How Businesses Are Using AI and Machine Learning to Leverage Events

Live events organizing has become a ripe area for innovation

Events management is still a developing application of these technologies. Getty Images

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As professionals across disciplines in the healthcare, retail and financial services industries embrace data-driven decision-making and begin to experience the power of precision available at their fingertips, more marketers are turning to artificial intelligence to improve the efficacy of many parts of the sales cycle.

For buyers, the purchase path has been transformed by the large amounts of data available and the technology that has been created to make sense of it. What used to involve manual searches and gathering information from word of mouth and online can now be delivered by algorithm.

We’re in the midst of a shift that is subtle, yet universal, affecting all facets of how businesses operate and how audiences make choices about what to buy or engage with. The general is that detail-heavy, routine tasks can be streamlined or eliminated altogether with emerging technologies.

Missing from that narrative is how much the human element remains necessary—in making sure the streams of data speak to each other, for tuning the data sets, enhancing their sophistication, giving them context and direction so they become tools rather than simply data.

“Businesses are looking at AI to help gain a better understanding of their customers and personalize the experience they deliver,” said John Bruno, analyst of ebusiness and channel strategy at Forrester.

If increased precision and customization of the buyers’ experience is the goal, it follows, then, that complex, task-heavy operations in live events organizing, which delivers end products that promise heavy person-to-person interaction, has become a ripe area for innovation. Leveraging a machine learning algorithm, planners could better estimate how many attendees will convene, or anticipate how many supplies or products each attendee will need.

Events management is still a developing application of AI and machine learning, yet there are some firms who provide software and consulting to organizations looking to employ it. Cvent, founded in 1999 by Reggie Aggarwal and headquartered in Tysons Corner, Va., is a cloud-based events management software platform that is perhaps the most well-known, and, along with general events management, provides specialized solutions for the hospitality industry. The firm acquired CrowdCompass, which pioneered building events management software native to mobile, in 2012.

Headquartered in San Francisio’s Mission District, and founded in 2011, DoubleDutch is another live engagement tech company that specializes in leveraging AI and machine learning to enhance large events and conferences. Lawrence Coburn, DoubleDutch’s CEO, calls what they do “assisted serendipity”—creating and maintaining software that facilitates in-person meetings, making it easier for event producers and attendees to mix and achieve their desired outcomes.

Through an app, event attendees can message each other and are each assigned a Klout-like score of influence (on average, about 183 data points are collected from each attendee of a two-day event). Facilitators can create and get the results of a research poll fast enough to take action during an event already in progress.

“Marketers who have multi-channel responsibility are our most natural audience,” Coburn explained. But at all levels of organizations with large sales and marketing functions, Coburn believes there could be a better grasp of the full potential of data. “There’s a language barrier,” he explains, and how tech companies talk to marketers about what it can do for them is often to blame. That means the full potential of data still goes mostly unlocked.

The firm has become known for its involvement with organizations and movements for social justice. It created the official app of January 2017’s Women’s March on Washington, which had more than 115,000 users and helped the event’s producers move the crowds along the march’s paths. It allowed activists to message with each other and organize actions and meeting spots.

“We created a historical record of that event,” said Coburn, who mentioned feeling pride while wading through photos of the event in the app with his seven-year-old daughter.