apps and things, it’s LED walls. The number of booths that had clearly made the investment in like really sharp, really clean, really beautiful LED walls”, explains Brandt.
This includes a wonderful waterfall. “We’ve got an LED wall, and instead of going like horizontal panorama, it’s this kind of narrow and tall and foresighted. And just water rushing a never-ending animation of water rushing down”. All in all, “gorgeous and creative use of existing technology as opposed to reinventing the wheel. As opposed to coming with something totally new and totally exciting”.
Mixing It Up
“The other interesting thing that I noticed on the show floor was really a smooth mix of digital and physical reality”, says Brandt. “So a lot of like really pretty clearly wooden solid like trellises and things like that, greenery in the booth mixed in with digital technology, mixed in with LED screens”.
“And large things like tall things. Things that are designed to catch your eye obviously from across the show floor. So that kind of interesting mix of the physical and the digital is something that I always really like. And I feel like I saw a lot of like really well-implemented versions of that at this show”, he adds.
Creatively Using Technology
Brandt always had a chance to check out what Community Brands have been doing in IMEX America 2019. “They’ve made convenient, pre-packaged AR. Where you think of like the very fairly stereotypical AR, where you can point your phone at a poster or some pamphlet materials or things like that. But they’ve really made it like a turnkey thing that you can just add into your mobile app”.
“So in addition to our bad scanning technology, which you can rent for this amount and this technology, we can do a custom AR experience for your booth. And they’re handling it soup to nuts. So it’s just a pre-package thing of like what do you want it to do? You want it to be a video? You want the graphics to pop up? And then they’ll supply the code and then because part of their group is supplying then the mobile app and all that kind of stuff, it’s seamless. So super simple”, explains Brandt.
They went a step further with their use of electricity as well. “So all it is detecting that pattern of those five dots as if you were touching your phone. And so you would go to each one of those passporty booths, and instead of having a physical passport, it’s all an app. And it’s all trackable. Each one of those vendors is going to be able to know exactly which people stopped by each one of the things, and then you get the little passport stamp. And he showed me. It’s just like the game”.
Not Re-Inventing The Wheel
“I met the guys from Aircam”, recalls Brandt. “And so they’ve packaged together, so when you’re buying, you’re not buying the tech, you’re buying a package. So you get a photographer, comes to your event, it’s got the wifi camera. You’re either doing a photo booth or just a wander, that kind of thing. And it instantly pushes that photo plus whatever like sponsor graphic or anything like that you want to put on it pushes it to a webpage. And so literally you go to the Air.cam, and it’s location-based, right? So you say, “Yes, I give this website access to my location.” And if you’re within that geo-fence, it says find nearby events. So you click on find nearby events, and there’s your photo”. Ding ding!
“And so again, just dead simple. So you’re able to go and look at the photo, and if there are multiple photos of you, you can go click, click, print. And then they have a printer there on-site as well. So you’re able to instantly download the photo and push it out on social media or something like that”.
What’s the main take away from IMEX America 2019? “Just don’t worry about what’s new, just get creative with the technology that already exists”, says Brandt. And that just about covers everything on this week’s episode of Event Tech Podcast! But if you still haven’t had enough of this awesome event, don’t worry – we have plenty more to come.
Don’t forget to check out the amazing resources from today’s edition. Plus, tune in next week again for more exciting event tech talk!