Simon Clayton, chief ideas officer at RefTech on the need for a good idea to be provable.
About five years ago, there was a major plan to install a real-time location system into the roof of Excel London. At the time I told a lot of people that I didn’t like the idea, but the geek in me was curious about it all anyway.
The notion behind this technology was to ‘determine the precise location of every visitor at an event with an accuracy of six inches per second,’ or in other words, to see where people walked around an exhibition.
To those involved it sounded like the next big thing, turning Excel London into the ‘world’s first truly smart event space.’ Even Excel’s CEO thought the system was going to ‘revolutionise the industry’.
Did it? Of course it didn’t. It was, in all honesty, a stupid idea. So stupid in fact, that despite the system gaining a lot of press coverage, it was never actually used – revolution at its best.
Like a lot of things, it sounded like a good idea on the face of it but when you really dig down into the guts of the issue – it isn’t a good idea at all. It’s a bit like a modern version of “The Emperor’s new clothes”.
Some people think that event organisers are obsessed with the idea of tracking visitors and while it’s true that understanding visitors is important – just what are you going to get by knowing where people walk?
I’ve even had people pitch the use of thermal hotspot tracking for use at exhibitions. Again, this is nothing but a stupid idea, as all the results will show is that the toilets and bar are the hotspots – is that where the next event will take place? With the urinals set-up as exhibitor stands? I think not.
This need to identify and measure visitor activity highlights how within a venue, a certain area isn’t a hotspot. These companies have got it wrong; it is actually whatever is on that particular stand which draws the interest.
Any stand at the show that gives away free food and drink – there’s a hotspot. Where that stand is situated, is largely irrelevant, it is simply human nature to go to where the attraction is.
By attempting to implement these ridiculous tracking ideas, it allows them to tell organisers that they can charge more for a certain area in the venue because it is believed to be a hotspot. The hype, which surrounds the continuous stream of technological innovations poised to revolutionise the events industry, needs to be cut through and common sense needs to prevail.
A good idea needs to be provable. It should have measurable benefits to the organiser or your audience, and come without a high set-up cost.
New technology that only 20 per cent of your audience can use is already limiting the idea, and it’s unlikely that all of that 20 per cent will use it.
The events industry will only improve when the technology that comes to the fore has relevant benefits.
Organisers need to step back and not get themselves caught up in an idea that comes with an all-singing, all-dancing press release, but little hard evidence of actually being useful.
This article was first published in the January issue of EN. Any comments? Email Jamie Wallis