Nick Borelli, an event technologist and educator, has been working in the tech space since he was 14. Over the years Borelli’s tech and hospitality experiences continued to merge as he worked in freelance web design for the bridal market. This led to him recognizing the overlap between the online and in-person event spaces in regards to both the community and design elements.
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His background means that Borelli understands the radical differences between planners and event technologists. In his view, one of the keys to alleviating this issue is better communication between both sides. For example, failure is celebrated in tech, it’s seen as an opportunity to learn and make the technology better. Meanwhile, the events industry prefers to quickly move on from any mistakes or failures as soon as possible. This stems from tech believing in risk taking and going all in, whereas event planners are more risk averse.
It may be hard for tech to understand the unique and stress-inducing needs of event planners in relation to technology. Launch dates are regularly moved down the line in tech. Events can’t simply be moved to another month or quarter to give planners more time to iron out kinks. There is no moving the launch date. Once the event is live, it has to go well and there are no do-overs. Not delivering an experience the audience were expecting can result in them not returning to the next one. It’s not surprising then that event planning is often listed as one of the most stressful jobs. Other other hand. tech jobs are not normally cited on the same lists.
Something that technology is rich and well versed in, and which events could improve on, is data. Unlocking event data may not be exciting, but it can provide opportunities for entire organization to make better decisions. For example, Borelli views an event as a focus group, which means if you look at the cues people within the focus group ie attendees are giving you, similar to what you might find when designing a poll, you can determine whether the event was a success or failure beyond growing attendee numbers or positive feedback.
These other benchmarks could in turn lead to increased investment for your event, team or organization moving forward. Borelli concedes that it often requires event planners to also think like a marketer and a salesperson, but if they’re able to do so, if they can use the data at their disposal to show the benefits of their efforts to the event and company, they can often successfully request additional resources to continue developing efforts and growing their impacts.
The move into virtual events, and the associated technologies, was one which was foisted on the majority of event planners as a result of the pandemic, it wasn’t an area of event planning and hosting that they actively were seeking out and looking to develop. Within the virtual event space is the metaverse, which has been growing in recent years, especially with Mark Zuckerberg’s focus on the metaverse and renaming the Facebook parent company to Meta. However, Borelli argues that the metaverse is a thing of the future, it is not where planners or attendees are at this moment. It is something that needs to be developed and better understood.
Borelli doesn’t foresee virtual events replacing in-person events, in fact he sees in-person events continuing to grow. For example, Esports have never been more popular. Over five million people simultaneously live streaming the recent League of Legends event, not including Chinese viewers. He anticipates a continued shift in consumption to things like binge watching lecture talks whilst doing other activities as opposed to sitting in a lecture theater for 45 minutes.
Ultimately people will continue to seek human interactions at in-person events, but event planners must strive to innovate by removing any elements that are no longer necessary, whilst also ensuring that all attendees feel included.
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