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The importance of being human

By Liz Harvey


Learnings from the Technology, Innovation, Design, Experience (TIDE) Conference – Las Vegas, June 2018

As I sat suspended a good thirty feet in the air held ‘safely’ in place by what seemed like impossibly thin wires, I started to wonder what I had got myself into. This was one of the first things I did upon entering InfoComm on day one of TIDE which bills itself as a ‘thought-leadership conference on the intersection of content, space, and technology, and how all three elements can come together to communicate brand values, immerse customers in exceptional experiences and ultimately, contribute to the bottom line.'

I went straight for the C2 area to see what experiences they had to offer at the expo and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole premise of the suspended brainstorming session was a theme that ran through the full TIDE Conference the day prior to InfoComm opening. So let me come back to this experience later on…

It was my first time attending the TIDE Conference and the line-up and pre-event information promised a dynamic and thought-provoking day. The theme and ideas that ran through each of the sessions was clear – experiences start with people. This is not a particularly new idea, however in a world where digital progression, technological advances and the noise of the latest innovation or tool is louder than ever - it was refreshing to be brought back to the heart of why I do what I do - create memorable and engaging experiences for people.

Inspiring speakers

The session by Neuroscientist Beau Lotto, was truly engaging, inspiring and at times hilarious. Beau, the founder of Lab of Misfits who’s also delivered a number of TED Talks, succinctly challenges everything we think to be true about our view of reality and devotes his time to seeing and doing things differently – across a plethora of different disciplines such as science, music, design, art and education.

I also had the absolute pleasure of hearing, Rana June, of lightwave - she is “an accomplished technologist, artist, musician, author and speaker”. Her session highlighted the innovative and insightful results, when disciplines we often like to segment such as technology, emotions, language, art, come together to create experiences, tapping into our biological responses to explore a visual representation of our emotional outputs to an event.

The last session of this complementary trio, was Ben Moorsom, who focuses on the concept of neuroscaping – where technology and neuroscience meet. An interesting session which introduced snippets of ideas, which we are exposed to every day by marketers, advertising and brands who have mastered the art of using our instincts and subconscious to sway our perception and viewpoint.

But what does all this mean? Seeing the theory in action

Engaging, informative and interesting – but what did all this mean? TIDE had cleverly compiled together these individuals to speak on the theory on how individual emotions impact an experience and vendors demonstrating some of that theory in action.

My favourite example was the demo on display from ShareStudios. Shared Studios brought ‘Portal Containers’ to the exhibit floor, painted in gold in various different shapes and sizes. These portals were duplicated all around the world and allowed you to enter the immersive environment to engage with real life individuals from other ‘Portals’ around the world. This was an incredible example of how technology will continue to make the world a smaller place – and will continue to shape and influence the meetings and events industry.

What will our events look like in the future when a whole new meaning of ‘virtual’ exists in accessible and affordable forms? What will it be like when the barriers of our current virtual applications no longer exist and I can feel like you are in the same room despite being thousands of miles away?

This will change the way we need to think about the experience itself. The technology surrounding this will become the subconscious element and the emphasis will once more lie in the experience, the perception, how the attendee feels – human-centred event design.

…Which takes me back to C2 as I was hoisted up thirty feet in the air, joined by our facilitator from C2 and three fellow attendees. We were briefed that our task was to discuss the role of technology in the event experience. I was to do this hanging in the air. Experiencing this at such an altitude would have a physiological effect on me, aimed at making me feel different (I was anxious!) helping me think differently, hear what others have to say differently, provoking a new idea or different perception to an old idea. We discussed this topic across various industries and the theme was very similar – technology must support and not define the event experience.

When my feet were firmly planted back on the ground, my next experience was the black-out room. I somewhat apprehensively entered a pitch-black meeting pod with seven other industry peers. We were seated in a circle and started a facilitated discussion on industry trends. It was not lost on me at this point that being starved of my vision, unable to see and take cues from the body language of those around me, it brought a new intensity to my hearing and more importantly my listening. I really listened with razor sharp focus and intent. Another novel experience we often lose sight of in the noise of our digital world.

Keeping human-centred in the age of technology

I left the C2 zone enlightened, energised and ready to face vast halls of InfoComm with a renewed determination to focus on purpose. It would have been easy to get carried away with the advances in displays, interactive technologies, phenomenal clarity of LED technologies, endless novel uses for holograms and transparent screens, collaboration tools such as Google’s Jamboard and Event Presence’s beam robots, but what the TIDE Conference and C2 had done for me in a very clever way is provide context.

There is no doubt that we must continue to keep up with new and innovative technologies, and we are often challenged to do so by our clients. We must remember that no matter how tempting it might be to propose the “latest and greatest” in response to wide open briefs, we must continue to keep human-centered experiences in the events we design, allowing technology to complement and enhance rather than drive and distract.

I am already eagerly awaiting next year’s TIDE Conference and InfoComm and to see how it can continue to educate and challenge our thinking for the events we deliver.

The importance of being human

The importance of being human

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