Mobile & Connected
Technology at Events
Generating success through the creation of functional
and engaging event solutions
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Introduction ........................................................................................................................................... 3
Functional solutions ............................................................................................................................... 4
Engagement solutions ....................................................................................................................... 13
Case studies ........................................................................................................................................ 22
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Events can cover a broad spectrum of scope, size and focus. Their purpose varies greatly,
from generating leads and sales to sharing knowledge through thought leadership, to
internal announcements, on boarding and training. What is common is that events have two
chief audiences with different objectives and challenges -- organizers and attendees.
Technology is increasingly being used to solve many of these challenges, allowing events to
run more smoothly than ever before. More than that, tech can augment, improve and
enhance the experience of attendees through the creation of innovative, interactive and
immersive multi-sensory digital and mobile experiences.
Somo has been transforming live experiences powered by creative technology across a
broad range of industries including automotive, finance, retail and publishing over the last
seven years. This report summarizes some of the key learnings we have garnered through
working on a broad spectrum of events ranging from B2B conferences to consumer-facing
auto and music festivals. Within the report, we look at how technology can and is
increasingly being used to improve and enhance event experiences in two specific areas:
§ Functional solutions: Overview of the common pain points experienced by event
attendees along the user journey, and how mobile, applications are helping to resolve these
§ Engagement solutions: How organizers can engage their audiences better through the
creation of imaginative digital solutions and provide event experiences that are exciting,
memorable and shareable.
Watch Somo’s event show reel at: https://vimeo.com/somo/events-showreel
To learn more about Somo’s event solutions, please get in touch at
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Brilliant basics driven by mobile
From planning the visit to avoiding the queues at lunchtime, attending any event is beset by
many universal challenges, or ‘pain points’ for attendees. The experience of an event is a
journey that potentially begins many weeks prior to the event, peaks during the event, but
doesn’t complete until some time after the attendee has returned home. As well as pain
points and challenges, at every stage of the journey attendees also have functional needs
that must be met as efficiently as possible. Each pain point and need might be only a small
part in the overall experience, but taken together they can provide a negative impact that
ends up as more than the sum of its constituent parts.
How organizers meet these challenges to provide as frictionless an experience as possible for
attendees before, during and after an event will, in a significant way, determine whether its
audience or its organizers deem an event a success. The stakes are high, and the potential
reward for a successful event is great with 98% of consumers being more inclined to purchase
from brands after a good event experience. 1
Technology is also now opening the door to the provision of new experiences that can add
value to the functional relationship between attendees and organizers. Mobile experiences
are clearly central to attendees’ experiences of an event.
Smartphones have revolutionized the way that we experience the world around us, helping
us to get around, research on the go, and stay connected. Their use for productivity at
events is high, with 90% of event attendees specifically using their phones for business at
Smartphones have ultimately become the remote control of our lives, and that effect is
being felt in the world of events as event platforms and applications are launched into the
Source: Mosaic / Event Marketing Institute, “Event Track 2015”
Source: IAB, “Bookatable survey”, 2014
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marketplace with increasing frequency. As 90% of our mobile time is now spent in apps 3 it’s
no surprise that 91% of event professionals have seen a positive ROI from implementing an
event app. 4 Yet, take up of event management platforms and the provision of event apps
by attendees remains relatively low with 25% of event and meeting planners currently not
providing mobile event apps. 5
“It’s no surprise that 91% of event
professionals have seen a positive ROI
from implementing an event app.”
Good event apps focus on being a powerful
concierge-like companion that provides
genuine utility to attendees before, during
and after the show solving problems and
providing enhanced experiences for users. To
shine a light on the efficacy of event
applications as tools for solving functional
problems and enhancing the experience for event delegates, we’ve outlined in more detail
the pain points and needs of attendees and organizers that we most often aim to resolve on
behalf of our clients, and how mobile can both remove friction and enhance the overall
Before the event
Registration & confirmation
8% of event professionals cite registration as their top challenge - a system that shouldn’t be
taking time away from the more pressing and challenging aspects of managing an event. 6
Yet ensuring that registration user experience is as simple as possible is essential to converting
prospects into sign ups and can often be needlessly challenging to users. This is particularly
true of those users registering via their smartphones where smaller screen real estate and
more fiddly keyboards can make form filling more frustrating.
Cutting out stages of the signup process by integrating social plugins, which allows not only
one click registration, but conveniently allows organizers to collect social data around their
delegates. Think about where drop downs or radio buttons can be used instead of free text
and provide browser based auto fill options where possible.
Sources: Flurry Analytics, comScore, Pandora, Facebook,
NetMarketShare, US June 2015
Source: Event / Conference and Incentive Travel, “The State of
Mobile Event Technology 2015”, 2015
Source: Cvent / Event Marketing Institute, “The momentum of
mobile event apps”, 2015
Source: Event / Conference and Incentive Travel, “The State of
Mobile Event Technology 2015”
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Expecting attendees to print tickets and bring them is a thing of the past. Tickets can be
added to user’s smartphone wallet for ease of scanning and reduction of lines when arriving
at events. Alternatively, tickets can be bundled in the event application to ensure that the
app gets downloaded in advance of attending the event.
“Event producers expect to save
84% on printing by 2017 as a
result of using an app.”
Additionally, moving programs from paper to
digital reduces cost and improves the eco
credentials of an event, with top 10% of event
producers expecting to save as much as 84% on
print costs by 2017 as a direct result of using an
Getting attendees to download the application for the event is a crucial challenge. One
way is to force users to download the application on purchase in order to access their
tickets. However, establishing user identity can be tricky as an assistant frequently buys tickets
for events. Transferring the attendee’s identity from the point of purchase into the app can
be difficult, so the registration process needs to accommodate this.
Visibility of the availability of your application is essential both on the confirmation page and
on any further communications with registered attendees. It can often prove effective to
SMS a link to the application to their mobile phone to make it as easy as possible to get hold
of. A brave, but divisive approach to ensuring mobile apps are downloaded is to make
event information only available via the app. This can lead to higher app engagement, but
also risks frustration among attendees.
Attendee event preparation
Typically one week prior to the event, your attendees will begin to prepare for the day itself.
Depending on the type of event you’re hosting this planning can take the form of varying
degrees of complexity from reviewing agendas and timetables, working through pre-reads,
booking conference slots or preparing their visits to stands and vendors.
Source: Cvent / Event Marketing Institute, “The momentum of
mobile event apps”, 2015
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This type of preparation can fall into two separate camps – proactive planning, where an
attendee will take the time to familiarize themselves of their own volition, and reactive
planning, where an attendee responds to a prompt from the organizer to perform a
particular action in advance of the event.
Event applications can help in both cases, acting as a central location for users to browse
content and information and plan out their day. Attendees who are less proactive can be
prompted to plan their visit through the use of relevant push notifications through the app
that encourage exploration of specific content and information relevant to them.
Notifications ahead of the event are a powerful tool for encouraging engagement;
particularly when there are time sensitive messages to deploy such as a change in speaker
line up, alterations to agendas or other last minute changes. Furthermore, notifications can
be personalized to individual users’ background or needs. We have found, for example, that
attendees are generally amenable to filling out a profile during the registration process, but
only if it is very easy or required. However, Somo’s own Summit application allows users to
create a profile quickly and efficiently by importing data directly from LinkedIn. This function
has received far wider uptake than other form-based profile creation approaches we have
Researching transport links and travel to the event poses a challenge to attendees that can
be frustrating, especially as event planners find more varied and unique venues to host their
conferences or shows. An application we used recently contained a particularly useful “Get
me to the event” feature that linked directly through to the default map application on the
user’s phone rather than having to search in Google or Apple maps themselves.
Furthermore, digital signage, supported by beacons, can provide more specific navigation
information through an application to get attendees through the often-complicated final
hundred yards of a visit to a larger venue.
During the event
Contextual application Design and UX
Before the event, users are researching and planning for the event itself and likely to be
wholly focused on the app as they explore and engage with content. Once at the event,
the app evolves from a deeper engagement tool into one of practical utility to assist
attendees at a glance rather than take their full attention.
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The app design could, therefore, evolve once a user has arrived at the venue. Attendees will
want to open their event app and instantly see the most relevant information to their visit:
What is my agenda? Who is talking right now? Who is talking next? Where do I go for lunch?
This content should be pushed front and center. Additionally, we have found much greater
success in the past by focusing on surfacing content through long scrolling lazy-loading
content pages rather than burying content behind menu items. Ditching complex navigation
and page depth means that users can focus on free exploration of content rather than
spending time trying to locate the information they require.
Often there is heavy traffic or long lines for registration to get hold of badges, which can be
time consuming and build up queues, which doesn't give a great first impression. Using digital
to seamlessly take this pain point away through a digital check in is something most event
organizers have introduced recently. Mobile World Congress in Barcelona takes this a step
further, providing registration for visitors arriving at the airport before they get near the venue.
Once there, the application acts as the user’s pass in and out of the event, allowing access
in and out through the use of Bluetooth.
Way finding and information
The next key challenge for attendees is navigating and accessing timetable or event
information relevant to their visit. In other words, what is my first engagement and where is it?
Entering a busy trade show can be exceedingly disorienting. Location-based summaries of
stands and their offerings in additionally potentially personalized to the profile of the visitor,
helps the attendee to find relevant things to see very quickly on arrival at an event. Once
near a stand, beacons can trigger deeper information about the company, it’s offering and
provide contact details to create an introduction between attendee and host.
Mobile applications in conjunction with other types of technology, such as carefully
arranged beacons and a reliable Wi-Fi connection can help to provide granular local-level
way finding which is particularly useful at larger scale events. Organizers can even use global
attendee data to identify busy areas or long lines hotspots and feed this information back to
delegates live to ensure they avoid them.
Smaller events also benefit from the provision of a clear mapping layout that, at relatively low
cost, can show users their current position through the judicious use of beacons and Wi-Fi.
The ability to communicate directly to event attendees globally, as segmented groups or
individually, is a major advantage of event applications. 67% of event planners see the ability
to provide notifications as an important feature of an event app8, particularly because
event information and details can be extremely fluid. Notifications can be pushed out to
Source: Cvent / Event Marketing Institute, “The momentum of
mobile event apps”, 2015
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users via an event app throughout the day, keeping them up to date with the latest
information in a number of different areas and acting as a helpful concierge.
Last minute changes to event information such as a speaker dropping out or agenda
alterations, delays to schedules or revisions to timetables can be frustrating for attendees and
lead to wasted time at an event. Providing this information to your audience enables
attendees to make alternative arrangements and more efficiently manage their time, which
in turn means greater presence across an event.
Another advantage of notifications is that they can be contextually relevant, either location
triggered through the use of beacons, or triggered by time, prompting attendees or visitors to
take action. For example, speaker feedback might be prompted to an audience at the end
of a seminar, or meal offers through catering partners could be pushed between 12pm and
2pm when attendees are near to food stands.
However, as with any type of application, it is important to be wary of notification saturation.
While there is a greater opportunity to communicate to your audience more frequently
during an event, having a clear and focused notification strategy around what and when
global, segmented and personalized individual notifications are broadcast to attendees will
avoid the irritation of users feeling bombarded or harassed.
In our experience managing event technology for The Wall Street Journal, we have found
that attendees get very excited by real time attributes to applications such as the ability to
take part in real-time polls and ask questions of speakers. At WSJD Live 2015 for example, live
results were displayed as infographics in real-time on the screens and the interviewer shaped
their discussion around audience feedback for greater relevancy. These specific features
show some of the highest engagement in our app by our users because they breathe new
life into the relationship between audience and presenter, allowing for greater interactivity
and involvement in the story, ultimately creating a more invigorating experience for
As we look to the future, further opportunities are emerging around creating complementary
experiences through event applications through the creation of second screening elements
that allow users to seek and be presented with richer, deeper and potentially personalized
content directly to their phone as the main story of the presentation plays out on the larger
presentation screen at the front of the room. These kinds of experiences mimic the already
established behaviors and habits of consumers watching television at home, however, there
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is a real opportunity to tap into these habits and create enriched content that brings a
learning or presentation experience further to life in their hands.
Feedback also plays a crucial role in understanding how successful a presentation or
speaker has been. This data allows them to constantly improve their events, see who the
most engaging speaker was and filter out the not so engaging elements of the event in the
future. Using mobile to capture this data gains more traction (i.e. embedded in the app) and
it allows organizers to see who exactly said what and gave what rating, allowing for retargeting
suitable future events to individual attendees based on their preferences.
Networking is the top reason for attending events, cited by more than three quarters of event
attendees; 9 and yet the act of arranging meetings, exchanging contact details and
capturing conversations is beset with challenges that waste time and cause frustration
among event attendees. Some common issues that we have found in discussion with event
attendees in the past have centered particularly on specific areas that cause barriers
around attendees being able to successfully network at events.
Setting up meetings with other attendees or stand owners in the first place can be a long
and drawn out process of first identifying who else is in attendance, reaching out to them via
email or more likely LinkedIn to make the connection, and then synchronizing diaries. The
number of different channels required to successfully complete the process - from visiting
websites or reaching out on social to writing emails and making calls - can be challenging.
Event apps, such as Somo’s Summit application, are in a unique position to assist in this
capacity. Attendee details can all be stored in one place and introductions made well in
advance through a single channel, simply and efficiently. Handshake, a hugely successful
mobile product that we have built for events as part of the Summit offering, was designed as
a simple and seamless way to connect attendees prior to an event, allowing them to begin
discussions and arrange meetings.
Furthermore, event applications allow organizers to be more proactive in matching and
recommending the best people to connect with at any individual event based on data
gathered at registration as well as stands visited or seminars attended.
Event applications also allow for swift social connection and a single point in which to gather
notes against specific contacts and save them straight to sales packages such as Salesforce.
Source: Result: 76%, Noodle Live,“Why do people attend events?”,
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Taking the experience home
For many organizers, attendees and internal HR or sales teams, the real work begins once an
event is over. Depending on the audience, that can mean a breadth of actions from
gathering attendee feedback and encouraging sign up to the next event, collating and
presenting learning back to colleagues to justify your day out to your manager, following up
with leads or launching an outbound campaign. Or in the case of internal corporate events -
ensuring that messaging is understood and acted upon by employees.
Getting things right prior to and during the event will help the effectiveness of your post event
outreach immeasurably. Event apps, when set up and executed well, can help to ensure that
the process of following up with leads and capturing key messages as simple as possible.
A major requirement for attendees after an event is to get hold of supporting content from
their unique event experience. This content should be bespoke to their visit - relevant to the
specific stands they visited or seminars they attended, and proactively provided to them to
help avoid having to wade through large amounts of content.
Content relating to their scheduled or actual attendance or movement on the day can be
gathered together and pushed out to them via notifications in the app or otherwise via
email. It might even be possible to create a bespoke slide deck summarizing the lectures they
attended for ease of sharing among colleagues on their return to work to help with the
perennial challenge of internal knowledge sharing.
Understanding your audience and their needs throughout the process
It’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all approach to how technology
should be shaped to support an event. Whether providing functional support or looking to
add elements of inspiration or attendee engagement, solutions should be developed around
a base set of services that can be tailored around a particular set of attendee and organizer
requirements needed for each specific event.
Incorporating innovative uses of technology to create wow moments at events goes beyond
the application itself. In order to identify how best to serve an audience at your event,
therefore, planners must first have a good understanding of their needs and wants through
the experience of attending events, yet about half of planners (47%) feel that they have a
moderate or worse understanding of their audiences, with as many as 8% of respondents
feeling that their understanding of event attendees was poor or non-existent. 10
Event platforms and applications, such as Somo’s Summit app, are a powerful tool for event
planners to get clearer insight into their attendees prior to, during, and after events. As
applications are able to capture usage and interaction data, insights can be gathered
Source: Demand Metric / Attend, “Event engagement:
accelerating the customer lifecycle”, December 2015
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elatively easily on what features your users are engaging with. Information such as: what
content and presentations interest them the most, who they are making contact or
networking with; and when used in combination with beacons, where they are when these
interactions are taking place.
This data can be used to model individual behavior to build up a clear understanding of the
unique user of the application and allow for personalized messaging and communication
with that individual delegate. Alternatively, data can be combined to give whole group
insights into what’s trending or what’s important to delegates - where are the lines growing,
which stands are generating the most crowds etc. Data and insight can be used on the fly to
inform the running of the event and communication with attendees on the day itself through
direct contact with attendees via individual or group notifications that solve problems and
keep attendees informed at all times.
This information points organizers towards a far deeper understanding of event attendees
that can help planners to better prepare future events tailored to the needs of the broader
group, but also creates opportunities for reaching out to individual delegates in bespoke and
personalized ways that are relevant to their needs.
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While solving functional challenges to ensure
your delegates’ event experience is as frictionfree
and enjoyable as possible is essential,
equally as important is making sure that the
event itself provides an engaging and
enjoyable experience for all attendees. The
evidence shows that good event experiences
have a direct and positive correlation with increased sales and brand uplift with as many as
98% of consumers who have a great experience at an event being more inclined to
purchase from a company or brand and nearly three quarters of consumers (74%) reporting
having a more positive opinion about a brand, product or service after a good event
Event organizers clearly recognize the impact that a good experience at an event can have
to their bottom line and their brand equity, with 78% identifying the improvement of customer
engagement as the most or one of the most important goals for event marketing, and nearly
three quarters (73%) agreeing that events are one of the better approaches that a firm can
employ to engage customers. 12 But the challenge remains of how to create “wow”
moments that ultimately turn an attendee’s experience into action.
Create wow moments that live long in the memory
Three quarters of consumers report
having a more positive opinion
about a brand after a good event
It’s important to recognize that the purpose and potential opportunity for success varies from
event to event. In the case of internal communications events ensuring that your key
messages are clear and memorable and are taken away from the event by attendees will
be a measure of how successful the event has been. Trade shows and fairs, on the other
Source: Mosaic / Event Marketing Institute, “Event Track 2015”
Source: Demand Metric, “Event Engagement: Accelerating the
Customer lifecycle”, October 2015
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hand, require you to stand out among competition and get your message across very
quickly and succinctly to often distracted audiences. In each case the effectiveness of your
ability to engage audiences will directly correlate with your ability to meet your KPIs and
generate clear return on investment (ROI).
A number of developments in event technology over the past few years provide perfect
resources for successfully communicating complex ideas and messages and engaging
audiences, often more effectively than offline engagement. These solutions, such as:
augmented reality, virtual reality, beacons, holographic projection and others, are
becoming more and more cost effective as time goes by and can greatly add value to your
audience’s experience of your events, and ultimately boost your ROI.
Event planning for engagement should be seen as multi-disciplinary with digital and event
teams working closely together to ensure a collaborative, non-siloed approach. At Somo, we
work collaboratively with clients in order to understand the challenge, the audience and the
message, before then looking to how technology can provide the most appropriate and
innovative solution. Throughout the projects that we’ve worked on in the engagement
space, we’ve identified some key themes or pillars that provide a foundation for success in
creating event experiences that successfully engage attendees, as follows:
§ Get the messaging right and communicate it clearly, consistently and succinctly
§ Stand out and draw attention through first impressions
§ Provide rich and exciting experiences that demand sharing
§ Create a relationship with your audience
§ Amplify the effect
Get the messaging right and
communicate it clearly, consistently
In all cases, a focus on content and messaging is
essential to engaging your audiences. Whether
it’s the creation of a coherent conference theme
that collates connected and relevant subjectmatter
together, or ensuring a simple and
understandable sales story for your show stand;
for your event to be successful you need to know
what story you are trying to tell and portray it consistently to your audience. To create that
clarity, planners need to ensure that the key messages they are trying to convey to their
audience are front and center and easily understood.
However, establishing your message and content alone is not enough. Once your key
messages are established, audience engagement comes down to good storytelling. It's here
that creatively deployed technology can really help event organizers. Our approach to
telling this story has often in the past been focused around how technology can provide the
backbone of making content explicable, explorable and interactive.
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Stand out and draw attention through first impressions
We know from our experience of creating websites, apps and marketing campaigns that an
audience forms their first impressions of your offer very quickly - within 100 milliseconds when it
comes to determining our first impressions of a face13 and only 50 milliseconds in the case of
a snap judgment of a website.14
At trade shows or expos in particular, competition is high. Attendee’s time is limited and
attention is divided, so the importance of standing out among the crowd and creating a first
impression that draws attendees into your stand cannot be overstated. But creating a
dazzling first impression is not just key at trade shows where your competition is crowded
Single hosted events such as conferences or seminars also call for the necessity of engaging
visitors from the moment they set foot in the door.
First impressions are not only critical for grabbing attention. The initial impact that you create
with an attendee also dictates the way that they continue to engage with you throughout
their visit. A poor first impression creates a mind-set of negativity that encourages visitors to
find fault with their experience, and acts as a perception magnifying glass that exaggerates
even small pain points throughout their engagement with you. Furthermore, the road back to
parity after forming a poor first impression is steep and challenging. On the other hand, a
positive first engagement with an audience lends a glowing halo of positivity around future
interactions and puts audiences in a forgiving and receptive mood. In short, positive first
impressions create leads, convert sales and generate positivity around a brand and its
Ensuring a smooth registration and check in process, impressive design and choice of venue,
and relevant message or theme, are all essential factors in creating a good first impression
Source: Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, Princeton University,
“First impressions: Making up your mind after a 100-Ms exposure to a
Source: User Testing Blog, “Why first impressions matter”, April 2015
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with your attendees. But beyond that, creative use of technology can go a long way towards
helping event organizers turn a good first impression into a jaw-droppingly outstanding one.
§ Use scale or create something unique to the environment, such as the
aforementioned OneSubsea interactive cube, to draw attention from a distance
and attract interest through sheer size and novelty at the event.
§ Participatory interactivity that spectators can also enjoy are also incredibly helpful
in generating interest, for, as any street performer will tell you, crowds generate
more crowds. Create an audience for your stand and you create curiosity. What
you’re looking for here is a sticky combination of intrigue allied with FOMO (fear of
§ Movement, sound and color create reach and penetration and can grab
attention at distance - objects like interactive walls, projections or experiences
triggered by movement and location. Due care and attention needs to be paid,
however, to avoid creating irritation through intrusiveness and repetitiveness.
§ Surprise and delight through personalization or relevance. Consider whether you
can connect with attendees on a personal level through the use of registration
information or information held on their application. Tailored interventions can be
disarming but incredibly effective at generating a positive first impression.
§ Create something novel or unique. For The Wall Street Journal’s WSJD Live event,
our brief beyond the app and polling was to create a tech wow moment for
attendees. On the opening night during the outdoor dinner we launched a
synchronized drone 'ballet' where the LED-lit drones performed an aerial show to
music. With Tim Cook, the Head of the NSA and Uber's Travis Kalanick as key
speakers that night it made for an unforgettable introduction to the event for
Provide rich, exciting experiences that demand sharing
The advancement of technologies that provide multi-sensorial and immersive digital
experiences has also provided organizers a significant opportunity to forge emotional
Engaging all five senses - sight and sound, but also touch, smell and even taste - is a powerful
way of creating engaging experiences because it engages multiple areas within the brain.
78 per cent of event professionals believe that
multi-sensory events deliver more memorable
and creative experiences for event attendee
There is strong scientific and
psychological evidence that
engaging an audience across
multiple senses creates a far stronger
connection to recall and memory
than a focus on one or two senses
alone. Younger and more
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increasingly crave multi-sensory experiences with 73% of Millennials craving experiences that
stimulate their senses. 15 However, many events are not making the most of this approach -
just 27 per cent of event professionals believe the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and
touch are being used effectively by the industry, 16 so the opportunity exists to stand out from
the competition in this space through a judicious integrated approach that makes use of
One key technology tool in the provision of multi-sensory experiences is virtual reality. You only
have to look at the proliferation of virtual reality (VR) experiences on offer at the recent
Mobile World Congress (MWC) to see the impact that it is having on the world of events.
Virtual Reality in all its forms - whether through higher fidelity executions via Oculus Rift or the
lower end experiences offered by Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard - is fast moving from
a novelty to a necessity at events, delivering deep and immersive experiences and
engagement. VR is a fantastic tool for communicating often-complicated messages to
consumers, or messages that exist outside of the event environment, through the creation of
experiences. Being able to live through a story is fundamentally more powerful than being
told it and with 91% of internet users being interested in using virtual reality there is clearly an
appetite from consumers for its deployment. 17
At Somo, we’ve had great success employing virtual reality at all types of events over the
last couple of years. In trade show environments, as you’d expect, but also through live
demonstrations during internal training days and workshops, and as a tool for bringing
keynote speeches to life for audiences through volunteer involvement.
For Shop Direct, we brought VR into play at the end of a keynote speech by bringing up
members of the audience to experience a number of immersive experiences on stage. The
Source: Econsultancy, “Multi-sensory experiential events:
harnessing the science behind it”, April 2015
Source: London & Partners / CWT Meetings and Events survey,
Source: Greenlight VR, “Virtual reality consumer report”,
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users’ experience was shown on large screens via a live feed so that the audience could
see what the volunteer was experiencing while watching the reactions of the volunteer as
they reacted to their new environment.
As mentioned above, at Mobile World Congress this February, virtual reality was ubiquitous.
Compared to previous years, the presence of virtual reality had increased significantly, both
in terms of brands using it to promote its products/services and companies selling VR
However, often it felt like VR was being used for the sake of it - users would emerge from a 3-
minute demo still not really understanding what the company was trying to promote.
Additionally, the experiences were often laggy which led to a bad user experience.
When deployed well, VR remains an incredibly powerful tool for communicating messages in
a clear and compelling way. Some companies are continuing to get it right: for example,
Samsung at MWC had an excellent 4D VR theatre set up which showcased just how good VR
A new wave of VR experiences will soon be upon us, courtesy of technology such as HTC
Vive and Intel Realsense. These will start to create an entirely new set of experiences for
customers. VR has typically been held back by the lack of spatial awareness and physical
interaction, but this will soon change. Headsets will now enable customers to be truly
immersed in a virtual world, providing them with the ability to move around and interact with
This growing prevalence of VR at events and at home, along with the development of the
technology, offers challenges to event organizers. However, it also offers opportunities for
novel and creative approaches that will help brands and events to set themselves apart
from the crowd. Here are some of our key learnings in its successful deployment:
§ Make sure the experience is relevant to your messaging and tells the story well. Good VR
experiences require a broader skill set than is normally present at a standard digital
§ agency. We use a broader specialist team of scriptwriters, storyboarders, directors, 3D
animators and others alongside our development teams to ensure that the experiences
are cinematic, coherent and push the right emotional buttons.
§ Get the technology right: A great deal of attention needs to be paid to the platforms and
technology you’re using to present your VR experiences. After investing a great deal of
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time and effort in ensuring that your experience tells an engaging, exciting and relevant
story, the worst thing that can happen is that it is let down by laggy or glitchy
performance. Testing, testing and more testing will help you to avoid the pitfalls of motion
sickness or spatial confusion. If you’re setting up in an unfamiliar environment, scope it out
beforehand and test the set-up on location.
§ Extend and blend the VR experience to stand out: For Audi at the Goodwood Festival of
Speed, we wanted to weave the virtual world together with the real world to create a
much greater VR impact. We delivered a nail-biting Oculus Rift VR experience that set
attendees racing around the Silverstone race track in an Audi R8, being driven by
legendary driver Allan McNish. In order to create a truly unique experience, we placed
attendees first in the race car itself to create a truly multi-sensory moment - the smell of the
leather and the feel of the seatbelt and dashboard sat alongside the experience of
immersive sight and sound as attendees raced around the track virtually. This really blurred
the boundaries of what was real and what was experienced through the virtual reality,
and when the race was over and the headset came off, our attendees received a
delightful surprise seeing Allan himself sat beside them (he snuck into the car during the
simulation) as if transported into the car from the virtual reality itself. The key to the success
of this experience is to connect the real with the virtual through the use of sensory stimulus
in the user’s environment around smell taste and touch that augment the virtual
experience. Then, once the VR experience is completed we continue the story afterwards
to reinforce that connection.
§ Allow users to take the VR experience home: Now that Google Cardboard has effective
democratized the ownership of VR among users everywhere, the experience you offer to
your attendees doesn‘t need to remain exclusively at the event. We often look for ways to
extend the reach of our high end event VR experiences by converting them into versions
that can be hosted on YouTube either as VR for Cardboard users or as explorable 360
degree video - such as our recent work for Hive around the connected home. This
approach is going to become increasingly easy to take as VR continues to permeate our
homes over the next eighteen months.
Aside from the creation of multi-sensory experiences, technology can assist in providing rich
experiences in other ways. Interactive walls create tangibility and self-service opportunities
through the provision of touch based interactivity. Attendees’ smartphones and tablets can
be used to create augmented reality (AR) experiences that can help bring event literature to
life with extra content, video or animation that provides greater detail and insight than the
printed page alone.
What’s important to consider is how these different approaches can knit together seamlessly
to create an overarching experience that is consistent and connected for your audience,
and one that reinforces rather than confuses the messages you are trying to communicate.
Create a relationship with your audience
As any good salesperson will tell you, knowing who you are negotiating with is the best
preparation for success. The same applies for engaging audiences at events. The more
tailored and personal we can make an experience for our audience, the more likely their
experience is to not only be remembered, but also shared among friends and colleagues.
Making sure that you are able to gather actionable data and then connect that information
to customize attendee experiences will give organizers the power to tailor an attendee’s visit
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and provide a richer and more relevant connection. Having an effective event application
that a high proportion of attendees have downloaded is critical to ensuring the success of
Creating a personal connection is not easy, but it is worthwhile, and even small efforts can
result in great effect. It doesn’t always be as complex as a full wall of tablets displaying
portraits of attendees as in our work on the Wall Street Journal CEO conference. For example,
beacons can be employed to simply trigger personalized messages welcoming visitors to a
stand and alerting staff to their arrival. Perhaps in the case of a prearranged meeting
providing specific information about how they like their coffee.
Likewise, but more complicatedly, beacon sourced data around the attendee can be linked
to interactive areas of a stand - touchscreen walls, table top applications etc. Personal data
can then be used to display content on stand interactives that is specifically relevant to the
visitor, short-cutting the need to search or browse and saving the user time and effort.
As with any deployment of personalization solutions, sensitivity is key to avoid creepiness.
Executions should focus on making use of data that is relevant and using personalization only
to assist or enhance the attendee’s experience.
Amplify the effect
Events are no longer closed or relevant only to the people in front of you. The explosion of
social media usage on smartphones has, unsurprisingly, translated to the world of events with
70% of event attendees sharing event experiences or content. Furthermore, as many as 87%
of event professionals feel that social sharing and the viral impact of events is extremely or
very important. Yet only 16% of event professionals feel that they are very effective at
generating viral impact or social content sharing from events. 18
Generating the sort of rich, unique and stand-out experiences mentioned in the sections
above will help go some way towards encouraging sharing by your attendees, but your
social strategy during the event will determine the reach and impact that your event will
have outside the boundaries of the venue.
“70% of event attendees share
experiences or content through social
Twitter remains the most effective social
network for attendees sharing content from an
event, with 73% of event organizers saying it is
where they get the most reach. 19 Clearly the
use of consistent hash tags to ensure that social
is easily monitored will help, and making it
easier to share throughout the venue via the
Source: Mosaic / Event Marketing Institute “Event Track 2015”,
Source: Freeman XP / Event Marketing Institute, “The viral impact
of events”, 2015
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application during presentations or when visiting stands as mentioned above is critical to
bringing down barriers. But there are other approaches that event organizers can take in
order to encourage sharing and advocacy among attendees aside from creating a winning
Look at how experiences can spark friendly competition through gamification, trophies or
rewards. This approach starts to create an element of spectator involvement and social
rivalry that can have a greater impact than simply encouraging the sharing of content. With
Audi, as part of a suite of digital resources at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, we created a
gamified driving experience called King of Quattro in which a tablet app recorded the
driving statistics of attendees’ test drives using the gyroscope and accelerometer. A
leaderboard was created of all the test drives throughout the day, effectively turning an
individual experience into a collective and competitive experience that encouraged sharing
among participants and generated broader reach from the stand to the world outside.
Going forward, live streaming from events is going to become the norm, not just by event
hosts but also by attendees using first person or 360 degree cameras and social networks
such as Periscope or combining footage with VR to give visitors the experience of being
there themselves. These channels are a great way to bring a remote audience into an event
and provide content for future promotions when marketing events in the future.
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Case study: OneSubsea
Our on-going work for undersea drilling and engineering company OneSubsea personifies
our approach. We were challenged to devise a high-tech interactive experience to
showcase OneSubsea at the oil and gas industry’s major trade shows around the world. The
brief was to help them to stand out among other exhibitors, while helping visitors to
understand the broad range of their capabilities and expertise. The technical nature and
specialism of their work within the industry gave a layer of unavoidable complexity to the
story that OneSubsea needed to tell. Therefore the key challenge of the project was to
investigate ways in which this complex set of messages could be surfaced to attendees in a
way that explained their offer with clarity and elegance, but also with a simplicity that could
be understood through self-service exploration of visitors to their stands. A second challenge
around reusability and return on investment of the solution meant that easily transferrable
digital solutions were necessary.
No single solution would meet the brief effectively, so we first set out to understand
OneSubsea’s business and key objective and ambitions for achieving success at trade
shows. From gaining an understanding of this we were able to translate their key matrix of
messages into a suite of multimedia products with the flexibility adapt to different trade show
stands and sales environments, including:
§ A huge interactive touchscreen cube which exactly recreates the subsea
environment and engineering technology in intricate 3D and that allows for
immersive exploration and interaction above the surface of the sea, under the sea
and beneath the sea bed.
§ A supporting augmented reality iPad app to explore the rich detail of OneSubsea’s
§ iPad, desktop and laptop versions for executives and sales staff for use in person to
person consultations with stand visitors and in later meetings after events
Critically, solutions weren’t developed in isolation or subsequently disconnected and
confusing. Instead, each element of the stand experience was developed together as a
coherent and connected suite that allowed visitors to explore independently, interactively
and with freedom. Because the messaging was clear and the communication of key
messages cohered, visitors left the stand with a consistent understanding of the business and
their operations, ultimately providing OneSubsea with competitive differentiation, business
understanding and high brand engagement.
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Case study: WSJ CEO Council
Our work on the Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference is a good example of creating
an elegant and memorable first impression for attendees. We created customized tablets for
each of the CEOs attending the conference that served as a personal concierge. The
tablets featured individual 'stipples' (portraits) in the iconic style of the Wall Street Journal's
editorial portraits. The CEOs entered the registration area and were given white glove
service, which included a tutorial on how to use the app. They could then keep and use the
device for polling, breakout sessions and messaging with other CEOs.
Hundreds of devices were placed on a wall, creating a huge impact as delegates arrived.
Each device slotted into a perspex wall, and we had rotating screens - stipple and
conference logos. It was an eye-catching display and developed to create some theatre
during the registration process that really created an unforgettable first impression through
the use of scale and personalization, which ultimately encouraged the attendees to use the
devices and the event application during the conference.
Watch Somo’s event show reel at: https://vimeo.com/somo/events-showreel
To learn more about Somo’s event solutions, please get in touch at
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