Instantly Gauging an Attendee's Feelings May Be Next Big Thing

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We just finished our SIPA Annual 2017 Conference, and now we’re looking over surveys to see what we can do better, what attendees liked and didn’t like. But in a couple years such a process may be “so early 2000s”—the act of having attendees fill out the surveys, then our gathering and compiling them, and determining if they’re timely enough, etc.

What if we could know on-site at our events how people are feeling and be able to make immediate adjustments that could increase the value of their experience? That time may soon be here.

According to a post on EventManagerBlog, Facebook has recently been granted a patent that, if realized, would allow them to track the emotion of its users and modify message content based on that emotional input. “The resulting modifications could range from choosing an appropriate emoticon to adjusting text size. The patent application lists methods of predicting emotion using relative typing speed, how hard the keys are pressed, movement, location and various other factors.”

Of course, this is a natural step for Facebook following their Like buttons and Reactions icons. “Facebook’s algorithm then uses this data to decide what content is shown in your timeline,” the post says. “This, however, is the tip of the iceberg for Facebook. The social media giant has bigger ideas. Other patents filed by Facebook include using facial recognition to pick up emotional cues.”

They’ve also considered some type of camera to gauge people as they read a Facebook story. That sounds a bit invasive to me. Much more likely is how emotional cues can be picked up from a wide range of sensors on mobile devices. How hard are you pushing the keys? Does your finger movement vary depending on the positive or negative nature of your post?

Some questions:

Would attendees allow you to track their experience through an event app if it means they don’t have to fill out a form?
Maybe. Getting completed survey forms is never easy. In fact, the best way may still be physical forms after each session, provided you have someone there to encourage people to fill them out. But that takes a lot of staff power.

Would event attendees prefer just clicking on an emoticon after each session?
Perhaps, but that’s not really the ideal feedback event organizers are looking for. “Although the technology we see detailed in patents may never see the light of day, they can be a good indicator of the direction in which technology is headed,” the post concludes. “The next step for events is how best to use this technology to improve the attendee experience.”

Are focus sessions at events the answer?
Again, perhaps. As events increase, the question of sustainability comes up. Andrew Mullins, CEO, Knowledge & Networking Division, Informa, admits that you have to accept that things have a lifecycle now. "You have to ideally know before it's over." How? "By talking to [your customers] 365 days a year." Have a group that you can come to. Without a strong community, you're guessing, and "you're going to get it wrong.

"You want to give a deeper, wider experience [that makes] people jump into advocacy and promotion [and say,] 'It was an amazing experience, and I met all the right people,'" Mullins said. He wants more companies to aim big. "Choose your territory, go big and go bold. Have a full array of products to create more touch points. You want to be number one in your niche or why bother."

And trigger lots of smiley faces.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…