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  • Writer's pictureAdam Malik

Embrace Innovation, Avoid the Monolith: The Key to Digitising Events

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, we face two daunting tasks: transforming traditional events into engaging online experiences and creating better digital experiences to drive deeper engagement, knowledge and information exchange at in-person events.

This shift requires more than just a basic understanding of technology; it demands a fundamental reset of our relationship with it and how we apply it to deliver transformative experiences.

This shift demands a fundamental reset of our relationship with technology and how we apply it to deliver transformative experiences.

This article explores why a monolithic -- platforms that claim to do everything -- approach to technology can hinder innovation and limit your ability to differentiate and evolve Digitised Events.

The Trap of the Monolith - A False Hope

As we strive to digitise events, a common pitfall is the allure of the "do-it-all" monolith system. These systems, often built by event tech companies, offer various features, from registration to email marketing and even a built-in CMS.

However, they often fail to deliver any of these features well and are not nearly as feature-rich as a dedicated marketing automation system or established CMS -- the companies do not have the pockets to keep up with the technological advances in non-core features. It rapidly leads to inefficiencies, technical debt, and a stifling of innovation.

For example, you have three systems that can do some form of registration, which is a significant technical debt, not to mention the training and maintenance overhead.

It's important to remember that companies often build monoliths to create a 'lock-in' effect. While this approach has some initial advantages, such as simplicity in the early stages, easy deployment, and tight coupling, these factors can become obstacles in the long run. They can hinder innovation and make it difficult to adapt to changing requirements, which is critical in the dynamic landscape of Digitising Events.

The allure of the monolith is a product of technical inertia, a resistance to change that stems from a lack of a cohesive technology strategy, clear metrics, and collaborative relationships.

Another example: an event tech company might build an email marketing suite to meet the demands of event planners. While this suite can send emails, it lacks the sophistication and personalisation features of a specialised marketing automation system, resulting in a subpar experience for participants and missed opportunities around the personalisation, engagement and tailored delivery of the digital experience. It is a throwback to attention-by-default thinking.

A picture of a monolith next to a brightly coloured system
From Constraint to Amazing

Bursting the Dam of Technical Inertia

The allure of the monolith is a product of technical inertia, a resistance to change that stems from a lack of a cohesive technology strategy, clear metrics, collaborative relationships with technology experts, investments in training and technical skills development, and technical expertise in event functions.

This inertia stifles innovation and leaves the industry open to disruption with which it cannot compete. We need to challenge ourselves to embrace a different architectural approach. Instead of relying on a monolith system, we should take a leaf from the microservices-based architecture, where each service is responsible for a specific task and can operate independently. This approach allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and innovation.

Digitising Events with Microservices

Each service performs a single responsibility in a microservices architecture. For instance, you might use one service for registration, another for email marketing, and another for participant engagement. Each service can scale independently, and no service "owns" the data, preventing service dependency or lock-in.

For instance, suppose you have a webinar platform and use it entirely to email, engage, and register people. In that case, switching to another platform becomes very hard or at least significantly more difficult, not to mention that you have a data silo by default.

This microservices approach also encourages an API-first mindset, where each service has open, well-documented, and robust APIs. It allows for easy integration of new services, such as Bonjoro, a tool enabling you to send video messages to key event participants. With a microservices architecture, you can easily add Bonjoro to your tech stack, enhancing your event's engagement and personalisation by delivering a different connection with your audience.

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Applying a Microservices-based Approach to Your Events

Adopting a microservices architecture requires a shift in mindset and a well-defined technology strategy linked to product outcomes. It may seem daunting, especially for those who consider themselves "not technical." However, by embracing this approach, event planners can create more engaging, personalised, innovative events.

No one is asking you to code or become a programmer. However, we are challenging you to understand enough of this approach to consider its merit, and for that reason, we wanted to include a brief segway to try to explain the system in a more accessible way aligned to some core outcomes it enables. For a deeper and more technical explanation, see this great article.

Efficiency and Speed: Think of APIs as a restaurant's menu. Just as you can order different dishes from a menu without knowing how to cook them, you can use APIs to add features without building them from scratch. It allows teams to work faster and more efficiently to bring new experiences to market. A great example is Stripe which deals with all your billing.

Consistency: APIs help to ensure a consistent experience across different platforms. It's like having the same menu at all branches of a restaurant chain, ensuring that customers know what to expect no matter which branch they visit. For example, one webinar platform can power the last-mile delivery for all sectors you serve while maintaining different registration experiences for each.

Flexibility: APIs allow for easy updates and improvements, like how a restaurant can update its menu based on customer feedback or seasonal ingredients. This flexibility will enable you to improve and innovate continuously. As an example, registration is not badging, and by decoupling them, you can provide highly personalised registration experiences independent of any badging solution.

Integration: APIs make it easier to work with other services. It's like a restaurant partnering with a delivery service to reach more customers. For example, we wanted to integrate Chat GPT into a webinar creation flow to provide executive summaries in four hours -- we had a working prototype.

Empowering Experiences: APIs allow you to add external services into applications, like a chef using bought ingredients to create a gourmet meal. You can now focus on defining the experiences and journeys you want to enable and leverage APIs for the additional functionality.

For instance, instead of using a built-in CMS from a registration provider, consider using a headless CMS (one where content management is agnostic of the end display, device and form), which can deliver content more effectively in our omnichannel world. Or, create your own registration experience to gain more business advantages.

This approach also de-risks the outcome of an expensive and endless development cycle. However, having a shared language to guide you is essential, allowing non-technical and technical team members an equal seat at the table behind a clearly defined Commercially Valuable Outcome or CVO.

It's about using existing "ingredients" (APIs) to create your unique "dish" (your product or service). It's a way to leverage the best of what's already out there to create something that's uniquely yours.

Imagine an attendee books onto your event, which triggers the automation; it creates a task for your senior conference producer to record a personal welcome. This is then appended to a pre-recorded show and tell featuring exclusive networking opportunities only for this delegate level. Content aside, you could use this tech approach to orchestrate this in a day by hooking into Bonjoro.

Building Your Competitive Advantage

By adopting microservices, you can gain a competitive advantage. You can streamline workflows, automate repetitive tasks, and enhance the customer experience through deeper personalisation. Real-time, data-driven insights can guide decision-making, and the architecture's flexibility allows for rapidly adopting new technologies.

The world of online video engagement and interaction alone is evolving rapidly. Event organisers must be nimble, innovative, and tech-savvy to stay ahead. You cannot afford to be constrained by a monolith system.

Webinars and virtual events, for example, generate hours of completely underutilised video content. While pulling this piece together, Tracy from Video Script Success shared this video by Justin Brown of Primal Video. Imagine hooking one of these AI video editing tools into your webinar production workflow using simple API calls. You could have a polished video with video socials hours after your live event, not days and weeks -- eliminating a turgid post-production nightmare.

Stay Ahead of The Digital Storm.

The storm of Digitising Events is coming. You can choose to sail around it or into it, but you cannot ignore it. The digitisation of events is not just about selecting a tech stack; it's about choosing an architectural approach that aligns with your goals and enables innovation. It is about having an elegant, data-driven, digital-first approach to innovate and drive event engagement.

Challenge the status quo and embrace a microservices architecture to create more engaging, personalised, innovative events. The future of Digitised Events is not in the monolith but in Digitising Events with Microservices.


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