Mobile messaging through SMS and apps like Facebook Messenger is one of the newest options for planners looking for easy, instant communication with event attendees. The communication is done through a chatbot, which is a software program that includes artificial intelligence to power automated conversations. Kristi Colleran is co-founder of Sciens.io, creator of Concierge EventBot, a chatbot for events that launched in May 2016. She says bots are a good alternative to mobile apps for smaller events and also to address “app fatigue”—the idea that smartphone users are becoming less likely to download apps onto their phones.
“It’s really easy for attendees,“ Colleran says. “They don’t have to download anything. They don’t have to learn to use an app. Everyone’s comfortable with texting and the information is there in your feed if you need to go back and look at it again.”
Attendees can communicate with the bot through SMS text messaging or through Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps. “We can also do push notifications. If we have an attendee’s cell phone number we can send an initial welcome message and invite them to connect with the bot that way,” she says.
Then by sending a message, such as “what time does the keynote begin?” attendees can instantly get a variety of information about the event. They can also access a menu of all of the information available through the bot. Common options include agendas, speaker bios and links to their LinkedIn profiles, venue maps, sponsor information, exhibit hall maps, links to Google or Waze driving directions, and more. Planners can also use the bot to send notifications to attendees, for example that a keynote is about to begin or that a session is filling up. In addition to text, messages can include images, links, emojis, and menus.
Attendees can also use the chatbot to send information to event staff, such as “the room is hot” or “we’re out of water.” The bot also alerts event staff if it is presented with a question it cannot answer. Staff can then communicate directly with that attendee through a private support channel. “It’s like adding another person to your event team, but the bot works 24/7, doesn’t take lunch breaks, and doesn’t need a holiday,” Colleran says. Concierge EventBot can also be used to gather information from guests through polls and short surveys and to send questions to speakers.
For events with different types of participants, the bot can be customized so specific information is available for each subset, for example speakers, exhibitors, or sponsors. Concierge EventBot starts at $2,500 per event.