Aaron Price is a bit of a somebody in the New Jersey tech scene. He has a few startups under his belt, and he founded NJ Tech Meetup, the largest tech gathering in the state.
But that kind of status doesn't make his meetup events immune from the disease that plagues all events these days: an audience that is short on attention and addicted to devices.
Price would look out at the hundreds gathered for a meetup event and see heads buried in smartphones, firing off texts, scrolling through emails or updating Facebook statuses.
And Price's meetups are voluntary gatherings, where young energetic entrepreneurs go of their own free will to network and trade stories about startup struggles. So what happens at events where attendance is mandatory — corporate events, for instance — and the subject matter is, well, dull?
"There aren't great tools to drive better audience participation," Price said. "Why can't they sit in a chair, add to the conversation … and be rewarded for the most compelling thoughts, comments and ideas?"
Price figured there had to be a solution — one that didn't involve confiscating cell phones at the door. So he joined with Gabe Zichermann and Justin Schier, of the creative agency Dopamine, and created a mobile event app called livecube.
Livecube is engineered to turn paying attention at events into a game, complete with prizes, Price said. Attendees can log onto an event-specific website — created by livecube, no download required — and earn points by tweeting with event-specific hashtags or posting photos of the event on social media sites. Those points add up to prizes ranging from a gift card to lunch with a company's C-suite executives.
The livecube site becomes the central location for all that activity.
"We need to give them something to do that's part of of this event, that's not playing candy crush or texting their friends or checking their email," Price said. "Our goal is to complement the event, so we use the phone or the tablet to enhance your experience of the event."
It's also a great way to collect quantifiable event data for whatever company hires Price and his team, and that has turned livecube into a viable business since it launched in September of last year.
"Since then we've had some pretty big wins: Verizon Wireless, Inc. magazine, Random House, Webster Hall," Price said.
The cost to use livecube for an event starts at $4,800, he said, and companies are willing to pay it in part because they want to measure audience engagement and justify the six-figure price tag that can accompany some large corporate events.
Random House, for example, embraced the ability to measure their social media outreach for one event, Price said.
Verizon, on the other hand, wanted to limit social media use — in the interest of keeping information confidential — and instead used livecube to get better employee engagement at an event, making sure their message resonated, Price said.
And the NJ Tech Meetup, well, that has become sort of a testing ground for livecube as it evolves, Price said.
"Had it not been for the meetup and my kind of stumbling upon the event industry … I never would have understood the dynamic at events, the problem that we're trying to solve," Price said. "In effect, the meetup has become the guinea pig for what we think is the latest and greatest event technology."
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