UNSCRIPTED with Tim Groot, CEO of GRIP - The Evolution of Event Technology
“The powerful thing [about] events is not just the human connections but what it enables… what events are about is moving markets forward faster,” says Tim Groot, the CEO of GRIP, an innovative event tech company, in this new episode of "UNSCRIPTED" with Adam Malik.
Their conversation delved deep into the evolution of event technology, the challenges faced by the industry, and the potential future shaped by emerging technologies.
The Genesis of GRIP: A Personal Journey
"We started with the idea of enhancing human connections," Tim began, reflecting on the inception of GRIP. This sentiment captures the essence of GRIP's mission.
In a world increasingly dominated by digital interactions, Tim's vision was clear: to leverage technology to facilitate genuine, meaningful interactions at events.
Events are pivotal in bringing individuals together, and while many might see them as mere gatherings with stands and sessions, their essence goes much deeper. For Tim, the primary purpose of events is to foster human connections and what these connections make possible.
“Why do you put on an event? It’s a moment in time to bring people together to discuss, connect, and move something forward… And that requires knowledge sharing… It requires thought-provoking ideas being shared by great speakers,” he added.
Listen to the full UNSCRIPTED Interview
Evolution of Events: Changing landscape, same views?
How did we get to this point?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a noticeable shift towards content-centric events. Organisers and attendees alike placed a premium on the quality and relevance of the content presented. This trend indicated the evolving needs and preferences of the audience, who sought more than just networking opportunities from events.
But the onset of the global pandemic reshaped the already changing landscape of events. “And I actually think that through COVID, people realised the importance of interactions and relationships between people. So, I think events have actually kind of leaned in more over the last couple of years into the importance of facilitating [these] relationships,” says Tim.
But here’s the rub: achieving this isn’t a walk in the park. Event organisers continue to grapple with a slew of challenges. “The hard part of events is that there is such a logistical layer to creating the product, whether it’s on the marketing side, to the sales side, and so on,” Tim points out. These logistical demands, though crucial, can sometimes cloud event organisers’ vision of the overall picture. The operational challenges can overshadow the core purpose–whether it's fostering connections, sharing knowledge, or driving industry progress.
Being an events organiser is a bit like being a professional sports person, but you're playing a different sports everyday.
Marketing an event requires a strategic approach to reach the right audience and generate interest. Sales involve ticketing and securing sponsors, vendors, and partners. And then there are the unexpected issues – those unforeseen challenges that can emerge without warning, throwing a wrench in even the most well-laid plans. “So there are so many kinds of problems that organisers run into that makes it hard for them to stay focused on these bigger objectives,” Tim adds.
Moreover, the physical constraints of events add another layer of complexity. “The reason the events as an industry moves a bit slower is because there were all these real physical constraints that make it much harder to execute towards these kinds of bigger objectives that you had,” says Tim.
For organisers, striking a balance is crucial. While it's essential to address logistical challenges head-on, keeping the event's primary goals at the forefront is equally important. After all, these objectives give an event its value and purpose.
The ROI Challenge
What, then, is the best way to communicate this value to organisers, sponsors, and the overall supply side of events?
This has always been encapsulated in one metric: return on investment (ROI). For many event organisers, ROI is traditionally measured in terms of ticket sales, sponsorships, and attendee numbers.
The challenge is how to connect the dots—data from various facets of events—to evidence positive returns. It is one thing to boast of burgeoning attendee numbers, but if only 10% are returning for subsequent events, there’s a significant piece missing from your picture. This is where you leverage data science to bridge gaps in logistics, audience acquisition, and experience design, among other needs.
Then again, how do you adapt to the diverse nature of your events and audiences? “It’s a bit like being a professional sportsperson, but you’re playing a different sport everyday,” says Tim. This is where the problem of technology and ROI also comes in.
Until now, many event organisers prefer the comfort of monoliths, but not for their efficiency or innovation. Tim points out a structural issue, “event technology has not been very good at communicating the ROI or why you should invest in it.
Navigating the Data and Tech Frontiers of Events
In today’s fast-paced world, technology and data literacy in events is more pronounced than ever. But it’s not just about flashy features or impressive interfaces; it’s about the tangible impact on retention rates and the overall participant experience. When attendees feel engaged, when they can navigate an event seamlessly, and when they can connect effortlessly, it’s often technology working its magic behind the scenes.
But this integration is not without its complexities and nuances. For instance, Tim shares his experience talking to the chief product officer of one of the biggest media companies in the US, who said: “We don’t know which one of our subscribers to our newspaper are attending our events. We don’t have that data synced up.”
We need to start using data science to create better experiences. We need a framework and a theory to start articulating what things fit together.
This revelation underscores a critical gap in the industry—a disconnect between valuable data sources that, if bridged, can offer transformative insights.
Why is this so? For Tim, partly because the organisational structure of event management often leads towards decentralisation. “For many organisers, in order to create the best event, the choose to decentralise decision-making to the event manager or the marketing manager or the logistics manager, because they are closer to the attendee.” while this approach fosters a tailored, immediate experience, it often neglects the broader, integrative perspective essential for long-term success.
“The long-term view and how all of it fits together is being sidelined,” Tim adds.
Look For Partners, Not Vendors; or, How to Shift Strategically
Yet, amidst these challenges, a paradigm shift is underway.
“We need to start using data science to create better experiences. We need a framework and a theory to start articulating what things fit together,” Tim asserts. The imperative to elevate re-book and retention rates, for example, is catalysing a move towards more strategic, symbiotic partnerships with tecnology firms.
He added that the Starling model provides an opportunity to combine and bring these two worlds together: the short-term view of delivering great experiences and the long-term view of what events are fundamentally about and how various aspects fit together.
Maybe what is needed is this kind of upstart, completely starting from scratch, with a disruptive approach.
Organisers seek more than just vendors; they're looking for partners who understand the nuances of events and can offer solutions tailored to specific needs. “They are starting to see that in order to get these metrics up and create better experiences, they’re going to need to use technology. And if they’re going to need to use technology, they need to make sure to have a strong partner.”
This evolution signifies a profound shift in the narrative and operational ethos of event companies. For Tim, “these companies are starting to think more long-term in terms of how they can use data in order to influence the user experience, exhibitor retention, and the overall process.”
In this new dawn, technology and data literacy are not mere adjuncts but core components, heralding an era where enriched experiences and a holistic, integrative approach to event management are not aspirational goals but tangible realities.
The Future of Events: New Realities, Augmented Experiences
Amidst the traditional setups that have stood the test of time, a wave of innovation is imminent, ready to blend the tangible and intangible, offering attendees an experience that transcends conventional boundaries.
But Tim acknowledges the hesitance of many to deviate from the tried and true. “Why would you go an try and disrupt all of that when it’s been working for the last 100 years? The kind of willingness to change in some instances is not really worth the risk.”
Yet, in this reluctance to embrace change, opportunities to elevate the event experience to unprecedented heights may be overlooked.
“Maybe what is needed is this kind of upstart, completely starting from scratch, with a disruptive approach,” Tim suggests. A fresh perspective, unencumbered by the constraints of traditional paradigms, holds the potential to elevate the essence of events. It’s not just about rearranging the existing elements but fostering a platform that nurtures diverse, interactive formats. “It is allowing a platform to then start building more of these experiences in terms of different interaction formats. I do see that there is a kind of direction that we’re going here, which is pretty powerful.”
The consistency part is harder than the linking up of technology. It is very easy to do all the integrations. But it is much harder to create organisational discipline to do it day in, day out for every single event.
The advent of augmented reality, especially with innovations like Apple Vision Pro, is poised to be a game-changer, Tim asserts. This technology promises to overlay our perceived reality with a digital layer, offering a multifaceted experience that is both immersive and interactive. “With Apple Vision Pro, we can layer over what we’re seeing and how we’re perceiving the world around us. It is the ultimate implementation of taking the fact that the reality that we live in is a constructed reality.”
As we stand on the brink of this technological renaissance, the future of events is not just about filling seats but creating multidimensional experiences that resonate on a profound level. The integration of augmented reality, for instance, is not a distant dream but an impending reality, ready to transform the mundane into the magical, one event at a time.
Wrapping Up the Evolution of Event Technology: A Visionary's Perspective
“Events now are increasingly becoming much more about data and how you use these strategically,” says Tim as we drew the conversation to a close.
The dynamic world of events, with its inherent power to bridge divides and connect diverse individuals, is undergoing a transformation. In the midst of this transformation, how you combine technology with a great service layer is crucial “because it enables the technology to be more successful”, Tim adds.
Events create an opportunity to put that 'dent into the universe' by bringing a high density of interesting people to discuss a particular topic and make a particular amount of progress on a particular subject.
From the innate objective of nurturing human connections to navigating the intricate challenges organisers grapple with, the resilience and adaptability embedded in the events industry are undeniable. Tim’s perspective on the evolution of the industry shows that the essence of events is not just about content or tech or ROI, but is deeply rooted in cultivating genuine interactions and relationships.
“I think that it is the technology being linked up properly, consistently,” Tim notes. The integration of technology and data isn’t just a fleeting trend but a consistent practice that demands discipline: “I think that the consistency part is harder than the linking up of technology. It is very easy to do all the integrations, and all the syncs, and all the places, and all the analyses for one event, for one moment in time. Everyone can do that, every organiser. But what is much harder is to create the organisational discipline to do it day in, day out for every single event.”
The future of events is not just about embracing technology but instilling a discipline to leverage it effectively and consistently.
“I think as an industry, it is about being disciplined, about how we look at the future and creating a strong path, starting with leadership on every side of the table, and working towards that, consistently for all the vents that take place,” Tim concludes.