How tech innovation enrich (and will enrich) event experiences

David Chalmers, marketing director for Europe at Cvent, uses Moore’s Law to explain how new technologies gain traction in the space, and why it won’t be long before wearable technology, augmented reality and even virtual reality become just as normal at events as, for example, online registration.

Cvent, which was acquired by Vista Equity Partners in late 2016 in a $1.65 billion deal, provides an end-to-end events management solution. David will be at the 10th Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin, Germany (19-21 March, with the main summit on the 20th-21st) to talk about how tech innovation is shaping events experiences.

We asked him for some thoughts ahead of DIS2017. There is much room for growth, he tells us, because despite major benefits tech advancements bring the industry, “an astounding but true fact is that 80 per cent of events are actually still managed manually.”


Tell us bit about yourself?

I’ve worked in marketing and especially technology of marketing for more than 20 years. Before joining Cvent, I worked at Cisco for 14 years and have been responsible for CRM, customer data, marketing automation, digital marketing and social media, as well as event registration and management systems. I also developed and implemented the sales and marketing strategy for Philips in both the UK and the Middle East.

I am in the fortunate position of loving my job –it allows me to combine all of my previous experience. I’m lucky that I understand both marketing and technology, and so my whole career has been focused on how technology can be used to enhance marketing and events. My past has been the perfect training ground for my position as marketing director for Europe at Cvent and I’m now the person tasked with making things happen for the company in that region.


Tell us about Cvent

The Cvent platform provides a comprehensive solution to manage the entire lifecycle of events. In addition to providing technology capable of revolutionising the event experience for both organisers and attendees, our tailor made tools have also been designed to help our customers save time and costs. As a company, we have nearly 2,500 employees and almost 30,000 customers in over 100 countries worldwide, all using our software to plan events, search venues, manage contact data, run email campaigns to drive registration, design custom mobile apps to engage attendees, integrate social media with their events, build surveys and manage strategic meetings management programs.

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What is the size of the overall “events and experiences” industry worldwide, and how it has changed over the last 5 years?

The events industry is a lot larger than most people imagine! From music festivals to corporate expos, trade fairs to charity galas, it is estimated around $565Bn a year is spent on meetings and events worldwide. 

Undoubtedly over the past five years, technology has and is continuing to transform the meetings and events space. 

Going digital has enabled organisers to integrate social media, email and mobile with their events, and provide attendees with a more engaging experience. Events are no longer only a stand-alone physical experience these days, but involve a digital experience before, during and after. Mobile has transformed the live experience completely, and social media innovations allow events to be shared live with the world.

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What makes it such a highly competitive industry in your view?

The event landscape is becoming increasingly more competitive as planners are looking to deliver impressive experiences at affordable prices. With the pressures on companies to be more resourceful with budgets, venues are facing increased pressures to deliver on all fronts if they want to win business over their competitors. This is where technologies can work in tandem with venues to create a truly integrated experience, allowing planners not only to provide a seamless event but one that is personalised to each and every attendee. People are becoming very demanding when it comes to information and experience, and expect it to be personal to them these days.

As a marketer myself, I can testify just how much time and effort goes into trying to discover what makes different customer demographics tick. The world today is so connected through digital, mobile and social, and events need to offer something special to make an impact beyond that to make the live experience purposeful and worthwhile.


From your vantage point on the industry, what are the main tech developments you’re seeing in the near to medium term?

As well as being a very well-known computing term, Moore’s Law goes a long way in demonstrating my views regarding the development in technology that we can expect to witness in the coming years. The law shows that this progression is exponential, and I expect to see acceleration in the capabilities of event technology in the same way. Online registration only started around 15 years ago, mobile apps for events only in the last 5-10 years, and now both are completely standard. People expect mobile apps when they go to events now, they’ve become normal in a very short period. I won’t be long before wearable technology, augmented reality and even virtual reality become just as normal at events.

In terms of keeping ahead of the curve, as a company, Cvent for example has over 800 technical staff specifically devoted to research and developing our solutions. Their job is to constantly look at innovations in technology and the ways in which these could be applicable to events. To give you an example; we saw how iBeacons have grown fairly rapidly in the retail space and our team were responsible for identifying how that could be applied to the world of events and integrated into our mobile app. It’s developments like these that we can expect to see more and more in the event world.


And how will tech advancements further drive the events industry? 

The short answer is that technology will grant us better intelligence, enhanced productivity and most importantly personalisation of our event experiences. Mobile and social especially transform how people engage with live events and connect those to the rest of the world, and the “big data” captured from these live experiences change the way we communicate with customers and prospects all year round.

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One example of innovation for suppliers and organisers at exhibitions just now is the introduction of RFID Technology. RFID attendee tracking systems use the benefits of radio frequency identification technology to source intelligence to make for better experiences. They can be used to pinpoint the location and movement of people wearing RFID badges, thus creating a very effective and non-invasive method of recording participant behaviour. The data can then be collated to create meaningful analysis about attendee demographics and trends.

The benefits are two-fold:

• For attendees: A non-invasive, more targeted approach to attendee analysis can be used to enhance and customise individual attendee experiences, leading to a more productive and satisfying experience for the attendee.

• For exhibitors: Better insight into the movement and interests of attendees at events allows suppliers to adopt a more informed approach to their business and marketing communications, and gain a deeper understanding of potential new business leads. 


Another innovation also making big inroads is augmented reality. What started out as a futuristic phenomenon is set to become mainstream at exhibitions during 2017 and beyond. 

The technology vastly enhances productivity by facilitating networking amongst guests and tailoring streams of information. The enabling of location services using augmented reality can also help guests find their way around the venue with markers placed on floor plans and maps that bring up event schedules and information on demand about the people and exhibitors they can see.   


Embracing this new wave of technology will not only mean that exhibitors have far greater new business intelligence but are also maximising the attendee experience.


At DIS2017 you focus on enriching event “experiences”. Tell us more in what the audience can expect to hear?

An astounding but very real fact in the world of technology and events is that almost 80 per cent of events are actually still managed manually. One of the biggest goals for Cvent in Europe is to open up the huge opportunity that technology can bring to the world of events and help event planners harness the benefits that this gives them for planning and promoting their events and engaging their audiences.

It’s up to technology providers to get the word out about the benefits that technology can bring and the return on investment it provides, as well as how it can transform the attendee experience. Of course, if event organisers have been used to handling things manually for many years, then a change in mind-set doesn’t happen overnight. 

That said the pressure for event organisers to deliver more and become more efficient along with the pressure to prove return on event investment will mean that doing things manually isn’t sustainable in the short to medium term. The pressure from attendees to have a more engaging and connected live experience will more than ever drive the need to leverage and integrate technology, digital, mobile and social into every event to be successful.

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Meet David at Digital Innovators’ Summit, 19-21 March, to hear more.

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