Technology and live event professionals seem to come from two different worlds. One is comfortable pivoting, disrupting, and scaling, while the other focuses more on human interaction, creativity, and hospitality to build impactful live experiences.
But with the ever-increasing crossover of technology into the events space, both parties will be joined at the hip moving forward as event clients demand more data proofs, ROI, and results.
So how can event planners and technology providers understand each other better to work more harmoniously together and achieve higher goals?
During a recent TSNN webinar, Nick Borelli, Prismm’s Director of Marketing Growth, Nicole Peck, Vice President of Marketing, Global Events at IDG (International Data Group), and Dahlia El Gazzar, Tech Evangelist + Idea Igniter at DAHLIA+Agency, weighed in on the evolving event tech and planner partnership, and how both can work better together.
Why has there been more friction between event tech and event planner roles?
Aside from the last 18 months that have stressed everyone out, “the reason is likely DNA. Why you got into live events is not the same reason why you get into technology,” said Borelli. “Those two people aren’t necessarily the same. ‘People-people’ and ‘solutions-people are different.”
“The friction comes down to the need to pivot – desperately and massively – in what the event deliverable was and shoehorning technology into our product that was oftentimes with a technology solution that was maybe the right solution or maybe not the right solution,” added Peck. “It comes down to a mismatch on both sides of the aisle – no fault of either party – still trying to deliver a product.”
“No matter how you look at it, the last 18 months have been a huge learning curve by force for a lot of team members, and it wasn’t their cup of team,” shared El Gazzar. “Either they had tech thrown at them, or they didn’t know how to do it the right way, and had to learn it while executing.”
Another contributing factor, according to El Gazzar, is the internal talent and skillset. “Slow it down to a point where you can say I have the right people to deal with tech or I don’t. This is the reality we need to look at. The skillset is what is adding friction.”
What pieces of information should an organizer be upfront about when dealing with tech companies?
From the outset, it’s all about goals. “A planner or organizer immediately needs to set key objectives or KPIs at the get-go. If you don’t align to my KPIs or understand how I’m held to success, you can’t get me there,” shared Peck.
Borelli added, “If you don’t have KPI alignment, you’re not talking to a partner; you’re talking to a vendor. If you want a partner, you have to have mutual goals.”
A few other critical pieces of information to share at the onset from Borelli:
- Talk strategically about your organizing principles. “We are looking for this – are you a good fit for that, is that who you are, and what makes you special? Because this is our organizing principle and why we are getting together this year.”
- “What does success look like that fits into a spreadsheet – what is pass/fail, and measurable?”
- The working relationship. “If things don’t go right, what do you do? How will we get through tough times if they come?”
El Gazzar also commented about what tech companies need to bring to the table, especially now with organizers and talent in flux due to The Great Resignation Era. “Come with a strategy or creative strategist type of approach. If you want to be different, it’s not only about the technology if you want to sit at the table and have the conversations year after year.”
Talk about shifting the conversation and creating more transparency between the organizer and event technology partners.
“The conversation needs to start with definitions — what does the product roadmap mean, what are you going to have access to, what does success mean for you, and what do KPIs mean,” explained El Gazzar. “There also needs to be more transparency from the tech partner side – meaning about the capabilities, about integrations, about APIs, about data. This is a relationship-building moment, where you get to define what we’re talking about, and if we can get that done, the relationship is stronger, it’s longer, there is less friction, and that’s where we want to be.”
“Technology companies are rarely asked about the experience. They are just asked about how their platform executes, and there are lots of opportunities to create experiences that are more aligned, so long as you inject that early,” said Borelli.
Peck shared there are two essential discussion points in shifting the conversation. “On the event tech side, it’s having clear roles and responsibilities – what we do, and what we need someone on your team to do – and the timeline to execute something like that.” Peck said additionally, “it’s not a one-tech that fits all approach moving forward. To be able to put together the dream tech stacks is what will set aside smart and savvy events moving forward, so it also means that I’ll need all my partners to play well together in the sandbox no matter what it looks like.”
Where do planners and event technology companies go from here?
“Event technology companies are missing opportunities to share epic fails and epic successes with prospective clients, including ones that aren’t in your industry or look like your organization. We need to break down that tunnel vision,” offered El Gazzar.
“Telling stories of the best and worst practices on your platform, plus the most creative concepts on your platform,” said Borelli, helps planners understand better options available in their toolbox to achieve their goals.
Over the last year, Peck said, “there has been a tremendous success and tremendous resilience shown by so many professionals in the event space. I have such respect for the people in this space, and love, commitment, and passion for this industry, and we should celebrate and share successes with each other.”
For more of the no-holds-barred session, take a listen to the entire discussion.