Audience engagement and interaction – is technology always the right answer?

Top Banana’s CEO Richard Bridge and Head of Creative Services, Ben Barnes, took to the stage at this year’s Event Tech Live to address the controversial topic; is technology always the right answer for audience engagement and interaction?

The session included an overview of what audience engagement really is, how technology can support engagement and then provided real life examples of where this has worked in client projects. The key takeaways from this session was that whilst there are many amazing new technologies that can be used for audience engagement and interaction you must always ask with the question, why?

So many times, we hear our clients say “I want a mobile app at our next event” but when we ask why, there is no real objective. Richard and Ben’s biggest tip from the session was to always start with an objective, then identify the engagement and then see if technology can enhance the interaction and engagement. If not, then you will be using technology for technology sake and probably wasting lots of time and money.

The live audience at the session had plenty of questions to ask following the session, so here’s a few of them answered.

 What’s your favourite engagement tech right now?

That completely depends on the objective. I do however favour the Q&A and Polling solutions that are becoming quicker and easier to implement in real-time. For example, if the CEO is on stage and wants to gauge the feeling in the room or the general consensus of something he is talking about, this can be done in seconds, even if it’s totally unplanned. The live data is then instantaneously visible for the discussion to delve deeper in to that topic making conversations more meaningful and authentic.  A vast difference from when data had to be taken away to be analysed post-event, completely losing meaning and purpose.

We did a client event recently which really benefited from this quick feedback technology where the CEO could instantaneously put questions out to the audience and then discuss the results in real time. Instead of having a predefined speech, the conversation was able to flow based on the feedback from the audience – a true way to achieve audience engagement.

What’s the best tech you’ve seen in 2018 and how did it change/add value to the event and organiser?

The best tech is the tech which has a simple, refined purpose and does one thing fantastically. And, I would cite the last example again. A CEO on stage in front of hundreds of employees, able to not only get a rounder understanding of the collective opinion and expertise of the business, but also question it and delve deeper – in that moment, can transform businesses.

Events apps have matured, what’s the next ‘I want that one’ tech that people don’t actually get (or want to invest the time in) to get the value out of?

We’ve had multiple clients this year ask about having robots at their events, because it’s the latest trend. But a lot of the time robots are being used as a “cool factor” rather than a “need factor”. Robots can be used for lots of different things for example providing information to delegates, or just purely entertainment.

At one of our client events earlier this year we hired Sophia the Robot and whilst she was a great entertainment source that fit in with their theme of the “future” she was able to host a panel debate on Artificial Intelligence – relevant and entertaining.

What’s the best way to combat resistance to tech? Both internally and externally

Ben Barnes says there are two key important things:

1 – Ensure it’s the simplest quickest way for the user to achieve the objective or task involved, this is where the importance of user experience comes in. If it’s clear and intuitive people are definitely more likely to use it.

2 – Sell it to them, leading with number 1. Don’t list everything a platform does, be clear about how the platform helps them with something simple today. And do that every day or week, step by step. Eventually it’ll become the default first action.

Do you think Q&A over technology works better than an open audience/hands up style?

It all depends on the question. As we demonstrated in our session, if the objective is to get a rough idea of numbers in the room then hands up might be the quickest, simplest way to achieve that. If you need to delve deeper into the detail, most of the time tech will support that. Tech is also a good way for those that aren’t as comfortable asking questions with a mic to submit their questions anomalously which means you are likely to get a good variation and higher number of Q&A participation.

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