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Generative AI: Revolutionizing the Events Industry

While I have come to cringe, internally, at the addition of “transformation” to the ever-growing list of overly-used buzzwords in the tech scene, the truth is that generative AI is here & is already transforming almost everything.

In this article, we’ll explore key learnings from Jeremiah Owyang, a prominent technology industry analyst, speaker, and entrepreneur, including:

  • The nature of events: Virtual vs. In-Person vs. Hybrid vs. Synthetic
  • Generative AI and autonomous agents
  • The Future of Events: Human Connection as a “Premium Experience”

Next week, I’ll be sharing more of what I learned from Chase Curtis and the proverbial “reddit for prompts” here on Selected.

TLDR: The game is changing, and I wasn’t ready. Generative AI introduces two new dimensions to the events industry:

  • Synthetic Events: virtual experiences powered by AI, replicating the essence of in-person gatherings with immersive environments, interactive sessions, personalized content, and networking opportunities.
  • Autonomous agents as attendees: AI entities (known as “agents”) autonomously interacting, learning, and networking on behalf of attendees or speakers.

In a world that never stops evolving, the events industry has been no exception to change. Over the years, notably due to the global COVID-19 pandemic (cue triggering flashbacks), we’ve witnessed a fascinating shift from traditional in-person events to virtual gatherings and the continuation of hybrid events: with attendees both in-person and virtual.

However, the future holds something even more intriguing: the integration of generative AI and autonomous agents into the events landscape. The following are some key points made by Jeremiah Owyang on the transformative potential of generative AI and its impact on the events industry, redefining the very essence of human connection.

A toddler child wearing a VR headset
Photo by Giu Vicente / Unsplash

The Nature of Events:

Virtual does not replace In-Person, but what about Hybrid?

Virtual events have undoubtedly disrupted the traditional concept of in-person gatherings. And for good reason: the ease of access, cost-effectiveness, and global reach offered by virtual events have been key drivers of this transformation. From virtual conferences and webinars to digital trade shows, attendees can now participate from the comfort of their own homes or offices.

Nevertheless, in-person events have their own charm that cannot be entirely replaced. They provide an opportunity for genuine face-to-face interactions, networking, and the organic exchange of ideas.

Enter the era of hybrid events – a perfect fusion of the virtual and in-person worlds. By leveraging technology and generative AI, hybrid events offer the best of both worlds, catering to a diverse audience and accommodating varied preferences.

After Hybrid comes… the Era of Synthetic Events

Star Trek sculpture by Devorah Sperber, Spock, Kirk and McCoy: Beaming-In (In-Between), Microsoft, Studio D, Redmond, Washington, USA
Photo by Wonderlane / Unsplash

This is where Jeremiah’s  talk caught my attention. We’re all familiar with hybrid events in today’s post-covid context… so what on earth is a synthetic event, and how is it different?

While both hybrid and synthetic events offer innovative ways to connect and engage, they differ in their fundamental nature. Synthetic events, powered by generative AI, are entirely virtual experiences that recreate in-person gatherings in a digital realm. These events leverage advanced technologies to provide attendees with interactive sessions, personalized content, and immersive environments, all without the need for physical presence.

On the other hand, hybrid events blend the best of both worlds by combining physical and virtual elements. They allow participants to attend either in person or remotely, catering to diverse audiences and enabling seamless interaction between the two. Too abstract? Time for an example:

Imagine you have a wonderful toy house where you love to play with your toys and have fun adventures. In this scenario, think of of synthetic events as magical toy-house parties! These parties happen inside your toy house, but they feel real. You can invite your toy friends from far away, and they magically come to join you. You can all play together, have exciting discussions, and even pretend you are in different places, all without actually leaving your toy room. It’s like having a party with all your friends, but everyone’s toys come to life in the toy house!

Hybrid events are different: think of them as special gatherings that happen both in the toy house and outside. Some of your friends come to your toy house to play, and some of them join in from their own toy houses through special screens. You can still interact and play with everyone, whether they are inside or outside the toy house. It’s like having a big adventure with all your friends, some right there with you and some joining from different places, but you all share the fun and excitement together.

If you were born in the late 80s or onward, chances are you’ve already attended a synthetic event. Stay tuned as I’ll be publishing an article dedicated to synthetic events in more detail here on Selected shortly.

Generative AI and Autonomous Agents as attendees

Generative AI is an exciting innovation that involves teaching machines to create original content, imitate human behaviors, and learn from data.

Autonomous agents, powered by generative AI, are intelligent entities capable of making decisions and interacting with users autonomously. In the context of events, these agents can facilitate seamless communication, personalize experiences, and manage event logistics.

Hybrid events greatly benefit from generative AI and autonomous agents. Attendees can engage with virtual interfaces, receive real-time information, and even access personalized event recommendations–no more drowning in that decision fatigue of trying to navigate epic and over-charged event agendas (hello VivaTech, anyone?)

Autonomous agents efficiently manage registration, assist with event navigation, and respond to queries, enhancing overall attendee satisfaction. So, they basically function as an independent person, and according to Jeremiah: the future of events is a world in which your autonomous agent will replace you.

As Kuromon Market in Osaka was about to close for the evening I sampled some delicious king crab and did a final lap of the market when I stumbled upon one of the most Japanese scenes I could possibly imagine, a little girl, making friends with a robot.
Photo by Andy Kelly / Unsplash

An Event full of… Bots?

Lets face it, there are so many event opportunities to attend these days that sometimes you wish you could just clone yourself to be in two places at the same time. Well, imagine a future where autonomous agents attend events on behalf of individuals who are unable to be physically present.  These agents can interact, learn, and network, just like their human counterparts. This opens up a world of opportunities for global collaboration, allowing individuals to expand their horizons beyond geographical boundaries.

Beyond being attendees, autonomous agents can also play the role of event speakers. According to Jeremiah, an agent is armed with vast knowledge and real-time data. This enables them to deliver dynamic presentations, engage in Q&A sessions, and provide valuable insights. While they may not entirely replace the presence of live speakers, they offer a unique perspective and serve as a catalyst for innovation.

The Future of Events: Human Connection as a “Premium” Experience

As the events industry embraces generative AI and autonomous agents, the value of genuine human connection becomes even more pronounced. In a world filled with intelligent entities, the ability to foster authentic relationships becomes a premium experience. Face-to-face interactions and shared experiences gain newfound significance as they become rare and cherished moments in an automated landscape.

Moreover, event organizers can leverage this notion of human connection as a selling point, proposes Jeremiah. By creating unique experiences that prioritize meaningful interactions and emotional resonance, they can curate unforgettable events that leave a lasting impact on attendees. This resurfacing and revalorizing of human connection in a time of such imminent change in our hyper-connected world reminds me of this stunning article I read recently centered on The Evolution Of What It Means To Be Human.

To conclude…

Generative AI is poised to revolutionize the events industry, ushering in an era of hybrid events powered by autonomous agents. While virtual and in-person events will continue to coexist, the transformative potential of generative AI lies in its ability to enhance event experiences and redefine the significance of human connection. As we navigate this ever-changing landscape, embracing the curious and innovative spirit advocated by thought leaders like Jeremiah Owyang will be pivotal in harnessing the true potential of generative AI for future events.

Find Jeremiah on:

Find Chase on:


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