How Behind-the-Scenes Technology Shapes the Exhibition Life Cycle [Part 2: During the Event]
It’s that time! The show that you’ve been prepping for and anticipating for months has finally arrived. If you read the last part of this series (or in case you missed it), we previously discussed what technology should be doing for you prior to the event: building awareness to help with the acquisition of exhibitors. And better yet, building that awareness by using technology as an effective means to freeing up your staff to concentrate on the more important parts of their jobs: building relationships.
Whether it be the attendees or the exhibitors, the next stage in the exhibition life cycle is during the show where the goal of most planners is to increase the level of engagement in order to create an event that is memorable this year and going forward for years to come.
It’s become quite common that the way in which we consider a show to be successful is based on the level of engagement from the attendees. Previously, this was quantified by a head-count -- the more people, the better. You could sell booths at your show by relying on the pure volume of attendees. But that wasn’t reflective of the value that attendees or exhibitors would get from the show. However, the digital transformation has revealed that we can learn so much more about our attendees from the tools we use daily. When we look at engagement levels on various platforms, we can really hone in on how invested someone really was at an event based on their involvement and advocacy of the event. That information is then converted into metrics and analytics that are much more impressive to future exhibitors than a head-count.
So how can you ensure that the technology that you’re using at your exhibitions can really help push you along a successful event life cycle?
Look at Digital Differently
Social media platforms are all outlets that you can use to both attract audiences and keep them active when attending your event. But keep in mind, this is an extension of your ability to communicate with exhibitors or attendees. Being reactive to what is happening on social media is another aspect that can be easily forgotten but is one of the most important things when looking to push digital interaction. It’s an extension of customer service. If you fail to be reactive to your audience in these channels, it’s a near equivalent to offering a support or help desk without anyone working it. Reacting to comments, questions, and concerns is essential. It’s not enough to rely on the audience participation to keep your Twitter handle alive; there should be two-way conversations between you and your audience.
If your organization lacks the bandwidth to support a truly interactive social media presence (i.e. staff dedicated to quickly answering questions, concerns and comments that come through via social media), be transparent and give them alternate options. You may not have the ability to constantly answer emails or Twitter, but a simple, “Hey! Swing by booth 322 if you have questions and we’ll help you out,” will suffice. Just make sure your booth is actually manned.
Long gone are the days where everyone required a show floor printout to navigate the exhibition space. Whether it is provided ahead of time via an interactive web page, show app, email, etc. there is a widespread appreciation when reducing the paper clutter in venues that are more conscientious as it relates to sustainability. Another key to allowing digital to do the behind-the-scenes work for you is the adoption of digital signage. If you forgo a help desk and opt for direct digital inquiries, it’s probably a good idea to boost the space with navigational screens (that can also be used as a sponsorship opportunity).
Registration is another process organizers can simplify immensely when using technology as their behind-the-scenes partner-in-crime. Automated emails received upon completion of an online registration send out the badges and all logistical information necessary for entrance to the show. Instead of staff members being bogged down with data entry, they can be on the show floor with their exhibitors to ensure their satisfaction.
Know Your Audience
The best way to increase engagement is by being aware of who is attending your exhibition and offering the appropriate amount of support needed. Prove the value of your show to exhibitors by offering tools and providing opportunities. If you invest in an app for your event, not only should it feature a matchmaking tool but go the extra step to educate users on how to use the tool. It’s like telling people you’re on Snapchat when half of your audience hasn’t a clue what a snap, filter, geo-what? is. And then expecting them to appreciate your efforts for being there. Take the time to understand your exhibitors and provide them with user-friendly, intuitive tools that will make their experience at your show that much better.
Take the time to step into your exhibitor’s shoes. For example, perhaps the show is going great and they would love another monitor to display their products. In many cases, they then have to leave the booth, go to the help desk or find the organizer to order the monitor. Who knows if the credit card information is stored or if they even know where you are on the show floor. Take the worry, hassle and time out of that situation by offering an ordering tool that allows your exhibitors direct access to order additional services from right within their booth.
The Main Focus
When exhibitors are looking for a show that is really going to compound their investment, they’re really looking at the potential leads from the attendees. By using technology throughout all stages of the exhibition’s life cycle, you can attract and promote to a targeted audience. During the show, you can use tools that are available to you to simplify processes and to communicate quickly.
Check out our final installment on the exhibition life cycle, featuring recurring retention of exhibitors!