Mobile & Connected Technology at Events



Mobile & Connected

Technology at Events

Generating success through the creation of functional

and engaging event solutions 1


Introduction ........................................................................................................................................... 3

Functional solutions ............................................................................................................................... 4

Engagement solutions ....................................................................................................................... 13

Case studies ........................................................................................................................................ 22 2


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:

To learn more about Somo’s event solutions, please get in touch at 3

Functional solutions

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

events. 2

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 4

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” 5

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

application. 7

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 6

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


Getting there

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. 7

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.

Check in

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 8

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.

Presentation interaction

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 9

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?”,

March 2013 10

Post Event

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 11

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. 12

Engagement solutions

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

experience. 11

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 13

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

and succinctly.

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. 14

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

around you.

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

face, 2006


Source: User Testing Blog, “Why first impressions matter”, April 2015 15

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

missing out).

§ 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

experience-focused audiences 16

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

emerging technology.

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,

October 2015


Source: Greenlight VR, “Virtual reality consumer report”,

November 2015 17

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

can be.

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

physical objects.

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 18

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 19

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

this approach.

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 20

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

hash tag.

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. 21

Case studies

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

multi-ton machinery

§ 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. 22

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:

To learn more about Somo’s event solutions, please get in touch at 23

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