This is a guest post from Tim Groot, co-founder and CEO at Grip, a UK-based event networking platform powered by AI.

You’ve probably heard it already — artificial intelligence (AI) is the event technology of the moment. Plenty has been written about the promise of AI in 2019, and event professionals will soon be expected to offer it as part of their event technology solution.

But it’s important to identify what AI will solve for your event. The best AI enhances business processes to build and customize customer engagement, and subsequently increase revenue. AI in 2019 is best used to enable enhanced, personalized attendee experiences with more meaningful interactions that delight attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors alike.

To implement AI in a way that reflects your brand well, data is key. Great AI relies on the management and stewardship of data to deliver its promise, and for us at Grip, recognizing the challenges of using meaningful event data enables our AI to stay ahead.

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Here are four ways you can take advantage of AI in 2019 to make your event experience stand out from the competition.

1. Personalization and recommendations using AI

The biggest change AI is bringing to events this year is personalizing recommendations for event attendees, exhibitors, and products on a scale that was previously unheard of.

Let’s say you’re an attendee at a 30,000-strong networking event. At a typical networking event, you may be matched manually with other attendees according to a manual form you filled out with your interests. Not only is the match not always a good fit, the entire process is tedious and expensive for event planners to manage.

An AI matchmaking engine can interpret data from social media profiles like LinkedIn and Facebook that attendees would have already populated and recommend people to meet, conference sessions to attend, or even products that would best suit their business interests. Attendees can schedule meetings before the event starts, or indicate they are not interested in the recommendations from the system, which helps improve the next set of recommendations. It’s a virtuous cycle.

And it works. 55% of people surveyed say they made a connection using Grip’s AI matchmaking engine that they wouldn’t have made otherwise. That’s because, working with real-time recommendations, AI learns from your behaviour as you interact with it, so attendees receive better recommendations the more they use it.

This also helps exhibitors get to know their potential customers, so they can plan time, space, and staffing for the greatest visibility. They can also use this data to personalize their offerings to attendees.

Of course, not all ‘smart’ business matchmaking systems are equal, so do your research before you commit to any particular one.

2. AI chatbots and interface-less experiences

Chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Yes, we’ve sniggered at the bloopers – like what happened when Microsoft’s “Tay” AI system learnt racism and hate speech from internet trolls last year – but tech is improving and we’re seeing an increasing degree of sophistication in the kind of assistance AI can offer at events.

Chatbots are easier to access for attendees, since they don’t require an app download or website login. What’s more, AI-enabled chatbots have the technological capability to learn from previous interactions and personalize conversations. In the future, the technology could enable events to move away from having a dedicated event app, having, instead, all event content delivered through a Facebook Messenger chatbot.

3. Anticipatory computing using artificial intelligence

No discussion about artificial intelligence is complete without a mention of “deep learning.” Deep learning is a form of AI that relies on pattern recognition. In practical terms, this means that the AI system takes sensory input, like data, and adds a component of reasoning to form new actions based on that reasoning.

In real terms, this could translate to a system reading footfall and registration data at an event, and then anticipating what logistical requirements are needed at the venue in terms of beverages, food, and crowd control, as the event progresses in real time. It would make these judgments based on data input from previous events of similar sizes and requirements, as well as on-site feedback of demand for the services provided.

While this type of AI is available in 2019, deep learning requires complex systems that take time and expertise to build and run, so it may take another few years for the tech to become popular in the events industry.

4. Data protection and integrity

With all the talk of data input, comes concerns about data protection and integrity. While increasingly sophisticated analysis is applied to data, a balance has to be struck between data protection compliance while also encouraging creativity, innovation, and helping to ensure data quality.

Grip’s AI system, for example, uses data to look for networking intent, and how well that was satisfied. Users are anonymous to each other until and unless they indicate they are both ‘Interested’ to meet. And private messages are private. When we provide insights — at an aggregated level — to event organisers and sponsors, it enables them to know which parts of their event were the most effective, and where they got the best return on their investment from. It’s important to strike this balance, drawing deep insights while protecting your attendees’ privacy.

How can events take advantage of AI in 2019?

The events industry is competitive, and your ability to stand out relies on build an event technology stack that streamlines your (and your attendees’) experience.  In 2019, using artificial intelligence will give your event a competitive edge. In 2019 and beyond, AI will be expected by attendees, sponsors, and more.

Given the complexity of AI systems, it’s likely your event team will not have the capacity to design and develop a rich AI experience in 2019. The quickest way to get up to speed is to use an event app with a convenient AI plug-in. Grip’s API, for example, enables our matchmaking engine to integrate with most app systems.

Find out more about the future of event technology and artificial intelligence in 2019 and beyond in The Rise of Artificial Intelligence for Events.

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