Welcome to the 2023 event technology guide! Not sure you need event technology? According to Gartner’s 2022 Technology Marketing Benchmark Survey, tech and service providers allocate 26.9% of their marketing program budget to hosted and sponsored events.
Like most businesses, you’re probably seeing an increased budget allocation for events, so you need event technology that can run all of your events — no matter the format, size, or type — more easily. Here, you’ll learn how to choose the right event technology for your next event to support your desired event outcomes, whether you’re planning a virtual, in-person, or hybrid event.
What is event technology?
Event technology is any tool, app, or software that helps you plan, execute, and measure an event. Here are some examples of what your event technology stack may include:
- Event management tools: ticketing and registration, access management, contact management, and event reporting
- Event marketing tools: website builder, email marketing tools, personalized registration flows, promo codes, and UTM links
- Event content tools: agenda builder and editor, session registration management, and speaker portals
- Event engagement tools: mobile apps, virtual venue, in-session polls, Q&As, chat channels, virtual applause and reactions, cross-device accessibility, social media integrations, and more
- Networking tools: 1:1 messaging, community search and navigation, and the ability to book meetings with all attendees
- Broadcasting tools: tech to record sessions so attendees can watch on-demand
- Onsite tools: self-check-in kiosks, badge printing, and other onsite tech services
- Sponsor management tools: sponsor management, lead management, and scoring tools
- Wearable tech: such as Bizzabo’s SmartBadge™ technology, which enables in-person attendees to exchange contact information by “booping” badges together
- Event intelligence tools: registration, networking, engagement, and cross-event analytics
Depending on whether you’re hosting an event in-person, are planning a virtual event, or are combining the best of both with a hybrid event, your event tech stack might look slightly different.
For example, you might consider incorporating wearable tech into an in-person event to support faster check-ins and enhance the networking experience — just like HubSpot did during INBOUND 2022. If you’re planning a virtual event, you’ll need to make sure your event tech stack gives you the ability to produce studio-quality broadcasts while giving attendees tools that will keep them engaged throughout the experience.
And, if you’re planning a hybrid event, you might need to combine all of these capabilities into your tech stack to deliver the best experiences possible to both in-person and virtual attendees.
Why Event Technology Matters
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, event technology is evolving faster than ever. This rapid evolution has proven beneficial to the events industry. In fact, 90% of event professionals believe that technology can have a significant positive impact on the success of their events.
Before advances in event technology, event planning was a very manual process.
- Event planners used to draft the attendee list contact by contact.
- Event promotions were limited to mediums like print, direct mail, cold calling, and word of mouth.
- Fast and personalized post-event follow-up was nearly impossible without automation.
Advances in data analytics have allowed event planners to track and measure each component of their events — and use that data to iterate and optimize their event strategies continuously. Similarly, the event technology boom has made it much easier to bring in-person, hybrid, and virtual event ideas to life.
Today, event marketers have an array of technologies to choose from and incorporate into their event tech stack. Each piece of the event technology stack does its part to support the full event lifecycle as it transitions from one phase to the next. Building websites, increasing event registrations, and promoting email are all possible thanks to event technology.
Event tech also leads to a better user experience. Through platforms, event engagement, and networking tools, attendees can connect at the click of a button.
Moreover, event apps allow attendees to maximize their experience with features like chatbots that provide instant answers to their questions and maps to help them navigate massive convention centers. Thanks to live streaming technology, attendees worldwide can tune into sessions in real time, increasing your event’s reach.
Ultimately, event technology lets you create unforgettable experiences and extend the life of your event long after the doors have closed and speakers have gone home.
How To Choose the Right Event Tech
When choosing your event technology, use your goals and overall vision to guide you and help you determine which event technology will truly serve you and your attendees.
Consider Your Event Goals
Event technology can help you achieve your event goals regardless of the type of event you’re planning and the format it takes. To select the right tech, you need to know your event goals.
- Why are you organizing your event in the first place? Look at what you are trying to achieve and find technology that supports your goals. Consider your business goals.
- What event KPIs will determine if your event was a success? Think about your event strategy and what you want attendees to take away from your event.
- What types of actions do you want attendees to take after the event? Consider what role your event tech will play in your event’s extended, 365-day experience. Think about the content you want to provide and how you want attendees to engage post-event.
Not sure what your goals are? Here are the most common ones:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Improving customer/organization relationships
- Educating your audience
- Generating qualified leads
- Driving more activity in target accounts
- Retaining customers
- Driving sales opportunities in target accounts
Interested in diving deeper into event goals? Read “How to Set Event Planning Goals To Achieve Success.”
Choose the Right Event Format and Use Case
When planning an event, you must consider the format and type that makes the most sense for your goals, audience, and budget. Avoid putting the cart before the horse, however. You may want to host a huge in-person conference, but you’re dead in the water if your budget can’t keep up.
Start by looking at your budget and exploring what’s possible. You may opt for small, in-person satellite events to cut down on travel costs and venue rentals, or you may opt for a hybrid experience with only VIPs attending onsite.
Choosing your format and event type is vital because each will require a different type of event technology — assuming your event tech can’t do it all (but Bizzabo does!). With that in mind, let’s consider the different considerations you need to keep top of mind as you assemble your tech stack for your next event.
After what felt like a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, in-person events are back in a big way. Between January and September 2022, we saw a 724% uptick in in-person events on Bizzabo’s Event Experience OS. As the pandemic slowly starts appearing in the rear-view mirror, it seems all but certain that this trend will continue as we move further into the future.
Planning and orchestrating a successful in-person event is no easy feat. The most influential event organizers understand this perfectly, which is why they ensure that their event tech stack is jam-packed with every piece of tech necessary to succeed.
Additionally, the right event technology will integrate with your team’s other daily tools, like Slack, Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and Microsoft Dynamics 365. For the best results, look for an event tech solution that gives developers access to an open API. That way, you can integrate the solution into whatever tools you like.
Because your audience will be attending remotely, it’s critical to look for event technology solutions that enable you to broadcast crystal-clear, TV-quality video to them. If sessions are grainy and jittery, attendees aren’t likely to get too much out of the event. Since you want your event to go as smoothly as possible, look for a solution that enables you to pre-record video content and stream it to global audiences of any size.
One of the most challenging parts of virtual events is providing adequate networking opportunities. In fact, according to Bizzabo data, 68.8% of event marketers say networking is more difficult at virtual events compared to physical ones.
This is another area where event technology can be a game-changer. Leading event technologies enable event organizers to launch breakout rooms during sessions, allowing smaller groups of virtual attendees to chat about what they’ve just learned. Additionally, leading solutions enable virtual attendees to initiate video calls with other attendees with the click of a button — regardless of where they are.
Interested in learning more about virtual event tech tools? Read “12 Priceless Tools and Software for Hosting Virtual Events.”
Hybrid events, which have grown in popularity since the pandemic, combine components of both in-person and virtual events, giving attendees the best of both worlds. According to one recent study, 73% of marketers expect hybrid events will be more common in the future. If you’re already putting on an in-person event, why not invite a virtual audience to attend, too?
Of course, when you’re hosting a hybrid event, there are many moving parts to consider. Your goal should be to deliver equitable experiences to your in-person and virtual attendees and ensure they can interact seamlessly.
You’ll need event tech for budgeting, registration, venue sourcing, in-person attendee engagement, virtual attendee engagement, networking, analytics, and live streaming and production, among other capabilities. Also, don’t forget the virtual venue and event app!
Considerations When Evaluating Event Technology
Some event technology is crucial to success, while other tools and features may fall under “nice-to-haves.” In this section, we’ll explore some things to look for when vetting event technology.
Choose a Company Focused on Innovation
In most cases, event organizers will know the essential functions a tech tool needs to check off. But focusing on the essentials can lead to missing out on innovative new functions that leading vendors provide continuously. Innovation is more critical than ever as the industry fully embraces hybrid events.
Before smartphones became popular, there were flip phones. Cell phone shoppers weren’t looking for a device to place calls, send emails, surf the web, and store thousands of music files. Of course, all of this changed once the iPhone was released, and early adopters were the first to have access to a cutting-edge solution years before mainstream customers.
If you want to stay ahead of the competition, find the iPhone of the technology providers.
How can you tell if a provider is committed to innovation? Here are some tips:
- Get to know the company and the people behind it by browsing the vendor’s social media pages, website, and blog.
- Read recent product and official company announcements.
- See what company leadership says on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Medium.
- Ask the company how they are planning to evolve during the era of hybrid events.
- Consider past performance and current events to predict whether each vendor is positioned to innovate.
Don’t Overlook Hybrid Readiness
It’s no secret that the event landscape is constantly changing. As the world slowly returns to in-person events, organizations are taking the lessons they learned while pivoting to virtual events and using them to create successful hybrid events.
As you search for event technologies, look for future-proof solutions that can evolve with your events as we move further into the hybrid era.
One of the biggest challenges of going hybrid will be designing an outstanding experience for both the in-person and remote audience and ensuring that all experiences are personalized. Event technology will merge these two worlds and deliver a great experience.
You must look for solutions to bridge the virtual and in-person experience for the best results. For example, find an event platform that seamlessly integrates with an in-person event app instead of having to build out an event app and platform separately. This will save you time and ensure a cohesive event experience regardless of where attendees are tuning in.
“Hybrid events will need to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person audiences. They will need to create opportunities for attendees to participate in shared experiences.”
CEO and co-founder
Prioritize Ease of Use
Another consideration is how easy tech is for organizers and event attendees to use. A platform that’s easy to use means everyone involved should be able to learn the platform easily. As a result, you’ll see more significant ROI and increased efficiency throughout your event.
Test the usability of the event technology by asking vendors for a live demo of the product or a free trial to ensure the user interface is intuitive. The last thing you want is to roll out event tech that nobody knows how to use.
Ensure a Seamless Attendee Experience
The event experience you create should accurately reflect your brand. Any disconnect in this experience — from the event platform to the mobile event technology platform to onsite check-in — runs the risk of coming across as unpolished and doing a disservice to your brand.
Ensuring a seamless attendee experience is even more critical when planning a hybrid event. When you choose event technology, be mindful of how much customization is allowed. As you narrow down your options, here are some questions you’ll want to ask:
- Does the event registration experience require a website visitor to leave the main website?
- Can the agenda and homepage be tailored to your brand?
- Does the platform come with an event app?
- If so, can it be white-labeled?
Zero in on ABM Readiness and Personalization
Choose solutions that will provide you with insights into the entire attendee journey. As you’re orchestrating your event, you should be able to determine the following:
- Which promo codes bring in which attendees?
- What date do attendees register for an event?
- How actively are attendees networking?
- Which sessions did they register for?
- Which sessions did they rate highest?
- Other actionable recommendations?
Additionally, this data should be accessible by ticket type, account, and individual contact.
Finding an event solution that allows you to create and track event personas will provide you with another analysis channel. That way, you’ll be able to personalize the attendee experience and follow up in line with an account-based marketing (ABM) methodology.
Choose Brandable Event Tech
The event technology you choose is a representation of your brand. Every interaction with attendees is an opportunity to leave an impression.
According to G2, 70% of marketers say consistent branding is one of the most important things to keep in mind when communicating with customers. Additionally, when we surveyed event professionals, 92% agreed to create a consistently branded experience was important.
Here are some tips for making sure that any event tech you choose is highly brandable:
- Ask if you can add your logo and where logo placements can be.
- Check to see if you can change the background color and add an image or event videos on your event platform, apps, and other tools.
- Find out whether you can select your font choices and what other overall customization abilities are offered.
Downtime is an event organizer’s worst nightmare. If the event live-stream or the event website is down — even for just a few seconds — people will start to leave your event or may not even end up registering in the first place.
Should that happen, your event could result in any of the following:
- Lost revenue
- Missed opportunities
- Negative press
- Frustrated attendees
Selecting reliable event technology is critical to the success of your events. Ask tech providers what their plan is if their systems get knocked offline and what the average downtime would be. Make sure to speak with referral customers and read online reviews about the platform’s reliability.
Choose Tech With Top Customer Support
Ideally, the right event technology vendors will offer best-in-class support. They’ll be willing to assist immediately if something breaks.
In addition to reliability, you should also ask the tech provider what customer support and customer success tools they offer. For example, if event registration is no longer working correctly, you’ll want to contact customer support to resolve the issue. How quickly such an issue is resolved is what matters most.
When researching event tech providers, ask each vendor about the type of support they offer. Some questions to ask:
- Is customer support provided 24/7?
- Is it available via chat or email, or will I have a direct line to call if I need help?
- What is the average time for a support ticket response?
- Will you have anyone available onsite to assist if systems go down?
At the same time, you’ll want to know whether you’ll have access to a dedicated customer success manager who can show you how to use the event tech productively, providing you with helpful and strategic guidance. This person will be your advocate and will help you reach your goals and desired event outcomes.
While most event technology providers offer some form of customer support, not all of them do. At the same time, many still need customer success teams. Both support aspects can make all the difference in helping you reach your event goals.
Make Sure Everything Is in One Place
Event managers have a lot on their plates. They create event websites, build email marketing campaigns, facilitate event registration, develop apps, manage speakers and sponsors, handle check-ins, manage real-time surveys, facilitate networking opportunities, and keep attendees engaged, among countless other tasks.
Unless you’re keen on jumping between several different platforms to orchestrate your event, look for a vendor that gives you all the tools to put on unforgettable events through one pane of glass.
By consolidating your tech stack in one place, you can streamline workflows, save time and money, collect more robust data, and otherwise increase the chances you can achieve your event goals.
How To Find the Best Event Technology
Event Technology Reviews Sites
Event tech review sites curate peer-driven testimonials and ratings based on various factors tailored to the purpose of the software itself. They usually offer an analysis of pros, cons, and sometimes unique insights you won’t find on the product’s main website.
When you’re ready to start researching your options, here are some sites to check out:
- G2 Crowd: G2 Crowd gives out prestigious innovators awards for various SaaS products. Their rubric typically breaks down into four main categories: Leaders, Contenders, Niche, High Performance. Any product found on their award chart deserves a second look.
- Capterra: Capterra is an excellent example of a user review site. They break categories down into the most popular, most affordable, and most user-friendly.
- Software Advice: This professional database allows event organizers to retrieve detailed search results alongside in-depth buyer’s guides for further assistance in choosing the event tech that’s the best fit for your goals.
Looking for a Cvent alternative? We’ve got you covered with a comparison from G2: Bizzabo vs. Cvent.
How To Research Event Technology
No matter what review site you choose, there are five key things to keep in mind when researching event technology:
- Give sales reps a challenge. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about specific product features or the industry. A sales rep who is willing to share information about their competitors in a positive light is looking out for your best interests.
- Get multiple opinions. Besides reading review sites, cross-check with your network, and ask sales reps to put you in touch with their current customers for references. This will give you better insight into users’ experiences. Leave no stone unturned.
- Read event tech guides. New reports and benchmark comparisons are just as important (if not more so) than reviews because they add some figures to those facts that you otherwise might not have assumed existed.
- Create an assessment for each event technology. Base it on your specific goals and strategy to make it worthwhile. Event technology assessments help you generate awareness, manage registrations, and measure success.
- Choose event tech that aligns with your business plan. It’s good to keep the big picture in mind. Reference the goals of the company at large to see if the software you choose aligns with what you’re all trying to achieve.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few vendors, your journey’s just beginning. Now, it’s time to interrogate potential partners to see who can best meet your needs.
Not sure what questions to ask? Read “20+ Questions To Ask When Choosing the Best Event Management Software“
Wrapping Up: Event Technology Takeaways
Besides providing event planners with data-backed insights, streamlined workflows, and increased attendee engagement, event technology has become a staple for modern productivity.
To wrap up, here are some main ideas to keep in mind:
- Choose wisely. There are many types of event software, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Create a tech stack based on your goals and the compatibility of the corresponding technologies you use.
- Look for hybrid readiness. We are moving further into the hybrid events era. Make sure that your event technology is future-proof and has plans to evolve to meet future needs.
- Focus on experience. Make sure the event technology you choose delivers a great user experience for you, your team, your sponsors, speakers, and attendees.
- Innovation is key. Look for companies that innovate. By partnering with the right vendor, you could gain access to cutting-edge solutions years before the competition.
- Sort through the noise. Review sites are a great starting point for sifting through the many options available at your fingertips. Be sure to take your time when evaluating and considering the software from every angle before making an official purchase.
The power of event technology gives event organizers the freedom to continue improving their craft through practical tools that take the guesswork out of the equation.
Here’s to unlocking the full potential of your events in 2023 and beyond with the help of this guide and the event industry’s many transformative technologies!
Ready to start building your next-level event tech stack? Check out our free ebook, Consolidating Your Event Tech Stack: The Benefits of All-in-one Event Management Software, to learn more about the benefits of leading-edge event technologies.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for relevance.