I attended more than 100 business events in a year -- here’s what I learned

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For the past 18 months I have immersed myself in all things fintech, marketing and DLT (which is shorthand for Distributed Ledger Technology, read blockchain and crypto). It’s a new and emerging space, and like so many others, I’ve been learning by attending events all around the world.

Considering how technically advanced most aspects of life are, there’s still a long way to go for international business travellers. And in many ways the same applies for tourists. In San Fransisco I could pay for an event pass with cryptocurrencies, yet still spend hours in line fighting to get into a venue. It’s madness.

I’m not one to provide criticism without making it constructive, so I’ve noted my experience with some ideas and hope there are people reading who can help make a positive change in the space.

Registration

Gripe

The experiences vary dramatically from an army of support staff, mobile printers for lanyards, to events that have a sea of name tags, minutes away from alphabetical chaos. At the big events, registration resembles a disorderly airline check-in process. I was at one last year in London where people had to wait over an hour to get in. On the whole my average wait was close to 30 minutes. Which is 30 minutes less time for panels, networking or with exhibitors. Multiply that by 200 attendees, and the inefficiency threatens to kill the success of an event.

Suggestion

Sticking with airport theme, perhaps we could organise self check-in and make the whole process electronic?

Timing

Gripe

Once finally in the conference hall, I’ve had the situation where I’ve missed sessions because of changes to room numbers, timetables, speakers, all because the organisers weren’t able to let people know. Which leaves a bitter taste for the whole plane ride home.

Suggestion

If I can receive mobile notifications on the progress of my pizza delivery at home, surely we can do the same for updates to event schedules. Staff the event with adequate support for shepherding attendees around the venue quickly.

The battle for my home screen

Gripe

Downloading a different app for each event, I can confirm, is as tiresome as it sounds. Useful for a day and then deleted. Just as navigating the clumsy UX is learned, its use becomes redundant. Some have saved me time, by being able to easily plan my day before I arrive, others which I won’t shame, I gave up on before the event had started.

Suggestion

Just using one app for everything would be nice.

Finding people I want to meet

SuppliedQueues at an event in Miami.

Gripe

Some event apps have a networking function and I have tried to use them however either the person doesn’t respond or I haven’t been able to coordinate times to catch up. Or even worse, I’ve only find out a key target was at the event after I left.

Suggestion

Sharing the entire conference attendee list may, contravene some issues of GDPR, but it would make my life a lot easier or there could be a way of connecting with people around you that introduce people with matching criteria.

Having to take pictures of presentations

Gripe

Taking pics of important screens is great plan. However with 100+ camera phones raised at the important slide, it’s pretty distracting for the speaker and everyone in the room. It can also prove challenging to give it context three weeks later. But I get there’s a few stakeholders at play, with differing priorities from the speakers, who want feedback, attendees who want access and organisers who want simplicity.

Suggestion

Organisers of events should be the hub for sharing as many of the presentations as the speakers will allow. And it needs to be simply accessible, perhaps through the same process as registration.

Collecting business cards

Gripe

I have collected over 300 business cards and unless I diligently write on the cards I have no hope of recalling who I met at which event – let alone their USP or how could I add value to them or vice versa. Even with apps like CamCard. I find myself entering their contact details in Outlook, connecting with them on LinkedIn and adding them to a CRM. Sadly we all say we will do this when we get back to the hotel room however, after a full day out, networking and catching up on emails, we’re so exhausted we put it off until tomorrow. When it happens all over again.

Suggestion

Is there a LinkedIn extension I’ve missed? If not we need a single place to capture all of this information and make as much of it automatic as possible and able to refer to months after the event.

Handouts

Gripe

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have departed most events with a suitcase full of brochures. Apart from the environmental impact, the people handing this info out have little idea how it’s being used post-event. Digitising this process would help everyone.

Suggestion

Cut down on waste. If exhibitors were able to have their materials in electronic format, we could save a small forest pretty quickly. And by using Box with services such as Geniuslink, it allows you to upgrade the file versions and maintain the same link. Which for added bonus is trackable.

Knowing where to go after the event

SuppliedThe rubbish at the end of an event.

Gripe

So many times I wanted to continue discussions but as I wasn’t a local it was difficult to find a quiet place, a watering hole to chill or if you are under 35/recently divorced to kick on.

Suggestion

Make friends early and often at events in new cities.

Value

Gripe

Entrepreneurs and marketers talk a lot about value and its exchange. With thousands of events over the calendar year, we need to ensure we’re benefiting from time out of the office. Paying £399 ($AU730) for a ticket to an event last year which was poorly managed, and failed to cater food or even coffee felt exploitative.

One event failed to book an MC in time. Or anyone to coordinate speakers. Which you can imagine didn’t make for a smooth experience. However it did allow me to step in and MC a presentation with a key figure from PWC and a panel on one of the main topics for the event so every cloud…

Lastly the value of “utility” tech. Bad WiFi affects everyone. Speakers with their demonstrations, attendees sharing learnings via social, coordinating on-site meetings with those who can potentially help your business and ultimately the experience of the event as a whole. Whether I’ve been in New York, Sydney or Cape Town, decent cell coverage/WiFi has been hard to come by.

Suggestion

Events should provide value first. This should be remembered when appropriately pricing a conference. And Murphy’s Law very much applies, so make sure you’re keeping everyone updated in real-time. When it comes to connectivity, I’ve seen exhibitors offer WiFi hotspots for offices, so I never quite understood why there are always so many issues. If we’ve got to the point where some events offer WiFi password sponsorship, then surely we can get to the position where all can maintain reliable WiFi coverage.

If we want events to run smoothly, we all need to take responsibility for our part in the event process and we will all be better off for it. That’s my resolution for 2019. And I’m sticking to it.

Roland Storti is the founder and CEO of Minfo.

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