Blog: Event management
Is AI coming for your job in events?
1 March 2023 minute read
Every day seems to bring a fresh study from somewhere or other claiming to show that a quarter, or half, or some other terrifying percentage of the world’s jobs will soon be done by machines.
The consensus seems to be that taxi drivers are pretty much screwed, although I’ve yet to see any of the actual driverless cars we were promised back in 2017.
Apparently the robots are coming. But what are the chances of them replacing us humans in the event marketing business?
Call me an optimist, but I think most event jobs are relatively safe. Not only that, but I think they might even become more desirable and fulfilling as the robots move in.
Firstly, event management roles require high levels of human interaction, strategic interpretation, critical decision-making, niche skills and subject matter expertise. These are all things that AI finds especially difficult.
Take the comparatively straightforward process of identifying, shortlisting and contracting meeting space for a conference.
The technology exists to automate practically every stage of the workflow from the initial search, specification-mapping and contract development. But organisations are still going to rely heavily on human intervention to ensure the final choice makes sense to human attendees, establish social connections during the negotiations phase, make arguments and find nuances in the data, rather than relying on data and algorithms outright.
Alexa and Siri are pretty good at following your directions to look something up on the web or activate a smart device. But they can’t understand how you’re feeling. Even the most advanced AI will never be able to comprehend our emotions and respond in the way a human can.
As a result, roles that involve building relationships with clients, sponsors, speakers and suppliers can never really be replaced with automation.
Strategic critical thinking
Automation can remove or simplify the process of implementing tasks, but it can’t provide an overarching strategy that makes each task relevant in the first place.
Even as the world moves towards digitalisation and automation, the ability to understand the context as well as the complexities before offering solutions remains irreplaceable.
Critical thinking, in its most basic form, is the ability to analyse facts and form a judgement. The ability to think critically about different life situations is an essentially human skillset that cannot be acquired through a generative model.
AI may be superior in fields that require synthesis and analysis of data. In fields that call for critical thinking, however it has a long way to go.
The problem is the essential lack of self-thinking. Because AI cannot independently develop new context and learn as humans do, it is (and will likely remain) ultimately human dependent.
When a fan of singer songwriter, Nick Cave, recently sent him a song written by ChatGPT ‘in the style of Nick Cave’, the man himself was less than impressed. I say ‘less than impressed’. He called it ‘bullshit’ and ‘a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human’.
AI can’t paint like Picasso or write songs like Nick Cave. It can produce derivative works loosely in the style of things that someone else has already created – but it can’t come up with wholly original art or content in the first place.
Crafting events and experiences is a largely creative business. It follows then that machine learning will struggle to put together unique combinations of ideas and talent of the kind that shakes peoples’ thinking and inspires them to do great things.
Nobody knows why some humans are more creative than others. So it’s safe to say that computers are going to find it pretty much impossible to replicate the initial spark of creativity that led to humankind’s most amazing feats thus far.
In other words, automation is programmed – so it can’t simply replicate creativity which is, by its very nature, spontaneous and requires capabilities like imagination, dreaming, collective inspiration and context.
That’s not to say that AI isn’t going to radically transform the way in which you perform your role, and especially the scope of tasks you work on today. It probably is. Part of that transformation will focus on the automation of repeatable admin tasks with a view to make event professionals more efficient and better able to focus on higher-value work, involving social interactions.
Automate routine and repetitive tasks and processes
AI is already showing promise in areas like simple content curation, pay-per-click ad management, and even replying to routine emails from customers asking about things like agendas, logistics etc.
Think of all the tasks you still perform which involve the transfer of information, the sending of largely similar communications and the checking and matching of statuses (has that guest confirmed yet? ... can we afford that speaker’s travel costs? ... did we close the online ad campaigns now we’re at 80% capacity?) etc.
Take over the compilation and analysis of large data sets
What it lacks in human empathy AI makes up for with its ability to tackle large data sets, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming for humans to analyse.
As a result, it can recognise patterns, provide predictions and supply you with valuable insights concerning your customers and their behaviour.
AI is likely to transform event organisers’ capacity to tailor their experiences and related marketing based on their audience’s identified preferences and needs.
Think about data-heavy tasks such as creating custom attendee buyer personas, segmenting contacts for personalised invitations based on interest or job function, or setting up keyword-based ad campaigns in Google or LinkedIn.
These are tasks AI will excel at. But building agendas, selecting speakers, persuading the right people to come on board, handling everybody’s anxieties and last minute changes and crises? Not so much.
So all in all, while the future is obviously uncertain, it looks like AI isn’t replacing event managers anytime soon. Instead, it’s going to help us automate and streamline cumbersome tasks and assist us in delivering and refining our marketing communications and the experiences we create.
And by getting rid of replicable grunt work, AI is likely to make event management and marketing roles more attractive by freeing up time and bandwidth to focus on crafting experiences that are more delightful and transformative – the part of the job only humans can do.
As Cave put it, ‘the apocalypse is well on its way’. But for event managers who are able to tap into their human intuition and creativity, the roll out of AI across marketing and business in general could herald an era of more stimulating, rewarding work.
Either that or there will be a massive robot war like in The Terminator, in which case unemployment will be among the least of our worries.