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We recently released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends 2020. Download a copy of our magazine here and look for us to highlight individual trends in the coming days.

On a fundamental level, the main role of event planners is to simply throw fantastic events. For decades, this has attracted people with strong management skills, often with experience in hospitality or entertainment. An affinity for tech and data, however, was never a key part of the job.

Things are starting to change — and planners know this. Digital technology has grown rapidly in the past few years, and along with it, the ability to collect important data. Over 75 percent of job postings for high-profile roles in meeting planning now require skills in performance and data analysis, according to a recent EventMB study.

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It’s no wonder, then, that all-in-one event management software is rapidly becoming more common. Rather than juggling several tools for planning events, meeting professionals increasingly favor the use of one single tool that can handle the entire process of event planning — from beginning to end.

Not only does this simplify the process, it also allows for a much more sophisticated way of collecting and analyzing data. With an all-in-one tool, data is funneled in from a multitude of different sources and pooled in one place. This gives planners all the pieces of the puzzle, allowing for a fuller, more holistic picture of an event.

OVERDUE FOR DISRUPTION

The problem is, implementation of this kind of platform currently doesn’t deliver on what brands promise. Data is still scattered across a variety of different tools, and combining those tools is a wildly complex task. Right now, companies are scrambling to make this platform a seamless experience, and the industry is on the brink of a massive change.

Some companies, such as Cvent, have approached this problem through acquisitions. Cvent is perhaps the biggest spender in this arena, buying up tech startups to add to its ever-growing collection of event tools. Most recently, the company acquired Double Dutch in June, an event app startup.

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Many, however, have criticized Cvent for having a disjointed and overly complicated platform. By acquiring so many different businesses, with different user experiences and different leadership, it can sometimes feel like an odd jumble of tools rather than one seamless platform.

The company is also investing in building its own event features, but it plans to keep the acquisitions coming, according to Cvent CEO Reggie Aggarwal.

“Technology has been changing the face of corporate meetings and events for more than two decades,” said Aggarwal. “Cvent aims to stay ahead of the curve on this by looking for startups that not only meet but also anticipate the growing needs of event planners. Companies like Kapow and Social Tables have all been ahead of their time, which is why we see them as important components of our platform.”

Integration is tough, however. Not only can acquisitions lead to a disjointed, complicated platform, but it can pose real risks to the company itself.

Eventbrite acquired Ticketfly in 2017, and one year later, millions of Ticketfly accounts were hacked. Moreover, Eventbrite was so slow to integrate Ticketfly that it caused Eventbrite shares to plunge.

This is why some companies prefer to build their tool offerings, hoping to develop that elusive all-in-one platform through their own research and development. And investors are paying attention: The recent wave of event tech funding is proof that the industry knows where the future lies.

“We’re always out there looking for new acquisitions, especially in emerging technology,” said David Quattrone, co-founder and chief technology officer at Cvent.

In fact, the unprecedented wave of event tech funding is helping companies with one or two very specific tools transition to more comprehensive platforms without having to make acquisitions. Event startup Fever, for example, raised $35 million in August, which CEO Ignacio Bachiller said would go toward research and development.

TECH IS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING

Data is a religion that both planners and providers need to convert to — but one that has grown very fast over the past year and will define 2020. Key players in the industry predict that event tech will explode over the next few years, suggesting that advanced data tools will quickly become a necessity, rather than something optional.

“We’re still in the early adopter phase,” said Mike Burns, chief revenue officer at Aventri, an event technology platform. “But in the next five years I think it’s going to explode. It’s going to be a tremendous take rate. I think it’ll become less of a conscious decision for planners, and just something that’s a given. It will just get incorporated into what people now do to measure their sales and marketing.”

On top of that, technology is constantly evolving, and smart event tech companies are always looking into the next emerging thing.

“There are still big trends ahead and new horizons to reach,” Cvent’s Aggarwal said. “Artificial reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are all poised to change the way planners and attendees interact with events, from creating more tactile, engaging experiences to helping marketers and planners better measure the return on investment on their events. We expect to see these technologies continue to evolve over the next year or so, and will be keeping an open mind toward how we might be able to leverage them for better client outcomes.”

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Photo Credit: An illustration of meeting attendees gathered around a giant holographic tablet. Skift