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The Rise of Tech Etiquette ‘Rules’ at Events

The Rise of Tech Etiquette ‘Rules’ at Events

When must we switch off, and when is it ok to switch on?

Waid,VP, Experience Design International for FreemanXP

The use of technology to record and communicate nearly every aspect of our lives is becoming more and more prevalent. Most of us are hard-wired to check our smartphones and view or update our social channels multiple times each day, and we spend many of our waking hours in front of devices like computers, laptops, and tablets.

The FreemanXP TrendLab team are well aware that these behaviours aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, and so we’ve identified the tech etiquette trend, which focuses in on the social rules for how and when we should be using technology in the live environment.

The Right Place, The Right Time?

All around us there are signs which are breeding these new rules of tech etiquette. Symbols of mobile phones with a cross through them on specified carriages create quiet zones on trains, and at the National Portrait Gallery in London — as with many other public galleries, museums, and buildings — there are signs that read ‘no photography,’ meaning visitors are not permitted to get their smartphones out to capture what they see in front of them.

While we don’t usually see signs at events that prohibit the use of these technologies — instead their use is encouraged as they have the unique ability to extend the reach of the event — it does then raise the question about the appropriateness of these actions in the live space.

A Balancing Act

In the world of brand experience, attendees embrace their personal devices to capture their experience of attending an event. They might use their smartphone to snap a photo of an interesting presentation slide or renowned speaker, take a selfie to share on social media, or respond to emails and calls from colleagues and clients. These behaviours can raise questions like: ‘Is it ok to step out of a session to take a call?’ and ‘When is the best time to stand up and snap a photo of the speaker?’  

It is vital that people enjoy and use their technology while respecting the right of others. This balancing act is ushered in the face of Google Glass and subsequently ‘no Google Glass’ signs. Though Google Glass has come and gone, new iterations are on the rise — now it is the ‘no drone zones’ — creating a brave new world of sight-seeing, observation and voyeurism.

In the brand experience world, this balance can be achieved via developments like second screen technology, where attendees are in fact encouraged to use their devices. When integrated seamlessly into an event, these technologies encourage audience participation and interaction by offering them opportunities to engage with presentation content, which in turn enhances the experience for both the speaker and audience members. 

As Marshall McLuhan once said: “A commercial society whose members are … indifferent in social ritual has to be provided with blueprints and specifications for evoking the right tone for every occasion.”

Lines of technology and purpose are beginning to blur as more technologies and subsequently, more rules of engagement come to the fore. We are witnessing new tech etiquette emerge off the back of these developments, which define good manners for the use of technologies. In the live environment it’s up to us experience designers to take these behavioural trends on board, and consider the behaviours our clients want to see at their events to create spaces that encourage the use of technology, yet also create a balance where attendees feel compelled to switch off.

Jane Hague, Head of Business Development, ExCeL London

“ExCeL hosts hundreds of events each year, so we’re lucky enough to see first-hand the various ways that both event organisers and attendees are using different technologies in the live environment. 

First and foremost, I see technology as an enabler of networking and learning. It supports the event experience by enabling the delivery of content and messaging – at ExCeL we have seen everything from interactive light installations to social media walls and gamification integrated into event formats, and social media hubs – which are usually carved out in a specific area of the event – are often created to aid networking and engagement among attendees, a move that often encourages them to put their devices away. 

These days, we’re constantly ‘on,’ so we do need to think about how we can balance attendees’ need to remain connected 24/7, while also ensuring brands, organisers, host venues and visitors themselves get the most out of the experience. 

As a result of this, ample bandwidth has become very much in demand among our clients, as they want to ensure their delegates can get the most out of the event while also remaining connected to the outside world. This has led to significant investment in ExCeL’s technology infrastructure – we’ve increased our bandwidth capabilities and number of access points available, to accelerate the speed of Wi-Fi even when concurrent devices are being used. These volumes were decided on the basis that each delegate will have two to three devices on them at an event – a phone, tablet and/or laptop.

Delegates are more time poor than ever, and it’s not uncommon to see people having to step out of a session or miss a session entirely because they need to attend to their day-to-day responsibilities. I am seeing a lot of brands and organisers incorporate soft seating and lounge areas into to their events as a solution to this – it ensures delegates have a specific time and place to check emails and keep in touch with the office during breaks, so there will potentially be less need to miss the great content sessions on offer at the events they attend.

The threat that tech brings to events is the changes in the way we consume information, especially new generations who have been born in to a fast-paced world where bite-sized chunks of information are everywhere. The overwhelming amount of information available at the touch of our fingertips can affect attention spans. We need to deliver compelling experiences and networking opportunities for attendees that make the time investment worthwhile.

As we become more reliant on technology, tech etiquette will be important as a way to define the balance between our offline and online engagement, ensuring that we dedicate time for learning and networking, and also develop an understanding of when it is appropriate to switch on and off.”

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Jordan waid

Jordan Waid

VP, Experience Design International

His unique background of architecture, digital media, and film allows him to constantly challenge experiential communication models with fresh ideas that engage at all levels for some of the biggest brands on the planet. An inspired thought leader, Jordan’s creative vision, insight, and conceptual...

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