Backing the future: Central Hall Westminster on technology

Central Hall Westminster has embraced new technologies – and is on a mission to get you to do so, as well, writes its head of marketing Maria Schuett.

2013 seems like an awfully long time ago. Back then we noticed something disconcerting – technology was coming along leaps and bounds (as it has a tendency to do), but this wasn’t necessarily being reflected in the events industry.

There was clearly a disconnect between event technology and live events and we were determined to help break down the barriers: thus, Meet The Future was born.

In 2014 we held the first Meet The Future conference, bringing over 300 event planners together to experience a day of mind-blowing technology, helping to open their minds to what could be possible. The event was such a huge success that we made the decision to run another conference in 2015 – and we did just that in early June.

Technology moves at such a pace that we knew we’d have plenty of new tech to showcase at the event, but we wanted to go further.

Where the 2014 event had been about expanding horizons and thinking outside of the box, this year we wanted to bring it back to the core questions on the event planners’ minds – how do I go about introducing this technology into my events and how will it benefit me?

We crowdsourced a lot of the content for the event, to ensure the areas we were covering addressed the delegates’ key concerns. We also extended the event to a full day, allowing time to split the audience into smaller groups for intimate seminars hosted by technology experts.

While large keynote theatres are great in certain circumstances, if we really want to engage audiences we need to try a variety of formats, giving everyone the opportunity to speak and ask questions.

Although we had a practical approach to the technology this year, that’s not to say it was any less impressive. We had super-fast 3D body scanning, holographic projection, augmented reality, projection mapping, audience engagement tools and world-first demonstrations to name just a few.

Delegates were beginning to see exactly how this technology could benefit them and most importantly see that it was a realistic option when it comes to pricing. Holographic projection, for example, has plummeted in cost thanks to advancements in 4G technology.

Not only was the technology a hit, but the discussions that happened in the seminars and main stage presentations too. Neuroscientist Dr Beau Lotto, for example, said that while technology is moving at a break-neck speed, to truly learn and absorb content, it needs to be delivered in a real-world setting. Technology, therefore, should supplement this delivery, rather than replace it.

Cutting edge technology in a traditional venue such as Central Hall may seem jarring, but this is reflective of the industry’s relationship with technology generally. Initially, some in the industry saw technological developments as threatening.

But delegate expectations and the way technology is used mean that we all need to adapt. Central Hall can handle any tech requirements and the industry too is beginning to accept that technology can enhance and simplify events, rather than replace them. 

Maria Schuett is the head of marketing at Central Hall Westminster and Meet The Future conference producer.

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