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Innovating conference offerings: bringing technology to your next event

Leeds is a thriving digital hub and a popular conferencing destination in the heart of the UK. The city’s reputation as a digital city has attracted many major brands to base operations here, including NHS Digital, which is headquartered in the city. Venues across Leeds are investing in the improvement of their technology offering to ensure they can attract and cater for new digital conferences and events, such as Digitech and the Digital Summer School, whilst continuing to support popular homegrown events including Search Leeds and Leeds Digital Festival, the North’s largest digital festival.
There is now enormous demand for conferences to move with the times and offer more than a simple powerpoint presentation to their delegates, so ConferenceLeeds have identified the best new and existing tech that event organisers can introduce to improve conferences and engage delegates in new, innovative ways.

It might sound obvious, but Twitter is a fantastic way to engage delegates and encourage them to get involved in conference discussions before, during and after an event.

Creating an account and hashtag makes it simple for delegates to share updates on their time at your conference, whilst being able to find event information and updates easily all in one place. Your Twitter feed, and specific hashtag, should be set up and tweets posted in advance of the conference, during the conference and after the conference, to tell a real story and give your delegates multiple points that they can engage with.

As one of our top tips, a great way to get the conversation started on Twitter is to include a question in the welcome packs and encourage your delegates to respond via Twitter. Not only will this populate your feed with engagement, but it will also encourage them to tag and interact with you independently, which is an excellent habit to get your delegates into and will likely lead to your conference creating a buzz online for its duration.

Live streaming
With the rise of Facebook and Instagram’s new live streaming features, it’s no wonder that conferences are now seeing more demand for live streaming technology than ever before. Originally, with the rise of digital, many feared that the face-to-face conference would become a thing of the past. It’s not a trend that we’ve seen, but we have seen more and more people start to bridge the gap between locations and time zones via the use of live streaming equipment.

Whether this is to engage a speaker that cannot make it to the event, stream your conference talks back to the world, or whether it’s to allow your delegates to learn something new from an expert that couldn’t be on hand at the venue with the relevant equipment, live streaming is a new technology making a strong impact in the conferencing world.

Several events in Leeds this year have made the most of live streaming, notably with the Laprascopic Surgeons annual conference, where they were able to broadcast live surgery from one location to inform and educate delegates in another. This type of technology allows for knowledge sharing across any physical barriers, and requires venues to have a prominent screen, a strong Internet connection and access to a live streaming software for organisers to access.

Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual and Augmented Reality have sprung to the forefront of the gaming industry in the past few years, and the applications of the technology have now spanned even further – moving into education, workplace training, socialising and now conferences and events. These technologies are now becoming the norm in conferencing, with a simple and effective form being Snapchat filters, which can be set up for an event on a geolocation basis and allow delegates to share branded images of themselves on their social platforms.

AR can also be used to project holograms at events and conferences, with speakers able to present talks and workshops virtually using AR technology. Taking it one step further, in using AR for events and conferences in the event space itself, companies can create unique experiences through the use of mobile technology and QR codes, and mobile gaming headsets too. If you are looking to immerse delegates in the latest innovations in your sector, VR and AR are fantastic tools to utilise. Visual and augmented reality are sure to add another dimension to your conference, creating a standout experience that is sure to be remembered.

Smart Business Cards
The final innovation is not centred on venues and facilities, but is actually a new way for delegates to share their information amongst themselves. We know that one of the core reasons for people to attend your conference is to broaden their pool of contacts, and network with like-minded individuals.

Smart business cards are a relatively new initiative that is expected to gain pace across the next few years. These high tech, no-paper alternatives are clever additions that smart conferences can introduce to make exchanging contact information fast, easy and kind of quirky.

Smart business cards, powered by NFC (a wireless radio communications standard), can be used to pass digital information to a smartphone or device by a simple tap – much like a contactless card. NFC is everywhere these days, from your credit card to your home locks, and is naturally compatible with smartphones and electrical devices. If you create a digital business card, you can simply ‘tap’ it on a compatible smartphone or device and have your contacts automatically added to their database of contacts. We say watch this space for these innovative business cards at your next few conferences or events!