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A look back and a step forward

The event industry has utilised every aspect of technology throughout its history, in a lot of ways pushing the boundaries of AV and tech products designed for a completely different use to engage their live audience – this past year even more so than ever. From the invention of the microphone in 1876 to recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, technology is becoming the crux of what is keeping the event industry going at a time when big gatherings, travel and live events have been halted.

Looking back at some of the top inventions over the last 150 years, a clear favourite among the team here at IET Venues is the walkie-talkie, aiding quick and efficient communication between staff around the venue during an event.

Mark Reynard, Head of and a veteran of the event and video industry, says: “My personal favourite from this great list must be walkie-talkies (two-way radio), as without communications between everyone working on a show it would be very difficult to keep everything exact, especially now with so many AV technicians controlling different aspects of the show.”

“Lighting is something that has changed massively since its introduction – now it’s all LED and computer lighting boards, but in my era, we used Par Cans, Fresnels and then Golden Scans and Track Spots, and the advent of DMX 512. The temperature in the venue used to be so intense as everything put out loads of heat, and backstage could become unbearable.

Looking towards the future of technology in events, Mark is adamant the continuous advances within AV and digital platforms allow venues to deliver more great content, connections and reach audiences further away than ever before.

“Everything is digital now,” he says. “Technicians need to be great at their chosen specialisation but are also required to be brilliant IT specialists, using cutting edge technologies often from different manufacturers that may not have been designed to work with another piece of equipment.

“With the move to hybrid and virtual events and the decline in people willing to travel due to the pandemic, I predict we will see ever more innovative ways to bring speakers into a live conference and appear on stage. Over the years we have seen many holographic technologies try to break into the event market, but the size of the equipment and stage space needed limiting its use.

As screen technologies advance, I am sure we will see a lot more examples of speakers beamed-in over the internet, displayed on incredible screen tech. Those attending live in the venue will feel as if the speaker is actually there. It’s amazing what technology can do!”

As we celebrate 150 years of technological advancement, which innovation could you not live without?

We want the opinions of event professionals to help determine and crown the number one invention over the past 150 years that has transformed events.

Learn more about the full shortlist of the top engineering and technology inventions in events since the 19th century.

Take the short poll here:

Please note: the poll is now closed