Have you tried or considered using events to better engage with customers and prospects? As big box retailers and online entities vie for customers’ attention, technology integrators and specialty retailers can maintain marketplace differentiation, enhance visibility and increase revenues with a well-planned event – if you’re willing to invest the time and resources.

While the logistical and technical challenges of event planning, not to mention the resources required, are significant, the opportunities are too great for anyone selling lifestyle technologies to ignore. Exclusive product launches, technology showcases, and lifestyle-oriented events represent great opportunities for you to not only promote and differentiate your company but also sell more products and services.

Amber Allen, owner and founder of Double A Events, an event planning and management firm that envisions, executes and manages tech-oriented events suggests, “Look for opportunities to partner with vendors and other tradespeople to create one-of-a-kind events. Then, focus your energies on the primary mission of the event. Make sure the key experience of your attendee is an unforgettable one. If it’s a product launch, be sure guests are provided hands-on time with the products, and a chance to engage with factory representatives and other subject matter experts. If it’s a lifestyle event, provide an environment that appeals to your audience and enhance it with local resources that complement whatever it is you’re showcasing.”

For instance, technology integrators may consider partnering with wineries, caterers, and gourmet food purveyors, interior designers and home furnishing retailers, or perhaps even consultants, builders and other trades that serve the luxury space. Together, you can present a consumer experience that extends far beyond pop-up home show booths and hors d’oeuvres to a unique, interactive environment that embeds your products indelibly in consumers’ memories. The rewards can be significant and include increased visibility, brand recognition, and additional revenue streams for all parties involved. Allen also suggests timing retail events with the seasons. “With the summer months approaching, specialty retailers can easily promote backyard AV solutions and deck or poolside entertainment areas through immersive events that transport the customer into the environment you’re selling. Create the atmosphere that will best sell the solutions.”

Allen also recommends setting up manned stations easily accessible to attendees, and employing technology to ensure the entire environment provides an engaging, interactive experience. “At the Dell Alienware Area 51 launch party in NYC last October, we had more than 35 different gaming stations featuring exciting new games that demonstrated the incredible capabilities of their new Area 51 PC lineup. Not only did this give attendees a chance to use the PCs, it immersed them in the gaming experience and paved the way for future sales.”

Note that last takeaway: paving the way to future sales is critical from an event ROI perspective.
The Next Hot New Market for Integrators

In addition to reaching out to existing customers, you can use events to tap into new markets of technophiles, capitalizing on emerging lifestyle trends and technologies such as gaming. And we’re not talking about teenagers in the parents’ basements playing Dungeons & Dragons. This is the next generation of gamers, and they’re older, more affluent and more passionate about their hobby.

The gaming industry, or Esports industry as it’s commonly called, caters to men and women (40% of gamers are female, and that gap is narrowing), with the average age of 31. There are more gamers over the age of 35 than under, and they’re spending money. The gaming industry boasts average annual revenues in excess of $76.7 billion for PC and console games alone (not counting mobile and handheld platforms.)

Want a piece of this action? Try this on for size. Imagine yourself in a futuristic laboratory setting: Area 51, reimagined. “Scientists” (that is, wait staff in lab coats) hand out beverages in test tubes that glow under the room’s black light. Attendees don electronic wristbands that flash in time with the MC’s words and later, the DJ’s pulsating electronic music. Guests dance, feeling the bass starting at their toes and resonating up through the room. Everything seems to be in perfect rhythm. Lasers move in mysterious, almost unbelievable, ways across the stage to create an experience that seems, if you’ll pardon the pun, “out of this world.”

This was the scene that Double A Events created for their client, Alienware, as a launch party that coincided with the release of Alienware’s new flagship Area 51 gaming PC lineup. More than 890 press members, media influencers, and consumers gathered to witness the launch, hear presentations from company executives, and hear more about exciting new products coming to market.
At events like this one, Amber says, “The technology and atmosphere are equally important. Whether your audience is made up of gamers looking for a more visceral gaming experience or avid movie fans seeking the ultimate in sound and video quality along with comfort, melding technology with the environment in a seamless way brings it all together.”

Here’s another takeaway: Appeal to every sense and establish an immediate relationship that plants your company firmly in the provider seat; whatever your customers seek in terms of AV nirvana, they will always come to your firm first.

Bringing in Help
Just remember, while a lot of fun, executing events can be equally lucrative and cumbersome. Determine early on if you can truly manage the additional tasks, time, and resources required. You may find that in some cases you can, whereas in others you just plain shouldn’t.

When you need help, a full-service event planning firm like Double A Events can manage all logistics of the event, bringing on appropriate, synergistic partners when necessary to make the event even more robust. The company can even coordinate travel so you don’t have to dedicate your internal resources to the minutiae. “It comes down to partnering with the right entities and having a clear plan with defined owners and established deliverables.”

“We do everything with the client’s best interest in mind,” Allen says, “from hiring the right vendors to knowing when and where to keep costs low without compromising quality. It’s very similar to being a larger company’s embedded event team when we’re working with someone, only we’re able to work with many different companies and are able to develop our own best practices.”

Allen, who launched Double A Events just three years ago after working for more than a decade with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and then gaming company Riot Games, says one key to her event planning success is the relationships she forges and her ability to see connections in places others may not.

She explains, “Let’s say I’m helping put together a big party that’s connected to a large convention that is looking for sponsors to help manage overall cost. I may know another client that wants to have a presence at the same convention or with the same audience the convention caters to. I’ll put those two clients together and help them work out a way for each client to get what they need, providing logistical resources as needed to best support the endeavor. Being able to help companies and people make lasting, productive connections is just one of the many great benefits we as event planners and managers provide. ”

Amplifying the Event’s Message
Successful launch events like the Dell Alienware Area 51 computer or the Batman Arkham City game launch in Times Square, NY, which showcased bands from the game’s soundtrack and resulted in 8,000 social media impressions and 2,800 game unit sales at the event, require multiple elements to merge perfectly to create the biggest buzz.

Technology is not only what you’re selling; it helps create the atmosphere and also amplifies the message to staggering numbers of people. For instance, Double A Events ensured the Dell Alienware Area 51 event was streamed live on Twitch.tv, attracting more than 2 million viewers and the potential to reach the website’s 50 million followers, and contracted with ScrewAttack, a gaming media company, to both film & promote the event to more than a million followers.

Avid gamers often attend, or compete in, massive arena-based gaming events where thousands of fans gather to watch their favorite gamers compete for prize packages of up to $1 million. “Esports fans are as dedicated as the biggest sports fan you’ve ever met,” Allen says. “They follow professional players. They paint their faces with their favorite team’s color. Imagine a college football game, only you’re inside a stadium and the action is on a 30-foot projection screen rather than a field, court, or pitch.”

Now, imagine a large-format, two-piece projection system bringing that Esports experience home for a group of five to 10 gamers in the comfort of an urban loft or multipurpose room, or perhaps a suburban living room or theater. The potential is staggering, but only if you can appeal to their needs.

Just as technology integrators can take their cues in experiential marketing from the gaming industry, they can (and should!) tap into this lucrative market of affluent technophiles. The larger-than-life Simulation Gaming experience is not unlike the home theater market, which caters to a tech-savvy audience with appreciable disposable income passionate about creating a high-end experience in their own space.

So, can you create a lucrative revenue stream through technology-oriented events? Absolutely. Bring in the right partners and providers and will have an unforgettable event that leaves your company and the brands you sell indelibly imprinted in the minds of each and every attendee. By utilizing traditional media, social media, your network and by default, that of your attendees, you will maximize your reach and reap even greater rewards.


A portion of this article appears in the April 2015 issue of Technology Integrator and can be found online via this link.