CES just happened. 100,000 attendees ventured to the Las Vegas jungle to find out what’s new in technology. Event planners shouldn’t care about 95% of what is presented at CES. That remaining 5%, though, may have quite a big impact.
I can finally admit this was my first CES (Consumer Electronics Show), which is even worse considering I am a Las Vegas resident. Everybody warned me about the mess: large crowds, people shouting, traffic. They were right.
Despite the amazing Las Vegas sun, the city barely handles the chaos. And if Las Vegas can barely handle it, who can?
Before I delve into the technology I saw, let me give you a hint of experience at the event.
It is very easy to pick on CES. Very easy. The event tries to be better, though.
While the choice of one of the keynotes wasn’t really appreciated by the women in the tech community, there were attempts to make it better from a planning perspective.
With such a big event, you often lose track of what the planner tries to do in favor of exhibitors who play the activation game.
Humongous activations took the stage, with Google always being the most impressive. The smarter exhibitors were super clever to use the gigantic space they had to do content (more on that later), while others just went on to fully impress with incredible installations or art environments.
All those in between or resorting to the usual tactics (grab some fruit, try VR, sign up for a competition) struggled to make an impact.
The reason why I attended was to save you some time and analyse some common themes coming from the show. AKA trends.
‘But Julius, this is a consumer show! Why should we care?’
You are partly right dear reader, you shouldn’t care for most of what’s happening at CES, but a tiny fraction of the innovation presented will impact consumers at events (aka attendees).
So let’s look at those technology elements that you may soon become an expert of, because this is what you signed up for when you wanted to become an event planner!
Artificial intelligence is the agent of change in technology. Forget about VR, AR. Who cares. Artificial intelligence makes everything easier – in a very scary way.
I saw hundreds of people ammassing to one booth, namely from Samsung’s secret project Neon. Their spokesperson presented their latest evolution of smart assistants, a humanoid AI chatbot that acts like Siri or Google Assistant but actually learns and displays emotions.
The revolution is called Spectra, a piece of proprietary technology that uses intelligence, learning, emotions and memory (yes, memory) to make these chatbots essentially human.
I started to look around for California-governor lookalikes trying to stop Neon’s CEO. No sign, so we are safe.
Nobody has managed to crack the chatbot game for events. Having attended dozens of events in the last few months, there is a consistently poor experience with chatbots despite all the great advertising claims.
This interface will be a much smoother and human-like experience with lighting speed responses, which makes it palatable for events. In the short term future, we will see these types of experiences completely replacing event apps, which in the vast majority struggle to relay a valuable user experience.
One of the busiest activations at the show was Google’s ‘Hey Google’ exhibit. With slides and interactive games where you could win a free Google Mini, attendees had to stand in line to get some brand love.
Google ‘Assistants’ in their white jumpsuits were also present wherever there was a piece of voice technology used, whether it was a TV or a car.
Google is essentially telling us that voice matters. With 28% of US homes using smart speakers, the tech is already mainstream.
Events Implications: voice assistants are the perfect tools for events, yet the implementation so far leaves a lot to be desired. Event technology founders and entrepreneurs still busy founding ticketing startups should look at voice assistants for events. There is landmine of market share to be earned.
I stopped by Verizon to check out their strong 5G brand messaging. This company is pushing 5G like crazy and I am happy about it. 5G makes wifi woes a thing of the past. 5G would make your 1998 self taking five minutes to download a picture collapse.
While not many companies are as invested in 5G as Verizon, the benefits are so obvious for events. It’s only logical to select 5G as the structural change that would create strong differentiation in the event industry.
Events Implications: when the average Joe can download at speeds from 50Mb to 2Gb from their regular phone, a new realm of possibilities opens up.
All those planners resistant to using engagement tech for lack of reliable or affordable wifi will be able to engage with an incredible amount of data transfer. Do you want to beam in a hologram speaker? Easy. Do you want to create some amazing AR activation? Done.
I had a chance to wander around the Panasonic booth, which looked more like the size of a city than an exhibit.
First I saw the gigantic 8k projector. Now, if you plan large events with large screen needs, this is the way to go. The crisp definition moved me. Please understand, I was born with black and white TV.
I also interacted with a ginormous screen that could react to you shaking hands.
Panasonic is essentially telling us that big, crisp and interactive is the way to go. And they don’t sell chips. They are actually equipping some Tokyo 2020 venues with this technology and they already did something similar with Galaxy Edge in Disneyland.
Events Implications: screens are getting bigger and bigger at conferences. Pretty much every medium to large size conference in Asia features a humongous display. 8k will become the new norm. What if you could actually play with it? What if you could interact during sessions or at booths. Dreamy.
Where many fail to be impressed, us event professionals get excited. This is the case of several projectors that display at 4k resolution pretty much from under the screen.
This type of tech does not require the projector to be hung somewhere crazy or in the middle of the room. I can almost sense your attention levels being super high. How does it work? We don’t care. It’s close, it’s just so close.
Events Implications: seriously? Do you need me to tell you? How many times have you had to create beautiful holes in your audience to accommodate projectors? How many lawsuits have you risked for attendees tripping on a projector pedestal or over badly taped wires? This is a game changer. Demand your AV supplier to give you better projection or forward this article to a venue you use. They need to get up to speed.
Will these changes be available in 2020? Probably not all of them, but some will and you had better be ready for it. Choosing a venue with 5G can save you money, it can help you to run a better event.
Here is your business case, now make it happen!