IBM Think: How AI Could Improve Large Virtual Events Than In-Person Alternatives



Disclosure: Most of the suppliers mentioned are clients of the author.

IBM Think, the company’s iconic (and now digital) annual customer event, took place this week and was once again reminded of how companies like IBM with in-house video skills and studios do these things better than those with do not have. Everyone has been repeated, even the most senior leaders; the staging was broadcast quality, the camera angles and sound conveyed a sense of competence. The sense of competence of an event seems to transfer to a company’s brand, positively affecting sales prospects and valuation.

IBM spoke about two artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives that could solve a recurring problem with these events, which has to do with personal engagement and optimizing a plan. And that could help get people to access content, both during and after the event, which isn’t happening now.

The initiatives are related to conversational AI and Assistant Watson.

The two problems of major events

There have been big demonstrations from companies like Nvidia using its graphics ability to build and then deconstruct the stage for a CEO opening speech, with Dell presenting a wide range of sessions on general issues such as work / life balance. private, and Microsoft and IBM using high quality internal resources to produce an event. But there are also unresolved issues.

The two issues that seem to be recurring are individual engagement, where people feel someone in the company cares what they think, and setting the agenda. And, with the exception of the Nvidia event, there was a glaring lack of solutions.

Certainly, some companies have products that are not useful for organizing an event. However, for companies that manufacture workstations, media servers, conference room solutions and graphics tools, their products could, and should, enhance their events.

The AI ​​tools that IBM should have presented are the ones I mentioned above because if people use them successfully, they are more likely to buy them in the future.

Conversational AI

IBM has one of the most robust conversational AI platforms on the market. Most of us have speakers and microphones that we use for our Teams, WebEx, and Zoom meetings, making it easy to join a process that allows – in this case IBM – to use AI. conversational to create a personalized event program. Both through experience and through the registration questionnaire, IBM knows a lot about the attendees and could use it to pre-populate an initial agenda. Then the user can engage conversational AI to handle conflicts, bypass pre-existing calendar events, and even schedule the post-event time to display content that might have been missing.

This not only allows the user to see how they can apply AI to their own interactions with customers, but also how, on a large scale, it could enable them to interact with customers in an interpersonal way without resorting to a human. And press participants and analysts, assuming AI works well, could talk about it from experience, which is a lot more powerful than just talking about it in the abstract.

Assistant Watson

This technology emerged when I spoke on a panel about using Watson Assistant to help students in their careers. One of the other panelists described his experience with Apple Siri and indeed called me an idiot in his closing remarks (which I found boring). But his impression of digital assistants, like most of us, stems from using versions of Apple, Google, and Microsoft, not Watson, which is a whole different beast.

I had once hoped that the Apple / IBM alliance would result in a Watson backend for Siri that would turn Siri into a real digital assistant instead of an industry joke. Most of us use assistants who are not AIs; they are text-to-speech tools that connect to search engines with voice scripts. I use Amazon Echo a lot myself, but it’s not in Watson’s class either. Watson is a true AI who derives a response from the information she has been trained to analyze, making it much more than a verbal interface to web search.

One of the common problems, especially for those who ask a lot of questions, is getting answers quickly. Sometimes I get responses in real time; more often than not I am either ignored or by the time I get an answer, days or weeks later, I have lost interest in the question. Think about the audience: some are senior executives and decision makers. Ignoring their questions, or not answering them quickly, will most certainly degrade the relationship with these leaders.


Large-scale digital events have improved a lot over time, but engagement still suffers. IBM has two technologies that could improve its own events, and they seem particularly capable of improving the attendee experience.

Conversational AI could be used to better engage with audiences, optimize their time, and ensure they attend the most relevant sessions, during or after an event. Watson Assistant could take over the main task of answering questions for those who do not get answered in person, ensuring a more positive experience for the participant.

Ultimately, IBM is one of the very few companies that can make virtual events much more useful and productive than they are now – and significantly better than the hugely expensive in-person events that most of us do. would like to avoid in the future.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.


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