- As both the current Chair of the InfoComm Rental & Staging Council and as a live event professional, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my nose buried deep in a Wired Magazine, daydreaming about how I can apply technologies like Facial Recognition, Artificial Intelligence or Natural User Interface to my clients’ meetings and events. What I’m discovering is that our industry is under threat from many directions, but also in a position to capitalize on these trends.
Midori Connolly is the Chair of the InfoComm Rental & Staging Council.
The primary threat – and opportunity – in this business is from the expansion of the time-deprived, on-demand lifestyle of a nation hooked on YouTube and text messaging. In our daily lives we filter out 95% of the ads around us. This means an audience member at our events, whether a concert fan or conference registrant, is only seeing or hearing 5% of sponsors’ messaging. In the online world, banner ad click through rates have dropped from 78% in 1994 to .02% in 2012, and brands anticipate that they only have about 30 seconds to connect to a consumer when they interact on a mobile device. Knowing this, we need to transform our AV technologies to accommodate the communication needs and styles of these audiences.
In a world focused on the second screen, our attendees are seeing and hearing content through the palm of their hand. You must refresh your perception of how an attendee experiences an event. No longer do they find out about a concert on a flyer, and show up hoping to meet people and discover a great band. That mobile device they carry is rapidly becoming their sole tool for discovering the event, purchasing a ticket to the event and then sharing the experience it. Eight trillion text messages were sent in 2011, and by 2015, it is estimated that 1 in 8 mobile users will use mobile exclusively for their festival, cinema and sporting event tickets.
So how do we accommodate this culture in our staging world? We need to think about this from the user perspective. We can’t hope to continue to push giant video walls and hope the scope or scale or resolution is enough to dazzle an attendee. We must use that display surface to create a more personalized experience (with personalization being one of the absolute hottest trends around). The user/attendee wants a bridge between what happens in the mobile bubble that encapsulates them and what they are seeing on the stage. Somehow, we need to improve our use of technology to close that gap, in order to capture and hold their time-deprived, overloaded attention span.
I am seeing this happen already in the conference world. One way that a few technology providers are closing the gap is by pushing the on-screen content to users’ mobile devices. They then allow the user to interact with, and manipulate the content. So, a speaker can gather immediate feedback, and adapt their presentation on the fly. It is a user-centric design that democratizes the educational experience. It’s been a major trend in higher education, as students and educators shift to a two-way dialogue, encouraging more absorption and application of information being presented.
Live streaming of content is in huge demand – and there is no industry better positioned to take advantage of this trend than ours. Bringing the content to an attendee addresses one of two issues. It’s not just a logistical reason why an attendee doesn’t physically come to an even because of lack of time or budget. Often an attendees does not come because of lack of awareness or interest. By live-streaming audio or video content to this user the event organizer can still fulfill their needs. But keep in mind that if someone is paying for a remote registration, it had better be fantastic quality. And if the client chooses something like free access to a limited portion of the event via a Facebook broadcast (to entice future purchases of tickets/registrations or bump awareness), then that content had better look pretty darn amazing– something a potential buyer just can’t miss the next time it becomes available.
When you shift your concentration from pushing video to big screens and audio to powerful systems, begin to think small. Think about the individual and what they hope to experience at an event, from the moment they hear about it, to their ticketing experience, to connecting to other attendees, to the way they hear and see your client’s messaging. Maybe your daydream entails an attendee sitting in a concert seat, composing a symphony of their own by manipulating the sound being produced on a stage through a device in their hands, the end result which is then sent to the mini speakers next to their ears. Seem far-fetched? In this is an age of rapid adoption and acceleration of communications hopefully your daydreams will be small enough to keep up with the pace!