The current state of event technology reminds me a lot of Ariel in the "Little Mermaid": "There are gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. There are whoozits and whatzits galore.” It seems that, around every corner, some would-be technophile is creating the new thing that will revolutionize the event industry, make our jobs and lives easier, and/or add another layer of awesome to the events experience.
With investors finally seeming to understand the inherent value in creating technological experiences for events, there’s even a fair amount of money pouring into startups and developers around the world to enhance the industry that so many of us know and love. Some would say that it’s a great time to be in event tech, and I wouldn’t think to argue with them. But as with all things that are great, there’s also the potential for difficulty as well.
With the rapid influx of technology into an industry that has historically not gone through major innovations and upheavals in the past--well, ever--many people can find themselves feeling the need to jockey for position, or to assert their awesomeness.
Their new whoozit has to be the best, the flashiest, and the gadget or gizmo has to solve every problem any event planner has ever faced--and do it with style. While admirable, this is ultimately a flawed position and one that will ultimately leave the event technology industry creaking under the weight of its own ambitions.
YOU CAN'T DO IT ALL As we discovered long ago in our industry, it is in many cases better to specialize in an area of expertise and partner alongside other specialists to get a job done excellently. I mean, it would seem exceptionally odd to see florists advertising AV services on their website, or a caterer offering to provide event app services, or planners telling their bride they don’t need to hire a DJ because they have two turntables (and, of course, a microphone).
We don’t expect those in the tried-and-true event planning community to do everything, but when you look under the hoods of most event technology startups, you find them doing far too much.
There seems to be this almost unnerving need for event technologists to gather all the issues they can under one umbrella, as if their solution to every aspect of the event problems we face is the right one. We have apps that manage registration, and social media, and photo-sharing, and interactive gaming, and audience response, and web-based content management. There are technologies that are, quite frankly, doing too much.
This is by no means taking away from the desire of these technologists to advance our industry, but it does speak to our (and I’m lumping myself in here too) occasional suffering from, what I like to call “The Lord of the Rings Syndrome,” which is our attempt to create the one technology to rule them all!
WHY NOT COLLABORATE? Instead of focusing on creating the thing that everyone will use for every aspect of their event, what if we instead focused on developing strong collaborations with an ever-growing network of event tech professionals who create amazing pieces of the technological landscape. What would happen if, instead of seeking to create every part of the technological experience, we sought to find people who focused on the one aspect we’re not super-strong at, and worked with them to create a cohesive experience that is designed to make our attendees’ lives easier, and not our technology cooler.
I’d venture to say it would be a richer landscape if we all focused on developing areas of event tech that we were truly gifted and skilled at creating. If we stood shoulder to shoulder and made sure that our technology could talk to your technology in a way that made sense, our guests would love us more for it.
As weird as it is to have linens and place settings that don’t go together, that’s how awkward it is for tech tools to not talk to each other.
Let’s push past our need to create it all, and focus on creating the all that we know well, and connect with those that are doing small parts of the puzzle better than we ever could. Because, when the curtain falls or last door closes, we want everyone celebrating our precious … vision and experience that created something amazing, with them in mind.
J. Damany Daniel is head of The Event Nerd, based in Dallas. An experienced, award-winning event producer, Damany (AKA “The Event Nerd”) has planned scores of events for clients across the U.S. and always brings unique flair to everything he touches. He is a member of ISES Dallas, a Texas Star Award Recipient, a board member of Digital Dallas and the SEARCH Foundation, and actively involved in mentoring within his community. He was named of the "30 Under 40" in 2012 by Special Events magazine.