2018: Attendee Experience Trends


Excerpt from Ebook By Bizzabo

The world’s fastest growing event technology company. Their Events Cloud empowers event marketers to manage, measure and grow professional events across the globe. They are pioneers of event technology and champions of their customer's success.



Another sure thing to count on in 2018 is the drastic shift in attendee experience. Given both the technological and business trends that will shape the upcoming year, the combination of both will result in an experience that is new and novel for a majority of attendees. Some of the ways this will happen is through enhanced artificial intelligence, virtual reality technology, and innovative experiential strategies.


Over the years we’ve seen artificial intelligence become a part of mainstream consumerism through a variety of products. Whether it be virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, or smart thermostats like Nest that predict your home’s heating and cooling needs, different forms of AI have already entered the daily routines of many people. Thus, it is no surprise that this technology is becoming more widely used in the realm of live events. Below are the 3 main ways that AI will most likely make an impact on the industry in 2018.

“Artificial intelligence and leveraging the capabilities of this technology will make a big impact in 2018. It will allow us to create more personalized content for attendees and deliver sponsor advertisements in new and unique ways at just the right time.”

- Trey Smith, VP of Events, HCM


The use of chatbots at events has already begun but given its growing popularity and improved accuracy, 2018 will surely be seeing more examples of chatbot usage. They can be applied in a variety of situations.

For example, using chatbots for monetary transactions will save significant time and labor cost. Purchasing tickets, booking venues, and renting booths would all be much simpler and cost-effective if the process was carried out by a chabot. In addition to improving the organizer’s experience, chatbots can be used to enhance attendee experience as well. They can be used to field common attendee questions such as:

• What’s the wifi password?
• Where is the booth for this company located?

What time does this session begin?

For the 2017 SXSW festival , the events team offered a fully capable chatbot, named “Abby” to help attendees with FAQ’s. Over the course of the week, over 56,000 questions were asked to Abby through the event app, assisting attendees with venue maps, schedules, and other quick-to-answer questions.9 The bot was designed to be conversational and casual, aligning with the tone and event brand of SXSW. You could see it in action below:

Having a chabot readily available to answer these types of FAQs before, during, and after the event will help to save precious event planning time as well as provide a smoother user experience for the attendee.


Soon enough, the days of manual on-site registration will become obsolete. With facial recognition now available on the common smartphone, using this technology for event registration will soon become the norm. Not only can this save significant time, but it will also leave a lasting impression on the attendee by creating a feeling of futuristic efficiency.

Perhaps the most important use case for facial recognition would be to maximize event security. If your event is hosting thousands of attendees, a security breach becomes much more difficult to defend against and the possible consequences could be devastating. Using facial recognition will ensure that only those who are authorized will be able to access an event. Facial recognition will be a complete game-changer for on-site event security.

An example of this technology being put to use was at the International Corporate Events (ICE) Awards in London this past summer. Out of the 250 attendees who attendees, 126 used facial recognition to check-in and saved significant time during the process. Overall, the check-in process was five-times faster than the ticket scanning system they had used last year.

Zenus was the face recognition software of choice and given how well it worked, the ICE Awards plan to use it again in the future. As use cases like this become more prominent throughout the event industry, facial recognition will soon become the norm for onsite check-ins.


At the end of the day, attendees want to feel that the event was meant for them. The sessions, the speakers, the people they’re about to meet - they want to know that the event is relevant to their professional needs. Fortunately, improved AI technology has now made it possible to provide a thoroughly personalized event experience. Offering individualized attention has become more scalable due to rises in AI’s capabilities. For example, the event app can work as a matchmaker, recommending other attendees to meet with based on other people’s profiles.

The app can also suggest specific sessions to attend based on your previous behavior and social media profiles.

Another use case would be to provide a “personal assistant” throughout the event through the app. The device can send you reminders, answer FAQ’s regarding the event, and so forth. And because AI technology will only improve in the coming years, its role in creating a more personalized event experience will also become more accurate, resulting in an enhanced experience overall.


Extending the conversation to the visual realm, virtual and augmented reality will surely play an even larger role in the events industry than before. General technology trends have shown that virtual and augmented reality are becoming much more accessible than they once have been. Samsung’s VR headset easily attaches to Samsung smartphones, making the VR experience available for anyone with a Samsung Galaxy and a headset. Just this year, Apple announced how the iPhone X and iPhone 8 will have significantly enhanced augmented reality features that are built into operating system. Having such technology now available at our fingertips will create more ways for organizers to expand their event offering and to create another layer of experience.


The advancements in AR technology have significant implications on the planning process for event organizers. When choosing between venues, organizers can use their phones to superimpose different furniture, booth setting, and overall layouts to accurately visualize how the space will look like. This will be a complete game-changer in terms of creating an atmosphere that most closely resembles the vision within the organizer’s mind.


Both VR and AR technologies allow for much more engaging and interactive experiences for attendees. For example, AR can provide attendees with heads-up, turn-by-turn event directions. They can also immediately know who they’re speaking to by donning a headset equipped with facial recognition software.

For certain types of large events such as trade shows, this type of technology could save significant cost by having the products be tested through virtual or augmented reality. Car shows for example require hundreds of square feet to accommodate all of the vehicles on display. AR and VR technologies can make venues like this a thing of the past, giving customers the ability to engage with the cars directly through their headsets.

In fact, the above example is no longer hypothetical. Companies are already taking advantage of AR technology to transform the automobile industry. VNTANA is an interactive hologram technology company that is building a hologram car configurator that will allow consumers to actually see themselves inside their dream car.

Their hologram product display will surely transform the traditional forms of consumer-product engagement, creating new ways for people to perceive the personal value of a specific good.


A good way to anticipate attendee experience trends for 2018 is to learn from example. The largest and most recognizable conferences in the world are often times leading the charge in introducing new ideas into the event space.


Live events are a rapidly changing space and the key to success is to stay ahead of the competition. As 2018 gears up to be an exciting year for the events industry, this content is meant for you to better anticipate the changes that are to come. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a collection of the trends that we believe will be the most significant and influential over the course of 2018.