The human hand of technology

Holographic images, virtual reality and 3D printers are creating unforgettable experiences for event participants. But their use should never detract from the innate human need to connect with one another. Patrick Apostolo, Corporate Director of Operations EMEA at Radisson Hotel Group, explains how technology can enhance human interaction at events, and tells us what Radisson venues are doing to adapt to planners’ ever-evolving needs.

Can planners balance technology and human interaction?

It’s extremely hard, to be honest. Networking is a priority for participants, so human relationships need to be enhanced. Technology should not be used for just the wow factor or decorative effect for a short period of time; it should be used as a tool that drives human connections. There’s a balance to strike between using technology to disrupt an event and using it as a tool to meet the objective of the event.

What are some of the more innovative technologies that planners are asking for?

There’s a lot of appetite for holographic projections, as well as augmented reality. In the past, we have had some difficulty showcasing our clients’ products as they were often industrial machines – which were not easy to bring into a hotel lobby or the foyer of a big venue! Today, this can be easily done using augmented reality: all you need is a special lens that can be applied to a smartphone.

We have also had requests for food prepared with 3D printers in special shapes or personalised with the logo of the guest. We are also seeing more and more demand for e-concierge services, and we are using artificial intelligence to satisfy that need.

In one of our properties in Amsterdam we are testing purchasing a minimum set of fixed furniture. We have formed a partnership with a local rental firm for events furniture, which helps us to adapt any meeting room or space to the needs of the clients. Our partners are using innovative video mapping to personalise certain spaces or walls, with a view to taking the event to the next level.

Have venues become agile enough to respond to new demands?

Requests are becoming more “out of the box.” They go from the simple setup in the room to setups requiring inflating furniture or holographic projectors. We really need to be a full-time assistant for our event planner – more than just finalising all the administrative work. We need to be more agile when reacting to unforeseen events, and build partnerships with different specialists.

It’s no longer a matter of just organising an event – it’s about organising an experience around the event. For instance, planners increasingly demand that we take care of all the activities related to the destination – to go above and beyond the experience of the city.

What are you doing to keep Radisson ahead of the competition?

First, we’re focusing on making sure the basics work seamlessly for everyone. We want to give our customers peace of mind that their event is in safe hands. For instance, we invested heavily in equipping all of our boardrooms with amenities such as high-quality display systems, video collaboration devices, easy-to-use screen connectivity, integrated sound systems, portable loudspeakers, and wireless presentation clickers.

Delivering all these basics in a brilliant way is the starting point. We then work together with our clients, and around their individual requirements, to add those extra touches that will make the event a memorable one.

How do you keep abreast of emerging technologies?

We work with the best AV and technology partners in the different capitals or cities where we operate. Technology is changing too fast for us to be investing heavily in the latest innovations, but if we collaborate with the best partners in the city we will always be able to offer our guests the latest and most appropriate technology.

We also participate in business events where technology is showcased, and look outside our hotels and our industry. I go to music, business and technology events to see how we can transform the hotel business. We encourage our employees to proactively build networks in the cities where they work – not only to forge connections with suppliers, but also to bring in new business.

How is the relationship changing between venues and planners?

The planners we work with are more professional and prepared than ever before. Some are extremely open to our assistance and advice; others are very clear about their vision for the event.

There are also more meeting planners, who come from different industries and backgrounds. This is also reflected in our hotel guests, who come from every generation and a comprise a wide cultural mix. These are factors that can drive value in some cases but create disruption in others. So, our teams need to adapt and build trust with planners and guests.

To do that, we often invite planners to site inspections. It’s a simple principle: whenever they are organising an event, the first thing they like to do is a tasting of the food. We take it further: why not give them a fitting of the meeting room, or a try-out of the technology they want?

Smart, immersive technology can complement and enhance human connections at events. But striking the right balance is not straightforward. As with all choices that planners make, the attendee’s personal needs should be at the heart of decision making.

Local expertise, global mindset

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