Engaging Experiences: Enhancing Events with AI & Interactive Technology
The virtual experience economy is a key topic that we have explored in several previous Trend Watch Reports, representing the shift in the way that we now engage with the world. Virtual experiences and interactions take place in many people’s professional and personal lives and, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have become an important part of the events industry.
Interactive technology and artificial intelligence both present a wide range of tools and solutions that can enhance events and the experience of attendees. From automating and simplifying elements of event organisation to creating more engaging opportunities for attendees, virtual experiences and AI technology are already transforming the MICE sector and have the potential to make even more changes that continue to improve attendees experience.
In this article, we discuss the benefits of facilitating these engaging experiences and share some of the key applications of interactive technology and AI in events.
In this article:
The Benefits of Engaging Experiences at Events
Before we discuss how AI, virtual reality and interactive technologies are being used in the events industry, it’s first important to understand how and why using this technology can be so impactful.
Engagement is a metric used to describe how attendees feel when they’re at an event. If they’re engaged, they will feel focused on what’s happening, connected to the purpose of the event and the brand behind it, and enjoy the experience.
As well as generally making for a better experience, having engaged attendees also benefits the brand or company behind the event. A 2020 study on the impact of positive experiences at events found that attendees that have meaningful brand experiences at events are more likely to remember the details about them and return in the future. If you prioritise engagement at your events, your attendees will not only remember the event more clearly but also be more inclined to attend again in the future.
Engagement often leads to greater participation, which in turn can make attendees feel more positive about your brand. In fact, it’s been found that people who participate in a live brand experience then go on to tell an average of 17 other people about the experience, demonstrating how engagement can help grow brand awareness.
As well as brand awareness, hosting engaging events can also help to increase attendee loyalty, which makes them more likely to attend another event in the future and increases their positive opinion of your brand. The Freeman Trust Report 2023 found that 77% of people felt their trust in a brand increased after an interaction at an event, with 55% also reporting residual positive perceptions of the brand in the months afterwards.
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The Applications of AI in Events
AI has been a hot topic in a wide range of industries for many months, with new developments and applications of the technology continuing to emerge as our understanding of artificial intelligence grows. There are plenty of ways of using AI for events to help improve attendee experience and make the process of organising and running events easier, which we’ll explore in more detail below.
Whilst using AI in event planning doesn’t have a direct impact on attendee experience, it can free up a lot of your time when it comes to administrative tasks.
All kinds of organisational and event management software are starting to utilise AI to automate processes and help you carry out a range of tasks more efficiently, from sorting data to automatically sending out emails and event information. When you make the most of this, you have a lot more time to focus on improving methods of attendee engagement, dedicating the bulk of your resources to tasks that will benefit from an intuitive, creative approach.
Chatbots are a common feature on a lot of websites now and provide a simple way to use AI programs to answer potential attendees questions and keep these web users on your site for longer. Instead of losing potential attendees because they can’t find the information they’re looking for, adding a chatbot to your event website is a great way to provide a more personal experience with instant responses, which can also free up time that might have been spent handling enquiries.
If you have an event app, chatbots are also a really useful addition to this, especially for things like conferences and trade shows. You can massively improve attendee experience and boost engagement by giving them the option to direct any questions to a chatbot on the app, providing more instantaneous help and hopefully a satisfying experience that will ensure they remain engaged during the event.
One of the most interesting ways that event planners can utilise AI for events is to help with personalisation. If you’ve got a lot of data about your attendees, AI software can be used to create personalised itineraries, communications and content for each person coming to your event, providing a much more tailored experience.
Research by McKinsey shows that 71% of consumers now expect personalisation from brands that they interact with, so you’re instantly tapping into attendee desires and expectations when you use AI to provide a more personalised experience. Personalisation will also help to increase engagement, as attendees are likely to feel much more connected to content that has been tailored to their preferences.
If you’re organising an event in the MICE industry that involves networking, AI software can be a huge help in creating a better experience for all attendees. By providing an AI tool with information about all of the people attending the networking event, you’ll be able to generate suggestions about who should interact with who, based on a range of factors such as role, background and interests. This can facilitate much more productive and harmonious conversations, which leads to a more engaging networking experience that everyone gets a lot out of.
Attendee Data Analysis
Finally, you can use AI in events to analyse data about your attendees and pull out trends and patterns that can help you to refine your approach. For example, by using AI to identify the most common traits or interests of your attendees, you can tailor the content of the event to appeal more to the majority, providing a more engaging experience because of this personalisation.
You can also use AI to analyse data after an event has taken place to gain more insight into what was successful and what needs to be improved. Pulling key trends out of feedback, generating average satisfaction scores and identifying the most engaged-with aspects of your event can all be done quickly and efficiently with AI, providing you with a lot of data to work with.
Interactive Technology in the Events Industry
Whilst perhaps not as talk-about as AI at the moment, interactive technology is another area that has and will likely continue to make an impact on attendee engagement in the event industry. From VR experiences to apps and games that allow attendees to interact with each other from different locations, there is a wide range of applications for interactive tech.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
VR and AR are some of the best ways to create immersive experiences for event attendees, whether they’re attending your events virtually or in person. These technologies can create interactive and immersive experiences for attendees, enhancing engagement and enjoyment by creating new ways for attendees to experience things or interact with each other.
Classic examples of using VR and AR at events involve giving attendees headsets to experience immersive environments or stories that link to your brand or the purpose of the event. These headsets are also being used for meetings as a way to bring together remote attendees in the same virtual space and facilitate more engaging meetings that allow everyone to feel more connected.
You can also use AR as a way of making presentations more immersive, which will help to increase engagement and also make them more memorable.
One of the biggest benefits of VR and AR in the MICE industry is that it allows for great experiences for all attendees, regardless of their location. If you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid event, you can ensure engagement remains high by helping attendees to feel more present using this technology.
Gamification in events involves using game-like processes and systems to add more playful and competitive elements to aspects of the event. It’s a classic way of improving engagement at events by turning otherwise standard elements and introducing stakes, rewards and competition to get attendees more involved.
You can use gamification at your events by running competitions or giveaways where attendees receive merchandise in exchange for competing in a game, quiz or challenge that is related to your brand or the event theme. It’s also a really useful way to improve engagement during presentations or talks by asking attendees questions, encouraging participation and introducing competition.
Interactive event apps are a really impactful method of improving engagement that is a great investment for large, recurring or multi-day events. They should include useful information like schedules, details of different activities and links to relevant websites or platforms, but you can also get more from your event app by including other features that are more interactive.
We’ve already touched on how AI can be used with chatbots or personalisation, so consider whether you can add these elements to your app to give attendees the chance for more personalised experiences. You can also use your app to collect real-time feedback, facilitate connection and conversation between attendees, and share additional content that will help to improve the overall event experience.
Polling and Q&A Interaction
Leading on from that point, interactive technology is a great way to improve engagement with things like attendee polling and interactive Q&As at your events. Whether you use an event app to do this or another type of technology, giving an audience the chance to share their opinions or ask questions in real time is a great way to keep them engaged and create experiences that feel more meaningful and helpful because of this audience interaction.
This can also help events to be more accessible, as it encourages all attendees to ask questions and share their opinions, which they may not have felt comfortable doing without the help of anonymising technology. It also means that interaction is easier for hybrid events, which can greatly improve engagement for remote attendees.
Finally, a use of interactive technology in the event industry that is particularly useful at trade shows or conferences is interactive displays and touchpoints. These present a unique and more interactive way for attendees to explore content, products, and services, and can also be a great way to display visual branding or marketing material on devices that facilitate greater engagement.
AI and interactive technology have the potential to totally transform how events are organised, managed and delivered in the MICE industry, and we are already starting to see these applications in a variety of areas. Whilst this kind of technology can seem daunting when you’re new to using it, it’s undoubtedly going to become more and more integrated into events in the future, so the best thing to do is start understanding how it can help to improve experiences and attendee engagement.
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