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Appreciating different users of event technology

If you are reading this article, you might probably have deployed a event application, polling, chat app, meetings app or engagement hardware at your event.
You would also have heard all about the analytics wonder that these solutions can do for you. But deep down, you know what matters is adoption. If a minority of your intended audience uses the event technology, the “analytics wonder” is moot anyway.

So adoption of any event technology is truly the source of the relevant data “river” in your event.

So where does adoption really starts and how do we understand and ‘engineer’ a better process to boost adoption?

It’s really simple actually.

You need to start appreciating different users and different adoption channels if you haven’t already.

This is an obvious fact which I feel, many organisers do not appreciate this. Events are a gathering of different people with different aims of attending, just like a marketplace. As such, it is only possible if there are different streamlined channels to fulfill different needs at an event.

What I meant here is not about cramming your single event app with different features to suit different needs. The latter actually have an opposite effect as it makes features less accessible hence the adoption process is not streamlined. Furthermore, attendees will most likely need to access 10-20% of all the features anyway.

What can we learn from that? It means that we need to pinpoint the event time frame of which an event technology is required, and the purpose it serves before deploying it using the best channel. For example, why have a Q&A/polling feature on the native app (which people have to download it) to enable them to rate and post up questions of sessions during the sessions itself? It is adding unnecessary bulk to the native event app. There are existing technologies that are already out there which will fulfill the in-session Q&A and polling needs better, using webapp technology, without needing your attendees to download an app to utilise Q&A and polling.

In the field of user experience (UX) study, one of the recommended way to understanding users is through the use of user personas (here’s an in-depth write up on personas). This is not only applicable to the event technology that you use, it is actually relevant to your event growth (as well as reasons of decline) if you are able to studying the key personas in your event and deeply gauge what you provide fits their needs.

However, there’s one key point to note really, when you are emphasising on personas to influence your event processes as cited from the previous article:

Any tool can be used for good or evil, and personas are no different. If used improperly, as when personas are not based on research (with the exception of provisional personas, which are based on anecdotal, secondhand information or which are used as a precursor or supplement to firsthand research), or if made up of fluffy information that is not pertinent to the design problem at hand, or if based solely on market research (as opposed to ethnographic research), then personas will impart an inaccurate understanding of users and provide a false sense of security in the user-centered design process.

Probably a wrong use of personas in event is when organising team receive a feedback from a particular user and assumes the all the users within the persona will have the same feedback. This ends up influencing the design of the process that received the feedback. Such confirmation bias can be a dangerous move, as it leads you deeper into wrongly designing the process.

In conclusion, I hope this article will spur you on to further appreciate your event audience, their needs and their attending experience. There are many ways to study your users, one of them is through personas. Lets speak if you are interested to discuss further on this topic.
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Do you know that Jublia currently provides a native event app that is tightly integrated in our leading Business Matching platform? Speak to us to know more!

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If the question is ‘Technology’, what is the answer?

I read the recent article on Exhibition World, titled “If the answer is ‘technology’, what is the question?“, with keen interest. It is a recurring theme in the events industry where event technologies increasingly find their way around the industry.

We know that technology is here to stay, everywhere. It is currently disrupting different verticals, be it finance, hotels, transportation, aviation and more. It will be naive to assume that technology will not be making it’s impact upon the events world.

Hence I would like to bring a new perspective, as a technologist in this industry, to tackle the question in a different way:

“If the question is ‘Technology’, what is the answer?

My approach here will be looking at technology management at a more micro level than the macro viewpoint that has been discussed in the cited article.

My experience when interacting with event professionals in recent times has been quite a favorable one for technology. Event professionals do understand that technology is here to stay in the industry. The relentless marketing that event technology companies have done has bear fruits for them. Technology tests and trials come and gone, which in turn makes event professionals more savvy on what works.

For the mid level professionals, who are often on the front-line in implementing technologies (maybe as directives from upper management or just independently), they don’t doubt the capabilities of event technologies. However, with all the hype about “digital” and “data” and their potential transformations that they can bring at the macro level in the industry, it is not often understood or discussed what answers or measurements should we look for, on a more micro level of technology use.

But first, we need to understand the basic types of metrics when deploying technologies.

‘Utility’ vs ‘Insights’ metrics

Examples of utility metrics being “how much time I can save using this”, “how much prints and paper I can save using this” and “how much manual work can I automate using this”. Utility metrics forms the bottomline of any technology that you would like to deploy in your event. It should be making your work more efficient and sustainable. As such, it is important to set and measure against utility metrics. For example, if event apps are supposed to save on prints and paper, it is important to measure the adoption of such apps against how much lesser demand you had for prints. If nobody downloads and actively utilises the event app, the case on utility benefits is moot.

Example of insights metrics being “do I better understand my customers and how they interact after using this”, “can this bring a new level of service personalisation” and “can I measure the value of the network potential that I have brought to the event”. Insights metrics are typically explored on the topline of technology evaluation. Typically this is where upper management sees the true value in event technology, while there is no immediate gratification for mid-level professionals to measure against such metrics. For example, does your event technology tell you how to further segment your trade visitors into different buying groups and tending to their specific buying needs, rather than lumping everyone as “trade visitors” and interacting with all of them as a mono entity?

Any good technology should take care of the bottomline utility performance, while allowing you to explore and derive insights at the topline.

New measurements required for event technologies

Event technologies that open new grounds and possibilities should be measured against their own new metrics, be it utility or insights metrics. By measuring against existing metrics, your technology can end up being a senseless exercise. For example, Jublia do sometimes get measured against marketing metrics which may not necessarily make sense. Items like “email open rates” does not tell how an event app or business matching will ultimately perform. Engagement tools like the mentioned, should be benchmark against engagement metrics: activity and usage.

How should we even know where to start finding such metrics to measure against? It is usually a 2 steps process:
1) Your provider should have a good idea of what to measure. Find out how they will measure “success” of the event technology.
2) Using the metrics from your providers as basics, modify your KPIs so that it encompasses to your business aims too. Never use providers’ metrics wholesale and at face value as it measures their “success” and not yours.

Don’t generalise. Understand the in-depth process of a technology and it’s differentiation

Professionals needs to take a step in to explore technology offerings and their differentiation to truly evaluate and figure out if it is a fit.

For example in our business, it is common to come across prospects and when they hear that Jublia does ‘business matching’ for events, we get lumped with all ‘networking’ providers right away. It will take some effort to find out what the prospects actually understand about ‘business matching’ and we will then try to explain our unique successful process and proposition . Most often than not, we found out that they actually do not have a deep understanding of what ‘business matching’ is. Typically, we find that a “messaging” function in their event app is thought of as a business matching function. Obviously that’s not the case.

I like to call this the Wasabi paradox. The layman will usually thinks that the wasabi they eat in restaurants is the real deal, although it is highly likely flavored horseradish (wasabi is actually a prized food that is rare and expensive).

Without inquiring further, it is easy to be misled on the real deal.

With the above discussion in place, I hope it spurs us on to find our own answers from the technologies that we are implementing in our events.

Technology is here to stay and lets find the best possible answers from it.

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Is your Event Digital Strategy on the right path?

This is probably going to be ironic, taking the fact that Jublia is a event tech startup, and we should be evangelising on digital benefits for your business, rather than the opposite.

However, after reading this insightful article on Harvard Business Review, I believe it should be put into the context of our industry to provide an alternative viewpoint.

I would like to present the 4 points discussed in the HBR article, and put them in context of our industry.

1. Network effects: The winner does not always take all.

Network effects can drive consolidation and in some cases inevitably, there’s only one big winner in the game (like Facebook in the social media category). However as the article explains that while, “many business models that make extensive use of digital technology have network-type properties”, it is also a “misconception to think that network effects inevitably and always lead to a winner-take-all market”.
In our industry of exhibitions and conferences, there is typically no winners take all situations. The fragmentation of our industry is a strong testament to this and as well as the fact that while we have huge events in every industry, these huge events actually command a minority market share in the industry itself.

Therefore, while digitising your business can give you an edge over your competition (especially when your customers have to make a choice), it is not going to drive out all competitions as “digital disruption” are known for.

2. Complements are not substitutes.

The second misconception, as the article notes is that “digital disruption is that new technology will inevitably substitute old technology, rendering it obsolete”. A few years ago, virtual events were all the rage and many people feared that their underlying event business model is threatened by virtual events. However, virtual events found itself to be a hype, and died out not long afterwards.

Virtual events never managed to replace in-person events.

However, what led on from there was the digitisation of events, where digital tools are introduced as complementary to the event itself, rather than replace it. While some organisers introduce digital marketplace platforms, they were only aimed at bolstering the event brands, in a bid to provide a more wholesome buy-sell experience with a mix of hybrid digital and onsite experience.

The article could not have said it better: “Business models and competitive advantages are complex systems. This means that they consist of multiple elements – some of them tangible; some intangible – which interact with one another, meaning that it is their combination that makes it work. In many markets, digital will just add one new factor to the mix or replace one element, but not often all of them. This means that in many businesses, digital technology will complement and alter the incumbents’ existing resources and capabilities, but it certainly won’t always entirely replace them altogether. Therefore, when making strategy, the focus should be on identifying complements, rather than assuming complete substitution.

I will let you decide if the “event apps will replace your physical catalogs” pitches that you are receiving from vendors make any sense now.

3. Geography (still) matters

Basically this points prove why exhibitions and conferences still holds a huge lead on digital platforms where physical interactions must be facilitated. This also tell us that the technology that you may employ in your events should not be left to work out itself. You always need a team of concierges/specialists to ensure that your customers is getting the maximum value from your events with the right digital tools to automate and ease the facilitation process (for example, meetings scheduling is an impersonal process that can be automated).

This is why Jublia always advocate a Technology-First approach, rather than a Technology-Only approach to your events.

4. Speed? Not so fast.

Hype versus the real deals. Digitisation of events have brought opportunists who sell hypes, rather than technologies that really work. The results of ‘all-in-one digital platforms’ and ‘features laden event apps’ have been paltry at best.

While early adopters may get a bigger lead on their peers, it is important to benchmark the underlying claims made by providers, to see if you are really riding on a hype train, or the real deal. To do that, set key KPIs against the providers claims to see if the technology really works, and if it translate to tangible benefits for your organisation, and constantly iterate the technology use-cases against how your customers are reacting to them.

And as the article sounds out: “If your company is in an environment in which new technologies come and go quickly, you may need to slow down rather than speed up. Given the level of market uncertainty, you will really only be able to distinguish the fads from the more substantial developments after some time has passed. It may sound paradoxical, but in an environment of rapid change, sometimes trying to match that speed can backfire.

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Blazing into 2017 with new features on Jublia

We have been a little silent since end 2016 going into 2017, but that only means our team has been hard at work to introduce relevant features in our products.
I am pleased to announce the following features which are aimed to improve organisers workflow on Jublia platform and let them deliver the best business matching performance with more efficiency.

1st, CRM

CRM, short for Customer Relationship Management, on Jublia SENSE allows you a one stop platform to gather all relevant data, to assist your clients at your event in the most efficient way possible.
This is especially useful for hosted buyers programme, where show team members are highly active in managing the buyers needs and will be able to use this extensive feature to manage buyers meetings, print buyer schedules, find out which exhibitors would like to meet them (and if they have responded).

Let us know if you are interested to take it for a demo spin to see how this can boost your buyers meetings management.

2nd, Sending better requests

We are taking one step forward in create better meetings will more relevant context. As of today, any requests sent in Jublia allows you to send a message and more: the sender will be able to indicate specifically which products, services or partnership he/she is interested in. This allows the receiver to understand why the sender wants to meet him and thus, giving more context to allow the receiver to respond.

This is a small add-on, but we find it extremely useful especially in trade exhibition and investment related events.

3rd, Search Trends

Search is probably the single most important feature of any business matching system, to enable your customers to accurately source for important leads.
This is why it makes complete sense for organisers to study their event search data. Sample images from our demo platform below.

4th, Requests over time

We found that by understanding how requests are made over time, you can better understand how passive (or active) your attendees are, and how strong the buy-sell potential is sustained in your event. Give this graph a look on Sense if you already have an event using Jublia previously and want to find out how and when exactly your users are more active (or passive).

5th, Agenda

I kept this as the last item, but Agenda is the single most exciting part of our system to merge Content and Leads together, into 1 platform. We can now provide an integrated Agenda within our business matching system, offering the world’s first unified scheduling platform your attendees. This is especially useful for Confexs and/or Conferences which are are mainly agenda-based events.

This is not irrelevant for exhibitions too. The agenda can be used to include your exhibitors’ booth activities, allowing exposure of these activities for your visitors/buyers, as they setup their on-site meetings. All via the same platform. Below is a sample image of how it looks like on Jublia MATCH platform.

We will be speaking about Agenda in further depth in a separate blogpost soon. Stay tuned!

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Temasek Polytechnic’s 2016 Entrepreneurs’ Forum

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Just before Christmas, I was privileged to have been invited to speak at Temasek Polytechnic’s annual Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

It was a half day event organised by the School of Business and most in attendance were from the graduating cohort. Nevertheless, I noticed a number of students from other faculties who were eager to learn beyond the conventional curriculum of their subject major. Great, entrepreneurs come from all fields and walks of life! It’s no secret that the entrepreneurs of this century (technopreneurs) aren’t just majors in business but design, technology, science, engineering and so on!

I was one of three speakers who took the stage for 30 minutes to speak about my entrepreneurship journey – the Jublia story thus far. After which we had a panel question and answer before concluding with light refreshments at the foyer.

To sum up, here are the take aways I hope to have left everyone at the forum that day:

1. Opportunities – Make full use of them and don’t dwell in the ones you’ve missed, the next one would come

2. Hard Work – There is no substitution for the investment of blood, sweat and tears

3. Faith – Every business starts with taking a step of faith

4. Adaptable – Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you response to these circumstances

Since speaking at TP, a few students have been proactively reaching out for internship opportunities and I’m glad to say that we’re having more TP students joining the Jublia family this year. Thank you and keep it coming, the internship slots are filling fast!

If you’d like to find out more about internship opportunities with Jublia OR are interested in the content of my session for future guest speaking opportunities, do reach out to me at errol@jublia.com.

Once again, many thanks to Temasek Polytechnic School of Business for having me. Here’s wishing everyone a prosperous and healthy 2017!