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How tech is driving change in the events sector

Simon Hunter, head of venue and development, Chelsea Football Club discusses the impact of technology in the events sector

More than ever, tech is driving change across all industries, and the meetings and events sector is no different. From artificial reality and apps to event automation and chatbots, technology is providing event organisers with new opportunities to view venues remotely, and make their occasions more interactive, connected, inspiring and easier to promote.

Simon Hunter, head of venue and development, Chelsea Football Club, discusses the impact tech is having, the trends Chelsea Football Club is seeing and how it is delivering for its event clients.

In your view, how has technology changed the events sector in recent years?

It is increasingly being used to streamline a multitude of services from booking and registration, to the onsite experience. For example, apps are now the main vehicles for providing schedules, floorplans and other information to clients and delegates.

Widespread use of smartphones also means that social media has to be strategically integrated into how we deliver most events, to maximise engagement and benefit the host. 

Are you seeing clients make different demands in relation to their event space? How are you delivering?

We are seeing a growing demand for live streaming and multi-room broadcasting, where live content is streamed either online or from one room to another to increase reach. We have invested in our onsite network bandwidth, which enables us to deliver these services without a hitch.

The adoption of HD systems also means that clients are looking for a much higher base specification for their AV requirements. Fortunately, our in-house AV provider, Peachy Productions, is experienced in delivering high-spec event AV and is familiar with our spaces.

What technology are your clients using and what examples can you give?

Pre-event, one of the biggest shifts we are seeing is the use of third-party RFP sites. Clients are busy, and rather than contacting five venues separately, it’s easier to use a venue booking platform to contact multiple venues simultaneously.

At many larger events, clients are offering delegates interactive event apps. Tools like Slido, a popular tool for audience participation, are also being used, to provide live polling and an ability to curate and moderate audience questions.

What technology makes events more interactive, connected, inspiring and easier to promote?

In terms of event promotion, high profile speakers are a big draw, but it can be hard to get them onsite. High quality video conferencing has made it easier for organisers to involve big names at a lower cost.

Clients are also using social media to build communities around events. The event itself may only last a day or two, but digital groups and discussions are being used to create a buzz that lasts far longer.

What new technologies do you feel are here to stay?

We’re seeing more modular displays with LED screens and digital signage, and some events are doing away with printed materials altogether in favour of these.

Event apps are here to stay too, replacing printed programmes, which reduces costs and helps the environment. Apps are usually paired with a digital registration system that offers a paperless system end-to-end.

On the booking and management side, cloud collaboration and live documents are becoming permanent fixtures, particularly for larger events with lots of people involved in the organisation process. This also cuts the need for time-consuming email chains.

Are clients using technology to view your event spaces remotely?

We are working on launching a full virtual tour for clients who aren’t able to visit in person. Longer term, we will build VR tours that will be available online before and during exhibitions, so our clients can get a better sense of what we offer.

What do you expect to see more of in the future?

As VR matures and becomes more mainstream, we expect to see clients moving from webinars and streaming to VR events, where delegates can log in from around the world and participate without attending in person.

We could also see more global events such as The Economist’s ‘Open Future Festival’ which is held in New York, London and Hong Kong. We would love to host something similar at Stamford Bridge.

Social media will continue to shape events too. Most events are looking for more global or national reach, and social media is the best way to achieve this.

Finally, I think there is space for new developments, what about moving from a video presentation to actually having a hologram of the presenter on stage? Time will tell.