For part two, I want to talk about one of the most fascinating elements of the Live Event industry. The critical role played by Time, or rather, the scarcity of time.
One of the first things you learn in the world of live events is that we run a little differently in regards to deadlines. Unlike just about any other business domain or function, in our world, a deadline is a deadline, and there is no missing deadlines. Live events have a date, and that date tends to be set in stone. Ready or not, attendees are going to be showing up to the venue, and you better be ready.
Let’s take a look at the impact of time scarcity on each of the key stakeholders.
When you are a delegate in the mayhem of a 48 or 72 hour live event, every minute counts. Everyone that matters is in the building. Your industry’s thought leaders, the deep pocketed buyers, the dream partners, your next superstar employee, and / or your employees who will make or break your quarter. This is why the most productive attendees will often triple their caffeine dosage, put on their game faces, and roll from 7AM to 2AM, sometimes three days in a row. As an attendee, you never know when serendipity might strike, and if you miss that connection or key learning nugget you may very well be waiting another year for your shot.
Ajay Royan, Managing Partner at Mithril, and an early DoubleDutch investor, writes beautifully about this dynamic:
Every occurrence that involves multiple people engaging intensely in a short period of time represents a unique ‘Time-compression event’... These are typically highly-focused opportunities for both systematic and serendipitous interaction within self-identified communities. Each event is effectively a dynamically forming, constantly morphing, mesh network of attendees — a powerful way in which to compress the equivalent of human-months’ worth of idea exchanges, relationship developments, and more, into the time & space of (on average) just 2.5 days…. Going to one of these is like tumbling through a wormhole in space-time, being accelerated by a factor of 40x (e.g. 90 days of interactions in 2.5 days), and tumbling back out into normality.
For years, DoubleDutch has invested in features and functionality that assist attendee serendipity, and help guide the attendee through the chaos of a live event. This investment will continue, as a productive attendee experience remains the keystone to the industry.
Ultimately, the ones designing these attendee experiences are the Event Planners. Those behind the curtain of these events are some of the most time constrained professionals on the planet. In our world, time truly is the Great Constraint. For those operating event programs at scale, it’s like throwing your own wedding every day of the year, or operating an airport simultaneously in every city of the world. It’s no accident that Event Planner ranks as one of the most stressful professions year after year, up there with Soldier and Fireman. The reason? It’s time scarcity.
(A friendly tip to well meaning civilians out there: you do not mess with an event planner in the days leading up to an event. They are in the zone, juggling more logistics than what humans were designed for. Interrupt their flow at your peril.)
While Planner tools that focus on time savings such as event instance copying and cloning, have improved over the years, there is still much work to be done, and much automation and technology to be employed to make planners even more efficient and effective.
Being a technology vendor in this world can be tricky, as you have to serve two masters; the Attendee, without whose engagement you don’t have a business, and the Planner, who is the one actually paying for the software. And oftentimes these two groups don’t want the same things.
While any vendor choosing to play in event technology must ultimately care about both Attendee Experience and Customer Experience, choices must be made and priorities must be set.
Speaking frankly, at DoubleDutch, when push has come to shove, we have historically prioritized the Attendee. Our internal rallying cry has been (attendee) “Adoption and Engagement!,” and our product roadmap has consistently prioritized features and functionality that we believed would drive more usage and attendee value over everything else.
Our motivations in prioritizing the Attendee are nuanced. Yes, we care very much about the attendee experience, and believe that happy attendees will lead to happy planners, and ultimately a healthy industry. And getting back to first principles, the problem of how to overlay technology on a face to face experience to enhance the human condition is why I founded DoubleDutch, and what gets me up out of bed every morning.
But we also believe that, like so many other industries, live events will eventually be a data business. And attendee product engagement is what will generate the data exhaust that will unlock the power of the billions of behavioral data points that are still dark today.
Giving Time Back to the Planner will Benefit the Entire Ecosystem
But now, seven years into the journey with DoubleDutch, I believe there is another crucial lever that needs to be pulled to truly unlock the power of our industry, and to fully instrument live events with technology.
That lever is time; specifically, time savings for our customers, the event planner.
While event technology adoption has been steadily increasing over the years, and one would be hard pressed to find a high profile live event without a landing page, a registration system, and a mobile event app, there are still many, many smaller events that run on paper, and for all intents and purposes are running blind for both the Planner and the Attendee.
Why is this? The answer is pretty obvious.
It’s time. If you’re a planner operating at scale and managing a million logistics across hundreds or thousands of annual events, it’s just too hard and too time consuming to deploy event tech at your full portfolio of events.
It’s not only product shortcomings that make event technology inaccessible to a full portfolio of events. It’s pricing. It’s vendor process and support. It’s analytics and reporting. All will need to be addressed before the event tech floodgates swing open and we can achieve full coverage.
In 2017, DoubleDutch made a huge bet on this thesis that time savings for our customers is paramount, with our acquisition of an event registration company. Again and again we saw that the most time consuming aspect of our customers’ workflow was managing two different systems. Now, DoubleDutch customers only need to manage one system to provide a modern, end to end experience for their attendees, pre, during, and post event. And of course there are cost savings for our customers when the products are bundled.
And we are not done yet. You will see other big bets from DoubleDutch this year around this concept of giving time back to our customers. And as discussed, it won’t just be product enhancements, though these will be front and center.
So let’s sum this up.
Data remains the North Star of our industry, and the business value of human connection at live events will eventually be unlocked by the recommendations, personalized experiences, and reporting enabled by this data. At DoubleDutch, we call this Live Engagement Marketing.
But in the near term, time scarcity remains a significant blocker to technology being deployed across all events.
In 2018 you will see DoubleDutch put its muscle into giving time back to its customers.
Or flip back to Part One: The Macro Forces Shaping Event Tech in 2018