Almost one out of two meeting planners today says that event technology is a primary pain point, according to a new study published by etouches.

Another new report from Cvent revealed similar sentiments among planners relating to cloud-based event management platforms, stating, “Planners cite poor transparency and accuracy over pricing, along with lack of clarity and poor response rates, as their main pain point with venue selection.”

In the etouches report, the top concerns among planners pre-event are: selecting the right content (56 percent) and managing attendee registration (51 percent). During the event, the biggest pain points are: communication with attendees (44 percent) and registration/check-in (42 percent).

Post-event, 65 percent of planners say that they’re using technology to measure the overall return on investment (ROI), but at the same time, how they analyze and use that data to inform future event programming and design remains a challenge.

In the Cvent study, the overwhelming pain point for planners is the length of time it takes to receive responses from hotels for their digital requests for proposals (RFPs), and the often inaccurate and/or omitted costs supplied within those responses.

Speaking at the annual Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) conference in Boston last month, representatives at both etouches and Cvent addressed the ongoing challenges with event technology adoption, and how their services are evolving to make tech more user friendly and effective for the planner community.

“In the media and event space, technology was for so long an efficiency play, in terms of it’s just a better way to do business when you can capture some data automatically,” said Mike Mason, VP, sourcing and hospitality solutions with etouches.

“I think it’s now evolved, and what you’re seeing is the importance of the onsite experience. During the event, attendees need more than just content. It’s really about, how do you engage that attendee at a level with them they’ve never had before? Because, you know, everyone’s fighting for attendees.”

Earlier this year, etouches acquired the Loopd platform to deliver new solutions for on-site engagement, using artificial intelligence to provide a more personalized event experience.

Loopd integrates bi-directional wearable smart badges, a mobile event app, and a cloud-based analytics engine. When attendees are using the Loopd badges, which can transmit contact information and any other kind of digital content, event organizers can track how attendees are moving through the event, and which programming is most popular.

Attendees also have a record of every vendor they approached and who they met, and based on commonalities across the spectrum of those event and vendor contacts, Loopd’s machine learning provides suggestions for similar participants that may be of interest for the individual attendee.

“If the device understands that you’re talking to me and we’re sharing information, and it looks at what is important to me and what’s important to you, it can begin to build a profile of who you might be interested in talking to,” said Mason.

“Tie that into the mobile app where event managers can now feed you information that might be important to you based on where you are,” said Mason. “You might be walking by a session that you didn’t think about, and [the app] will say, ‘Hey listen, you mentioned this before. You might want to step inside here. This is what they’re talking about right now.’ So it’s real time, and we’re just on the front end of that.”

However, Mason added that it’s incumbent on event tech firms across the industry to do a better job managing expectations and delivering the support necessary to help planners use technology more effectively.

“With technology companies, we need to play a much more concentrative role in the process to help you benefit from it, because unless you benefit from it, and see the ROI, it’s just gonna be a pain in the butt,” he explained. “So, we have an ROI tool that we launched at the end of last year, and we’ll sit down and spend time with our customers to establish their baseline key performance indicators, metrics, and goals. So they can see at any point, before, during and after an event, because it’s all real time, how they’re impacting the trajectory of an event.”

Fixing the Dreaded RFP Process

With the exponential rise of digital RFPs, hotels are challenged with prioritizing the onslaught of proposals they receive, which is the root cause for the lengthy time it often takes to respond to planners.

“There’s no doubt that the increased volume in the RFPs is putting pressure on hotels to respond,” said Brian Ludwig, SVP of sales at Cvent. “One of the things that proves to be most effective in getting awarded business is how quick and responsive you are to the planners that are submitting that proposal. So for hotels, it’s about how do we effectively process all these incoming leads. And then how do we deal with the smaller meetings that might be able to be done in an automated fashion, so that we can focus the manpower on the more complicated pieces of business.”

Toward that end, Cvent launched a new Group Business Intelligence tool this summer, designed to provide real-time data and analytics of hotels’ group business leads, and those of their competitors, in a single platform, helping hotel sales staff prioritize incoming queries and score leads.

The tool is also intended to make it easier for hoteliers to examine leads, dissected by specific time periods, customer segments, competitor rates, response times, and peak night volume, helping calculate the potential value of each piece of group business with more context and business insight than before.

“It’s really about bubbling up that data in a way that can be used and leveraged by organizations more intelligently,” said David Quattrone, chief technology officer at Cvent. “It’s really taking it up a level where you get some insights into how you’re competing and where you’re effective versus not, and how you can adjust things.”

Ludwig added that the Business Intelligence tool is also designed to help hotels schedule group business more strategically to maximize their open dates, soft weeks, and overall event calendars.

“So, for a hotel rep now, you’ll compare what your turnaround time is versus your competitors, whether you’re adding in the right information around alternative dates, whether you’re able to shift business,” Ludwig said. “For example, you could have a piece of business that might from a lead-scoring perspective not look that attractive, but if you expand out to an alternative date, all of a sudden it becomes a very lucrative piece of business.”

Photo Credit: The etouches group at IMEX America 2016. The company recently acquired another company to provide AI-powered, personalized event experiences. etouches