Marketing automation and artificial intelligence (AI) platforms will increasingly play a part as event industry technology solutions, according to a leading event tech expert.

James Morgan, founder of the Event Tech Lab, an international network of event technology companies, says 2017 will see a proliferation of front-end management software solutions designed to make marketing tasks a lot easier for event professionals. AI solutions – such as networking apps which allow complex algorithms to pair people with similar interests together with frightening accuracy – will also play a part in the ongoing evolution of event technology design.

Morgan, who is also a senior lecturer in events management at the University of Westminster, and who will be speaking at EventIt 2017, said: “ You are going to see more AI stuff coming in, things like Grip, which uses IBM Watson’s supercomputer to analyse your social media profiles, matches them and then ends with a ‘handshake’ so you can meet the person most likely to be of interest to you at a conference. It’s incredibly sophisticated and the market is moving very quickly into a new space. Another development related to AI is the development of chatbot apps which can build you a website in five minutes. You just answer a series of questions and the website is done.

“I’m also expecting a lot more marketing automation, which takes away a lot of the laborious task management associated with the marketing of events, or trudging through platforms like Hootsuite. There are marketing automation platforms like Marketo or Infusionsoft but they are very expensive so if you’re doing a small event it doesn’t make much financial sense, but there will be smaller players who come into the market.”

Morgan said he also expects to see tech being used increasingly to facilitate more pre-event engagement, with crowdsourcing platforms allowing audiences to help shape the content of an event; whether that’s through being able to allow people to vote for or nominate speakers or open source events allowing contributors to suggest new topics for discussion.

“That will really help organisers amplify their events before they happen,” says Morgan. “Event planners are also specialists at orchestrating events and are not necessarily subject specialists. By using more pre-event engagement that actually takes quite a lot of the research into the audiences’ hands. Getting people involved at an early stage through technology is a great way to ensure the content is relevant to the audience.”

Event Tech Lab is an international partnership of 37 event tech start-ups, who Morgan advises and promotes at international trade shows,  including IMEX and ibtm. He represents the interests from companies engaged in networking apps to those who have created wi-fi local area network boxes that would allow a conference to take place ‘down a mineshaft’. Other apps such as Fly Another Day allows event planners to avoid diary clashes and Accrue is a sophisticated lead capture tool that can interface with sales platforms like Salesforce.

Morgan believes events professionals will continue to use bespoke tools for their own particular events, and not that big companies will swallow up the smaller minnows as part of a homogenisation of event technology.

“There isn’t one piece of technology that yet goes from A to Z and I don’t think that’s likely to fit into what events planners want anyway. They like choices and options; the whole idea about events is meaningful experiences. If a piece of technology can create a meaningful experience then it’s more likely an event professional will use it.”