The future of AI for #eventprofs

published on April 18, 2023
Trends and Technology Industry News and Leaders

Artificial intelligence is a hot-hot topic these days, not just in Montréal — where the World Summit AI for the Americas is currently taking place at Palais des congrès — but in the entire events industry. What we want to know is: what will be the impact of AI for event professionals? So we turned to an expert: Jim Spellos, longtime meetings industry tech advocate and the president of Meetings U.

Let’s start with some definitions

With everyone talking about ChatGPT, AI has hit the forefront of our collective mind again. But when you think of customer service chatbots and social media feed curating, hasn’t it been part of our world for years already? What’s the actual difference between AI and algorithmically organized data mining? 

The distinction is twofold, says Spellos. It’s about scale and methodology. 

“The data sets that are being mined by AI are absolutely massive,” he explains. “You have so much information being drawn from and a much deeper neural network approach to sifting it. Those factors make the inferences better. It’s also generative: if you take ChatGPT as an example, it ‘understands’ your last request and can actually build on it. The whole idea of a generative process that it’s not thinking in sentences, it's thinking in words. That’s why it feels so conversational.”

Welcome to the AI democracy

In an interview Spellos recently gave Meetings Today, he made it clear that AI isn’t new to big business. AI functionality is what’s been making platforms like Amazon Web Services work for the last 10, 15, 20 years. What’s different now is accessibility.

“I'm calling this the desktop AI revolution,” says Spellos. “We've now commoditized it, essentially, so that we all have access to crunch huge amounts of data and spot trends.” Think of it as the birth of PCs versus the huge industrial computers that were their predecessors, if you will. 

“Huge players in the meetings industry have had the advantage so far, because they have massive data and they're able to put AI to use to get analysis about their clients, customers,  constituents and everyone in that chain,” says Spellos. “The hotel side, for example, has used it much more successfully than the planning side, because while there are 46 million planners out there, there are about five hotel chains right now that dominate conferences and events. But the accessibility of tools like ChatGPT means that these smaller organizations can actually become larger ones by effectively getting more accurate information than ever before.”


AI for meeting and event professionals 

Some common uses #eventprofs are making of AI so far include content creation, optimization and engagement boosting, all of which seem to be tailor made for ChatGPT. But it’s also useful for site selection, event space design, bookings, contract creation, even direct translations thanks to tools like Wordly, and trip curation thanks to the likes of Kayak and Expedia’s new AI tools. 

In Spellos’ view, in fact, anything that’s mundane — like figuring out how many 6-foot versus 8-foot tables can fit in a given venue — should not be filling a human’s time anymore.

“Imagine the large conferences in our industry: the PCMAs, the ESPAs, all that. And you have what, 10, 15 parallel sessions at a time. What do I go to? Enter your parameters, your interests, your needs into an AI interface, and have it spit out a personalized program. Or for planners, you can ask your attendants, “What are your three biggest pain points at a conference?” and get AI to help you design an event that avoids them all.”

The future of events

For Spellos, the events industry of, say, 2033, will include much more automation and augmented reality — but it won’t be the cold virtual world some might fear. 

“AI makes associations,” he says. “We can never put technology, whether it's AI or anything else, in the bucket of all good or all bad. It's all about us. It’s a tool and it’s about how we decide to use it. Some of the things we do are going away, because AI and quantum computing is going to do it better. But you know what's not going to change? Heart and soul.”


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