Technical Trends: TV
One of the biggest culture changes of the past 10 years has been how we consume TV (and TV adverts!). From 5 channels and rented VHS / DVD, to subscription DVD rentals and satellite TV - we now have endless on-demand specialist and generalist sources of TV - Amazon Prime, Netflix, Sky, Virgin, BT - now Apple TV+, BritBox, Disney. There is still the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 but who knows how they will all look in 10 years. More importantly than how we pay to watch TV is the cultural change in what we are watching and how we watch. Game of Thrones was notable in that it was released as a traditional weekly serial and watched by many people, which meant a shared sense of anticipation and discussion. Spoilers were a risk, particularly on social media, so many people watched before they started their day to avoid any risk of a spoiler. At the same time Netflix released boxsets in their entirety. Series like Making a Murderer and House of Cards were available in their entirety on release, resulting in binge watching. Apple TV+ launched with the headline Morning Show as a weekly serial (after the first 3 episodes which were released together), so it seems likely that binge is not the future.
What matters is that the number of shared cultural references are reducing. Going back a generation, you knew you could make a reference about Morecambe and Wise or Who Wants to be a Millionaire and everyone would know what you were talking about. Today that is not true anymore. Viewed content is so diffused that, other than the mega Netflix or Sky Atlantic blockbusters, a TV reference is not likely to be widely understood across all ages or demographics. Video Video has seen probably the biggest change over the last 10 years, and we are only now starting to see the future picture. We have rapidly moved from discussing whether HD-DVD or Blu-ray would replace DVD are the primary distribution method when internet speeds increased to such an extent that streamed and downloaded content was the clear pathway. YouTube capitalised and a proliferation of YouTubers followed sharing long and rambling content about their day, their makeup, unboxing their latest product or playing a computer game. The social platforms changed the way they treated embedded video, allowing it to play automatically rather than requiring a click-through.
Creating video was shifting at the same rate. Canon then Sony, Fuji and Nikon added video recording as an added feature to their SLR stills cameras and suddenly very high-quality video, with good lenses, were affordable. MacBooks had video editing in-built and quickly the phone cameras improved to the point of usefulness. GoPro meant action video was possible too and gimbals and drones meant different angles and stabilised content. The peak of change came with the Vine social platform, which offered 6 second videos. That made some people famous (and rich) but turned out to be short living because 6 seconds is just not long enough. TikTok is the more effective replacement.
Today anyone can make video - on their phone or laptop - the quality can be high, and the audience expectation of quality or structure is low (in most cases) For professional video producers, like us, it has meant watching more content being produced and shared than ever before, but the demand for professionally produced content reducing.
The near future is clear now. Video is following the pattern of 35mm slides and desk top publishing. People will produce their own content for many applications, but when the story needs to be told properly - with structure, writing and narrative matter (as well as quality) then there is a need for professionals to get involved.
Video remains a tremendously powerful way to communicate, made more powerful by the access most people have to playback - no longer needing to find a TV with DVD player - they can watch anywhere at any time.
The next development in technology is 4K and 8K. Most movies are shot in 6K now and we view them on mostly 4K cinema projectors. Increasingly TV's are 4K enabled as are more and more cameras. However, the storage space, internet bandwidth and computing power (for editing) needed are exponentially higher than HD. 4K will be the norm within the next few years and, while manufacturers are keen to push 8K, that is unlikely to follow very quickly. Podcasts, Blogs, Vlogs and Social Influencers
Technical Trends: Podcasts, Blogs, Vlogs and Social Influencers
Podcasts have become a huge trend - they exploded after the Serial podcast which reached millions by word-of-mouth. Now you can hear all sorts of original content or radio repeats, on just about any subject. Without the pressure of live radio, they are able to allow extended conversations or chat which allow subjects to be explored extensively.
Blogs were already well established a decade ago, video versions have taken over and with them the role of the social influencer (including Instagram), though there has been recent questions asked about the value of the big-follow influencers. These new and varied channels are opportunities for pre and post event comms for events. Music 10 years ago, digital and downloadable music was the norm and CD's already consigned to the past. Now ownership of music is diminishing as we shift to on-demand listening. Spotify, Apple and Amazon Music all enable us to get what we want anywhere (we have internet). Shazam and similar services enable us to find any music from the sound or lyrics. The generational attachment of music is being lost as people of all ages enjoy music soundtracks from movies or computer games which tap into tracks from every era. An event DJ can no longer look at the age of people in a room to assess their musical preferences. The young will sing along to Marvin Gaye and the old to Lady Gaga. And now the 90's are having a retro revival too! Technology Backlash Over the last 10 years we have seen the emergence or greater prominence of some amazing technology - 3D TV, Google Glasses, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and even e-readers. None of them have really broken through.
In part this is due to the tech getting in the way. No one wants watch TV with 3D glasses on (I still believe that 3D will become the norm once the TV technology is perfected to enable it to be viewed without glasses but that could be more than 10 years away). Most people don't want to wear a VR headset - they will for something specific - but it will remain niche in its current form. Augmented Reality has applications that are groundbreaking, particularly in education and training, but the uptake has not been as widespread as predicted. Google Glass probably came right at the start of the big-tech privacy concerns - they were just a bit creepy - though the possibilities are extraordinary when combined with AR - seeing real life signage translated before your eyes remains astonishing.
E-readers were supposed to mean the end of books - but book’s sales are up, particularly with the young.
The use of and demand for dedicated event apps has declined. They have a place for larger events with a specific need and benefit to the user, but many people don't want a dedicated app - website technology enables most content to be made available on a mobile device without the app. Users will increasing expect privacy and demand value before they take the action to download and install content. Technology Developments
The biggest tech changes affecting us are voice recognition and artificial intelligence. Voice recognition is everywhere now as a norm - your phone, tablet, computer, tv and smart-speaker are all listening to you and waiting for your command. They are hearing your conversations and using that data to deliver smart adverts to you almost instantly. You can search the internet, you can control your tv, your lights, your EarPods and so on. Frighteningly, more and more user-interfaces are being developed primarily around voice-control rather than touch, buttons or the mouse.
At the same time, in the background computers are learning all the time. Artificial Intelligence is already well established as Chat windows on many consumer websites - the Chatbot is learning all the time from people asking similar questions and the answers they need - without any human intervention. That intelligence is also behind the search engines, they know so much about what you are looking for, from very little information. It is behind what you are offered to view on Netflix or listen to on Spotify. AI is everywhere.
Near Field Communication (NFC) has become the norm (it is the tech we use for contactless payments, Oyster cards and Apple Pay) and it is likely that it will feature heavily in event registration in the future. QR technology looked like it would fade away but following the adoption the reader tech into the Apple and other cameras as standard, it is having a revival and looks to be here for a while longer.
Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology will become widespread soon and that will enable GPS style positioning and tracking indoors - particularly useful for larger event and venue maps as well as exhibitions.
5G will offer localised high-speed data for mobile phones and we should be able to rely on 5G speeds routinely in cities within the next few years.
The challenge in our relatively simple event world is to provide technology to support our events which does not feel archaic compared to the sophisticated websites and devices people are interacting with on a daily basis. Audio Visual Improvements The last 10 years, like the decade before it, has brought a revolution in audio visual technology.
Lighting is almost entirely LED now - it is brighter, has more colour control, is smaller and lighter and crucially uses less power, meaning it is cheaper to use.
Sound has come so far, with crisp sound possible from smaller speakers. One thing I hope to go away in the coming years is the headset mic which has risen to prominence over the last few years (if you have ever worn one or seen the discomfort of someone displacing one mid-flow, you'll know why!). We can now routinely control sound desks from an iPad to check the sound levels and quality everywhere in the room.
Production Trends: AV Improvements
Video projection has just got bigger and brighter. That means it is commonplace to 'map' video onto buildings, at the same time LED screen technology has plummeted in price and increased in quality. We now see video screen everywhere - they are a routine part of the interior designer's stock - they are part of walls, built into bars and even into stair treads. Billboard videos screens are everywhere now too. This proliferation serves to de-value the impact of the large screen to some extent and puts pressure on content development, which is often poor and repeated. The reflex we have instinctively to look at a flickering screen in public spaces is rarely rewarded with meaningful content now. AV Everywhere As the technology advances, the cost of advanced (though not necessarily high quality) equipment has reduced making it more affordable. Installations of projectors and sound equipment are common and widespread in venues now and that pattern will continue. Some of the reliability and maintenance issues of the past associated with permanent installations are fewer and so for smaller meetings and events, in-house AV is becoming a viable alternative.
As with anything, equipment is only part of the tech support for a conference or event and the need for skilled technical support remains as important as ever. Hybrid and Livestream At the very start of this decade we were organising our first hybrid events - with a live audience and content streamed across multiple venues (and back in some cases). Although streaming has become widespread in support of a main event, the basic format has not yet become the norm - this will change as the environmental agenda joins the need to reduce costs. Final Thoughts Conference and event delegates of the 20's will expect to be involved more than ever. They won't travel as much, will want choice in the food and drink, will have a real environmental awareness, need time off and time for exercise - above all they will want experiences that are memorable and different. That is our gauntlet and we are excited to deliver more extraordinary experiences.