This article features a collection of the coolest, most efficient and most productive tech gadgets every event planner or event manager should consider.
This blog usually looks at how to use technology to make the event experience better for attendees.
What about event pros?
It seems that whenever I write about running event as being a stressing activity there is a surge of agreement. I believe technology can help to relief some stress and help us keeping things organised.
Please do not listen to anyone who says that tech makes our profession more complicated. As they like to say here in the UK, that would be an absolute lie.
I was just checking this event management toolkit we released 4 years ago and it is incredible to notice how many of these items have been replaced by all in one life savers, like tablets.
A Note on Methodology
Some of the tools you'll see below are essentials, some others are interesting, a couple are just funny toys. I've classified and rated (out of 5 stars) gadgets according to three qualities: Essential (how important it is to have one of these gadgets), Relevant (how relevant it is to the event industry), Fun (how fun it is).
I won't be covering gadgets such as the iPhone, the iPad or tablets in general. I believe a powerful PC (or better MacBook), a tablet and a smartphone are essential parts of every small to large business. Covering such equipment here is just redundant and too high level.
Let me also warn you that I bought a couple of these while writing this article. They all have a high 'buy me' factor.
Finally, all the links are not affiliates, the purpose of this post is not to make money, but to give you some cool tips.
OK, enough said, let's rock and roll. I will attach a 'Pin it' button next to each gadget, I am curious to see which one will be the most pinned, so start pinning now!
4G/LTE Wifi Device
If you live in a LTE covered area, you do want to get one of these.
I must say this is one of the strongest evolution in consumer tech, I've noticed in recent years. Connecting at 25Mb on the go with a computer or a tablet is just amazing. Being able to work properly as you were in the office changed my perspective.
Surfing with one of these little things gives you the same feeling of when you tried broadband the first time. Just fast.
I am not mentioning any specific data plan as these vary substantially depending on the country you live in.
The speed depends on the network but just to give you an idea of what these devices look like check out the Alcatel One Touch Link.
Having a laptop, tablet and smartphone means running into battery dramas quite often. I just entered the realm of power packs or portable battery chargers and I cannot stress enough how relevant they are for professionals on the go.
There are 3 main categories of power packs that are relevant for event professionals:
- Smartphone Cases
- Medium sized chargers
- Large sized chargers
The first two categories are definitely worth considering as they can easily be carried while you are out and about. Medium sized chargers are ideal to refuel your smartphone and tablet at the same time.
Larger power packs are to be considered whenever you need battery juice for your laptop, smartphone and tablet.
Bear in mind that if you have a MacBook it is impossible to charge it with one of these (the only solution is incredibly expensive). My suggestion is to carry around another battery.
I believe every wire in your home or office should be wrapped around a Bobino. I have a Bobino cord wrap for each and every cable of my tech equipment.
Having a wire drama is not an option.
I believe an event professional should always look organised, because ultimately this is what clients pay for. Remember that words like organiser and planner are inherent to the profession.
Being immersed in wires, Rapunzel style, may give to the judgemental eye a wrong first impression. No matter how good you are. It's almost like showing up to a job interview without the appropriate attire.
Bobino cord wraps (and similar solutions) are cheap and neat. Go for them.
If you watched the movie 'Zoolander', you'd know why thinking about small size tech makes me giggle. Nonetheless pico projectors seem like a great solution for at least a couple of common scenarios.
- Handheld projectors are great when you need to show computer, tablet or smartphone files on the go. This include, for example, showing your team the event rundown.
- Pico projectors are awesome as a back up plan if anything goes wrong with the venue projectors.
If you are thinking about buying one of these powerful toys, bear in mind they don't come cheap and the end result won't be comparable to a proper projector. You are effectively paying for the extreme portability.
TaskOne - iPhone Swiss Army Knife Case
I was amazed to read how many event professionals do carry a swiss army knife with them. I cannot imagine a busy event pro that hasn't used a screwdriver, a knife or a bottle opener repeatedly in her carrier.
TaskLab thought that having a swiss army knife embedded in your iPhone case may actually be a viable idea.
I personally think that a good old army knife would do but I equally appreciate some suppliers in the industry can see some potential in this. I will classify this gadget as funny anyway!
Portable Thermal Printer
I am still trying to get rid of printers but somehow they are still relevant. When you think the world is finally digital and we can save some trees, the need to print out something emerges.
In an event environment, there are several last minute contingencies that demand the presence of a printer.
I looked around and discovered thermal printers. Thanks to their innovative technology they end up being incredibly portable devices. And that is a winner for the event planner on the go. A bit of a warning, these cool looking fellas are quite on the expensive side.
While we like to think that when we are away from office we are not working, smartphones and tablets are proving us wrong.
I believe we all encountered a scenario when we get an important email on our phone but need a better keyboard to articulate a more effective reply.
I am not a big fan of tablet and smartphone keyboards. They tend to be bulky and strip the portability off our beloved devices.
I looked into infrared keyboards and while a few years ago this technology seemed more of a troublemaker than a troubleshooter, things have evolved.
I was particularly captivated by Epic* that really ticks all the boxes. Bluetooth connection, advanced gestures like zoning in and out and wide compatibility.
Of course it will take some time to get used to it and you need a polished, even surface to make the most out of it, but I feel safe recommending it.
I am very excited about Tile. And so are the customers who pre-ordered it for a total of almost $3M.
Tiles are small Bluetooth 4.0 sensors that you stick to your phone or use as a keyring. They iOS app helps you tracking your tiled devices within a 150ft range.
When we are under a lot of pressure, we tend to forget things or sometimes there is simply too much going on. As a result, losing control of our devices or important equipment is a very likely scenario.
Tile is a no brainer, despite the somewhat expensive pricing.
This has happened to me personally a few years ago and I just wished I had one of these. I was planning a couple of customer events for a large brand and I decided to use iPads to display a website demo.
This was back in 2011 and while iPads were already a reality, sourcing good iPad stands for events was quite a challenge.
When I bumped into Mag Bak, I wished I could travel back in time to buy a couple of dozens. MagBak is a magnetic iPad holder that can be sticked to any metallic surface or alternatively to the metallic rings that come with the product.
MagBak started as a kickstarted campaign that obtained $70K out of a $15K goal. This is how relevant this product is.
Ok I could not leave Google Glass out of this round up. Without the whole unnecessary hype, I can surely see value in wearing Glass while running an event.
From making phone calls completely handsfree to taking pictures while doing a venue inspection this much anticipated gadget seems to be a powerful match with our industry.
Let's see what the uptake will be.
As a speaker, I cannot do without one of these. Wireless laser presenters are a reality of most events. Being behind a computer tapping on the keyboard to change slides feels somewhat too vintage for my taste.
I've gone through several stages of remote controlling my presentations. I've tried the Keynote iPhone app, ditching it almost immediately. A nightmare in usability.
I also tried the Apple remote control, but I needed to have my MacBook in front of me as the infrared sensor was on the front of the computer. Not cool.
I found that this presenter works best.
This is because it has large buttons and very simple features. Over complicating clicking back and forth can only distract you from the presentation. The last thing you want to do is spending time thinking about what button you have to press.
A good presenter is super simple. The device I use works with a wireless usb stick that you can store within the device. Super convenient.
High Capacity 3.0 USB Stick
I do not have to sell you the convenience of USB sticks, right? Believe it or not the storage technology has somewhat evolved from 2002.
If in fact you find yourself not having enough space on your USB drive, it is probably time to upgrade.
The safest choice is USB 3.0 as it is incredibly faster compared to its predecessor, 2.0. Remember that you need to have a 3.0 port on your computer to appreciate the full speed.
I've had a look around and I picked Kingstone, whose capacity reach 1TB although a good 125GB will keep you happy for a few years.
Scanners evolved pretty much in the same fashion pincers did. While I believe your smartphone is the best scanner you can have (see apps like GeniusScan for iPhone), sometimes you need more quality and precision.
That's when portable scanners become a viable option. Fujitsu seems to offer quite of a range of options.
Finding a good compromise of output quality and portability is paramount, in all other cases your smartphone will do.
HD livestream Broadcaster
I covered this device in the past and I believe it is a great option to stream your event in HD.
While live streaming for larger events is a more complex activity and requires extensive equipment, I believe this streamer is a great back up solution.
It hooks up to 3G/4G with a dongle and it features an app to control the streaming. The output is HD, meaning that the quality is never compromised.
Taking notes on a sheet of paper is so passé. Your iPad is a great tool to take notes and share them with the rest of your team.
When you enter the realm of iPad note taking, you will notice that choosing the right app and stylus is almost comparable to choosing the right espresso machine for the coffee expert.
I've done a bit of research and it looks like Maglus is one of the best choices out there.
My favourite app is uPad, but I am open to suggestions.
Getting things done without being too stressed, should be paramount the event professionals. Technology can help to get more things done and to keep things organised while being more efficient.
Yes technology can be overwhelming and yes, no technology can replace a well planned event. But as a sensible and forward thinking pro, I am sure you will be able to carefully research and select only the technology that can add real value.
A the the end of the day our mission is to make others enjoy the live experience, but let's not forget that we need to take care of ourselves!