Having immersed myself in artificial intelligence, data models, machine learning and emerging tech from GPT 3.5, playing with Midjourney and exploring what we can do with assistants API and CDPs for over three years. Here is my view of how the shift to AI will impact the live event industry.
First off, here is what it will not do, especially in a B2B context. It won't make us wear VR headsets and shake hands with others in our living rooms or, for that matter, visit what looks like an exhibition hall online, at least not more than once. But we will see more connected online information and delivery experiences blending in webinars and video events.
AI will help us Digitise Events by enabling a deeper hyper-connected digital wrapper that leads us to, guides us at, and supports us after the event. This is now possible through the following key areas, with generative AI acting as a glue supported by machine learning.
Creating a Participant Engagement Engine
Data-Driven Decisions: AI's ability to process vast amounts of data transforms how we understand and cater to the audience. From predictive analytics to predict attendance to participant behaviour analysis, the data that drives these models will also send information to a personalisation engine to dynamically tune online experiences to drive participatory attendance and give the team valuable insights.
Predictive Modeling: Machine Learning and AI models can now give us an accurate indication of if someone will attend, but we can also model how they will attend and, therefore, understand at the agranular level the value each participant will create and derive from an event. Knowing down to a granular level if a person will attend can be a game changer.
Personalisation at Scale: AI enables deep personalisation in participant acquisition and engagement CDPs like Segment are building this into their experiences at a rapid pace. By analysing participant preferences and behaviours, AI can dynamically craft individually tailored attendee experiences on the fly, ensuring each interaction is relevant and impactful.
Real-Time Interaction: AI facilitates dynamic participant engagement through real-time feedback and interaction. This responsiveness will enhance the participant experience and allow organisers to adapt on the fly to emerging trends and preferences supported by AI. This will become much more sophisticated than just AI-powered chatbots.
Enhanced Networking Opportunities: AI-powered tools like matchmaking algorithms and personalised agendas can now work effectively with all the structured and behavioural data in one place. They will make it easier for participants to connect with relevant peers, speakers, and content, maximising the value of their participation.
Specialist GPTs: Trained specialist GPTs will form the glue for the participation engine. One will, for example, be highly trained on the conference agenda; the other will know all the exhibitors and sponsors inside out. These specialists will support the organising and marketing teams and play a vital role in enabling the digital experience.
We will see the concept of participant engagement engines, either using well-tuned CDPs or creating your own, which are dynamically tuned to do what it says on the tin and deliver a participatory audience to live events. The biggest impact will be on marketing strategies, which will change to become more data-driven and leverage AI-driven insights. The key to it all will be to deliver actionable insights and ensure these insights are tuned to the CVO (Commercially Valuable Outcome) of delivering an engaged participant. Without this link, it is easy to get the outcome wrong.
Operational Efficiency and Innovation
The physical delivery of an event takes up a disproportionate amount of energy and needs to deliver proportionate value; AI-driven tech will change all that. The main impact areas for the event planner are discussed below.
Streamlined Logistics: From resource allocation to scheduling, AI enhances operational efficiency, allowing organisers to focus on creative and strategic aspects. The logistics around delivering an event will become a commodity. AI will not only optimise logistics but eliminate and reduce repetitive tasks for the event planner. We will come closer to delivering a better hybrid service delivery at live events.
Specialist GPTs: We will see specialist GPTs in event planning helping here; for example, if you run a show at McCormick Place or The Javits Center, you can train GPTs to your event's unique DNA as well as using the official GPTs from the venues when they get around to it. They will also help support exhibitors and sponsors in the event build-up.
These Specialist GPTs can also help reduce administrative tasks and help with more complex tasks like understanding and aggregating attendee feedback.
Content Delivery: AI-driven content format innovation, initially with the ability to personalise event content delivery to an individual like Here are the photos of you at the event or This is what other people looking to solve similar problems consumed on day one will start to redefine and deeply personalise how information is presented and consumed at events.
Omnichannel Audience Acquisition: Getting an audience is getting harder as we have to activate many more channels than before. In many cases, the events industry still uses an old playbook, particularly on digital. AI is being embedded into marketing tools at an amazing rate, making it easier to activate omnichannel acquisition, but it will need to be supported by a personalized event experience.
Accessibility: At international events, AI can make it much easier to deliver multi-lingual personalized experiences, overcoming language barriers supported by innovative onsite event tech. It will also make post-event content more accessible to a much broader audience and make for more successful events tuned to individual preferences.
Embracing the AI Revolution
AI has been around for years, but the maturing of generative AI driven by the breakthrough of chat GPT makes it more accessible and acts as a glue or a more accessible interface to pull pieces together, and it will change how future events are orchestrated using data-driven insights in real-time.
Any event owner or organiser not looking to embrace an AI-centric workplace will, in time, fall behind and not be in a position to compete with the digital experiences delivered by those who are.
There is an opportunity for disruption in the event industry that has not existed before by embracing a process-first, scientific method of producing live events powered by a centralised data lake.
Data AT The Core of AI and The Future of Events
For event organizers to leverage these rapid advances in AI, particularly generative AI, we must change how the events industry gathers and uses data. Data is at the core of all of this, and it is not just structured data that will be required but also behavioural data from systems like GA4.
One of the biggest challenges will be breaking out of siloed event technology and joining up the data flows. However, this is getting easier.
There is also a fear of technology, which must be overcome by understanding that this will not replace the human touch but will give us more time to concentrate on delivering memorable events which deliver meaningful connections. To make this successful, we need to encourage and nurture the discipline of data science for live events.
Don't Panic! A Lot Of AI Will Come To You
When you review the tech that impacts an event, most of it is not 'Experience Tech'. A significant amount of tech drives audience acquisition or retention in those areas AI and Generative AI will likely come to you so AI and the future of events has already started.
AI may not necessarily require a radical overhaul of your current practices but rather an openness to activating and utilising new features as they become available. Below are some examples of systems delivering relevant AI capabilities today.
Marketing Automation: With the evolution of marketing automation systems, these platforms are actively embedding AI capabilities to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Soon, you'll find that generating content, tailoring customer journeys, and automating audience acquisition become more intuitive. AI-driven marketing automation means you won't have to 'get AI' in the traditional sense but rather learn to activate and leverage these built-in features to engage your audience better.
Content Repurposing: AI is transforming content creation, too, particularly in video and audio editing. Platforms like Canva and Descript have embedded AI tools that significantly ease the process of repurposing content. It means producing various content formats from a single source can be achieved more efficiently, enabling scalability and broader reach without a proportional increase in effort or resources.
Smarter Landing Pages: All marketing-leading Content Management Systems are tackling this one where AI is activated to make an impact in creating and optimising landing pages. AI algorithms can analyse user data and behaviour patterns to suggest or even automatically implement design and content adjustments that are more likely to convert visitors. What will be important is to set up and tune them to the crucial CVOs (Commercially Valuable Outcomes).
Enhanced SEO Capabilities: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another critical area where AI is already very active; your CMS natively or via a plugin will have AI-powered SEO tools that can perform advanced keyword research, suggest content optimisations, and even predict shifts in search engine algorithms avoiding the algo update dance.
Predictive Content Personalisation in your CMS: AI integration extends to content personalisation as well. By leveraging AI, your CMS will deliver more tailored content to website visitors. The AI will better analyse visitor interactions, preferences, and behaviour to present personalised content recommendations for driving attendance.
Reshaping the data structure
To do this, we will need also to organise our data in a different, more attendee centric way. One such proposal is the IAEK Framework™which aims to look at not features and functions at an event but actions, information exchange and knowledge gained by participating at an event.
Having data structured in this or a similar way will become fundamental to improving recommendation engines and personalising large-scale events. It is a fundamental element that has hindered the delivery of true end-to-end digital journies.
Activating skills to leverage advanced AI
A final piece of the jigsaw in creating the right impact when leveraging these new technologies is the industry's ability to level up on data literacy, digital competency and its relationship with technology to explore and use these advances proactively.
The goal is to create unforgettable experiences for people, which can sometimes be lost on technologists. So, as we build out the skills and start leveraging data, we must always retain a connection to that ultimate outcome. This technology revolution is here. We can't ignore it.