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Let’s get intelligent about Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has entered our lives in the last few years in many different ways, although we may not have noticed it.

For a while now, our phones are smart enough to recognise where we are and at times even what we do. That can be translated into services and products to plan our activities and sometimes enhance our lifestyle. A good example is a fitness app that sportsmen and women, who are interested in improving their performance and fitness level, use to assist them in reaching their goals. Clever app developers have combined the ability of our phones and our desire to measure our progress in apps. Designing apps that tell you when you run a certain distance specifically fast, who else is running the same routes and which other users of the same fitness app community you should follow to measure your own fitness improvement against other people who seem to share the same fitness goals.

Other AI applications are designed to influence our commercial behaviour. By now everybody has experienced a moment when we are searching for something on Google and suddenly exactly the “right” banner pops up on Facebook and on many other websites that try to encourage us to buy products or services based on our online behaviour.
We are in the middle of a marketing shift, which will use more and more of our behavioural data to offer us products and services that hopefully provide the right solutions for our private or business life at the right moment in time when we are most open to make the purchase decision.

But what does that mean for the event industry?
Whilst the described examples of fitness and online shop apps seem very logical and are not really new anymore, it has not been discussed intensively what AI applications could be in the event industry and how these applications can change our customer behaviour on the exhibitor and visitor side that could change or even shake up the way our business models work.

Some obvious functions could be an AI algorithm that ranks and prioritises our trade shows in the diaries of the main decision makers. Whilst exhibition organisers are competing for the exhibitor marketing budgets amongst themselves and with other marketing providers, we are competing to secure the time of our key account visitors, to try lead them to our events. An application that is automatically “spidering” the most relevant business events and creates a list of preferences the tool has calculated based on the user’s business behaviour, could influence the decision of the key visitor on which events they will make time to visit.

This would have a direct impact on our shows as our marketing efforts suddenly would not have to address our key visitors anymore. Suddenly they would have to address the apps our key visitors are using which would be a major challenge for the event marketing teams. That is more a speculative example and we all don’t know what the future will bring. The good news is that we already have AI companies in the event industry and the journey of enabling better event experiences through AI has already begun.

Grip is an award-winning matchmaking solution that has developed a self-learning algorithm to match visitors and exhibitors based on a registration, social and behavioural data.The app collects information on the user’s business interests by presenting other users or companies which the user can swipe as “interesting” or “skip”. The more event visitor works with the app, the smarter the app will become to better present the user contacts that fit the users business needs at exactly this point in time.

I spoke to Tim Groot, the CEO of Grip, and asked him about his most surprising analysis of user behaviour after Grip gathered data insights at a range of bigger shows. One insight that Grip noticed was that when a person is seen as “desired” the title has much more influence than thought. People want to meet with “CEO’s” or board members even if they might not be the right person to provide a business solution at this point in time. That indicates that our business culture still follows hierarchical rules more than we think. The same effect can be seen in keywords says Tim. Buzzwords such as “start-up” or “big data” are guaranteeing a good business contact, much more than the key words of “consultant” or “bank”. By analysing the follow up rate on business recommendations Grip found out that the “why” is much more important than the “who”. In other words, it is more likely that somebody reacts to a recommendation when the reason is clear why the person is recommended the lead instead of a recommendation that comes with no explanation.

“Trade Show visitors demand more insight to follow up on proposed matches but the decision to meet people is surprisingly more emotional that we thought” said Tim and continued “that these are enormously important insights for show organisers to develop their services further and to make sure their customers get the most out of their events”.

In the short term, it is clear that trade show organisers need to add the topic “Artificial Intelligence” to their digital strategies if they have not done this so far. User behaviour will change based on the technology that is available in the different app stores and companies such a Grip will tailor-make these technologies more and more to the needs of the exhibition industry.

In the long-term it is realistic to believe that our visitor and exhibitor numbers will be substantially influenced by how often our shows popup up as “relevant” in the right app algorithms and how often our show participants popup up as “relevant” to each other.

It is time to become intelligent when it comes to Artificial Intelligence.

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