Episode 11

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Episode 11


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AI's Role in Redefining Event Engagement

VFairs has done extensive research into virtual events and found that 77.2% of people prefer virtual events because of how easy they are to attend whilst 95.5% of people said that virtual events will be part of their events strategy this year. 

What has AI got to do with it? 

Isabella Bedoya, a top voice in AI, serial entrepreneur, and virtual event boss, joined Kassandra McCalla, digital marketing manager and event lead to talk about engagement, connection, and evolution of AI in events. 

Q: Can AI powered virtual events ever truly replicate the human connection and networking opportunities of in-person gatherings? 

Izzy: That's a great question. We've been seeing this transition since 2020, when the world started going a little bit more digital. At the end of the day, human connection is always going to trump all. But there are ways to improve it or to make it more efficient, especially if you're hosting an event.  

There are definitely ways to make it more efficient by adding AI components, such as like AI agents to call in and check in on your AI voice agents are an actual technology that calls your phone on behalf of your company. It's like a sales rep or customer service.  

I do think in that sense, there is going to be a lot more efficiencies. But yeah, I think human connection always wins above all. 

Kassandra: I think looking forward to the next five years, we're going to see a huge shift in how events operate and run. They say by 2030, Gen Z and millennials will make up more than half of the global workforce. This is going to be a huge opportunity for digital innovation and digital transformation, particularly within the event space.  

With the surge of Gen Z, we're going to see a lot more demand and expectation around not only work events, but also social events.  

Q: Have you seen any specific things to make these events more inclusive? Is that something that factors? 

Izzy: There is a big push with ADA compliance, for example. Now you have to make websites, ADA compliant. There are some companies that use these like widgets and overlays and now all of a sudden, your website can become more accessible. If you're on zoom, you can put your reactions without having to say anything and stuff like that. I've seen also on Zoom, there are add-ons now where you can do, for example, if I'm speaking in English, the other person on the other end, they can actually set the settings so that it sounds like I'm speaking their language. 

Q: We're seeing this kind of thing everywhere. Is it too much? How do we know it's too much? Where is the line? Does anyone know where the line is? Do you believe that there's a risk of overuse in virtual events where technology might overshadow content and human interaction? 

Kassandra: In terms of event organizers, the ones that are going to win and be most successful are the ones that are going to understand that there needs to be a balance between leveraging and utilizing AI for efficiencies and inclusion. 

For events, there's a lot of opportunities with AI in terms of being able to drive efficiencies. In terms of personalization, more events are going to become more tailored around people's personal preferences, around their characteristics, and what they enjoy doing.  

I think, like anything, we're all very much aware of digital fatigue. And where AI replaces human experiences or human interaction in a careless way, I think that's where the issues arise.  

AI needs to be used in a very thoughtful and deliberate way without taking away the human element and the human interaction. I think in five, 10 years, where we're going with AI and where we're going with technology, event organizers will be able to use the fact that there are human elements of this event to be a USP and almost kind of drive engagement.   

Izzy: I think ultimately it is going to come down to testing and just seeing the response that the event goers are essentially sharing. It's going to be very interesting because as technology improves, it's going to be challenging to know if it's digital, like who's an actual AI? 

I've seen tools like, for example, Hegen, where you can clone yourself. You can record a video that looks like you, talks like you, and sounds like you. I think the only thing that it doesn't know how to do is smile. Now they're releasing the next version, which is full a body avatar. 

It's probably just going to get a little bit challenging to be able to tell what's real and what's not. 

Kassandra: I think going back to the generational gap. For myself, dealing with a robot or dealing with AI on a continuous basis, it feels empty.  

Gen Alpha, for example, like with them growing in a completely digital age, that might be the norm. And exactly as you say, Izzy, in terms of as technology evolves and develops, knowing what is AI and what isn't, the lines are going to become more and more blurred. 

AI policies and governance will need to be responsible for that transparency. The EU law, AI laws coming out recently around having to say whether you are talking to an AI or not, they will very much be a driving force in terms of being able to show what's AI and what isn't.   

Q: What challenges have you encountered in using AI to enhance engagement and how have you addressed them? 

Izzy: The biggest challenge was when we were starting to use AI voice agents in the beginning, the technology was spotty still, so I think it really just boils down to a couple of things. It came down to prompt engineering. When people are complaining about AI or AI outputs or whatever, a lot of the times they just haven't put in the right formatting. It's sometimes it's as simple as that.  

Then it was just patience because then it got to a point that we realized that the technology exists, but maybe it's too soon to release it into the wild and that's what I did, I played with it. I tried launching it and deploying it, but then I just had to wait until the end of January when and then tried it again, did the whole prompt engineering. Then finally we were able to launch it and now it's live. We have a live voice agent. 

I think with a lot of this it's so new, right? Conversationally at least at that capacity, it's only been available to the public maybe for the past six months. So of course, when you're dealing with new technology, it's going to be buggy.   

Same with like OpenAI or Mid Journey or any of those image generation prompts, right? Last year that video went viral of Will Smith eating a bowl of spaghetti, and it was just like the weirdest video ever. Now it's creating like full-fledged high-quality videos. 

I think a lot of the times if you are having trouble with any AI tools or doesn't have what you're looking for, I think it's just a matter of waiting because we're at the very beginning of it. 

Q: Is your solution predominantly for scaling and kind of cost effectiveness? What are the main pain points and why do your clients find this so relevant? Is it purely just like a lean speed machine? Or is there more to it? 

Izzy: The biggest thing is speed. Using AI definitely makes you a lot more productive. I know that part of it is also novelty right now. It's new. Everybody wants to get their hands on AI however they can. 

What makes it the most appealing is that we able to save actual time and money, but for example, I built an AI funnel builder, automated funnel builder, and a lot of it is using AI and automation. You just fill out some forms with some stuff that you want on your funnel and all of a sudden it auto-populates on the funnel.  

This one service that if you're like a normal person trying to get a funnel built through an agency or through a freelancer, it would take you three to six months to get the exact thing built and launched. With our automated funnel builder, we're able to build a whole funnel in a matter of one or two hours. Those are the top-quality things. 

Q: I do wonder whether it can take over so much that it creates a saturation level that is much lower than it is currently. But I suppose that comes back to the novelty aspect. 

Izzy: It can be taken too far though, I have personally seen when it comes to a point where whatever it's giving you as an output, you still have to go and edit that. You still have to go through it and make sure that it reflects your insight, add more information to reflect your expertise that chat, JVT just doesn't have but I see it time and time again, a lot of people just take it for what it is and they copy it and paste it into LinkedIn or whatever platforms. Now you have LinkedIn AI comments, which is driving everybody crazy. A lot of that could be scaled back of people just stopped and read what they're actually generating before posting it anywhere online. 

Q: How do you predict AI will evolve in the context of virtual events next five years and what futuristic features can we expect? 

Kassandra: What's really exciting about AI is it's unfolding right in front of our eyes. In terms of futuristic events, it's actually not too far from the future. We're living in it.  

As the technology evolves, as AI evolves, we're going to see more and more of this type of immersive experience, experiences incorporated into events. Things like augmented reality and gamification, are going to be incorporated, not just in like the entertainment world where we're seeing it a lot. But within industry work events. 

I mentioned before around more personalized events as well. This idea of belonging and finding your tribe will continue to be a huge selling point for events. 

There'll be a lot more events catered to your own personalized interest and you'll be able to actually personalize the experience of the event based on AI.  

We're going to be the drivers of AI and the output of what we want out of an experience, of an event.  

Izzy: It's definitely going to be a lot more personalized, but I think some technologies are out there already where you can experience some of that. I went to this event one time, it was digital, and I think the platform was called DigiWorld. And it was really interesting because you go in, you pick an avatar, and instead of joining a regular Zoom meeting, we joined this like map.  

There are boats to go racing around on the beach and there's a concert with real musicians live streaming their music and it was a really cool experience. In that scenario you could pick and choose what you wanted to do. You could go to a seminar or you could network with people in real time and it looked like a game essentially. It's creating these memorable experiences and the ice breaking opportunities as well, where that's a completely random setting to me in the first place. It's definitely going to be a really interesting transition over the next couple of years. 



With 59% of organizers using gamification to create engagement (Markletic), and Marketing Tech News finding that future events are expected to be 32% physical, 45% virtual, and 23% hybrid – it's no wonder AI has a key role in redefining event engagement.  

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