Monitoring and Tracking Attendees: New Methods
It is easy to think that once event attendees are through the doors and checked-in, they are out of sight and out of mind, right? Well, we know this isn’t true just as much as you do. As an event planner, we want to know more about where they go, their habits and preferences. We need a way to quantify the value of a certain speaker, and we want to know what booths they stopped at on their way there. Where did they go first? What vendors drew the most attention? These are just some of the questions that we’re hoping to answer based on massive amounts of data that was collected during the event. We can start counting our lucky stars as these questions are getting all-the-easier to answer with several new methods that help in monitoring and tracking our attendees.
Event technology is evolving at an alarming rate, with new mobile apps, engagement technology, and measurement technologies are becoming more and more effective and efficient at collecting data. However, one of the most challenging aspects of an event is to track and understand these attendee behaviors. This information is vital to providing an accurate ROI of the event for event professionals to report to clients.
Removing Prior Limitations
The most popular way to track attendees in the past was through mobile event apps that required the attendee to download an app and, more than likely, they also had to turn on their Bluetooth to participate/contribute data. While the data collected was of significant value, the mobile apps and Bluetooth tracking methods had an extreme limitation: it required the attendee to willingly download the app and turn their Bluetooth on. Attendees had to put forth an effort to be tracked.
While the data gathered from an attendees’ location is valuable, the value was only for the event planners. What is in it for the attendee? Thus making it rather difficult to get attendees to willingly participate. Requiring attendees to opt-in for tracking purposes is difficult and leads to unreliable data and results. The results would only reflect the “hyper-engaged” attendee and not the average attendee.
Sophisticated Attendee Tracking Methods
New, sophisticated attendee tracking methods are involving little-to-no attendee effort and produce highly meaningful data. Many different event technology systems have succeeded in minimizing or eliminating attendee effort through different methods. Using Bluetooth, RFID, and Wi-Fi systems, attendee tracking systems having become more invisible to the attendee and more sophisticated in the data and results gathered.
Attendee tracking can be done in a way that is not deemed intrusive. The efforts of the attendees can be refocused on social media involvement and interactions. We’re not asking any favors; they are provided the experience that they choose to create (and one that we can evaluate to improve upon in the future). A range of technologies has been developed for event professionals to more accurately report on their attendees and give a more meaningful and accurate ROI for the event.
New Attendee Tracking Methods
The newer methods require an investment into the technology (as with any new tech), but could prove highly useful to both venue management and event professionals. Event professionals no longer have to rely on any attendee effort to share their location and attendance data. As previously mentioned, one of the most important metrics considered following an event is the ROI- shareholders, investors, vendors, and much more require this information post-event. Reliable attendee data is data that understands your attendees and how they navigate through the event or experience. Using this data and understanding, it better allows professionals to alter previous events to better align with attendee behavior trends.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City has been going through a string of customer-focused initiatives. The Center recently added a security camera system throughout the facility. Although the primary purpose of the cameras was focused on the security aspect, they didn’t underestimate the potential that this system could have in other facets of the operations. The team at the Javits Convention Center saw the additional value that the cameras could have to their clients.
Using the cameras, the Center allows exhibitors to monitor the traffic near and in their booth. The palm-sized cameras can be purchased by customers to be installed in their booth for the duration of the event. Javits staff installs and manages the high-definition cameras. The Javits Convention Center is the first convention center in America to provide the video service. Pricing starts at $325 and includes wireless viewing for four days, two weeks of cloud storage, mobile setup, and one high-speed wireless connection for a device on the center’s Wi-Fi system. The video can also be downloaded for future use (presumably a more comprehensive analysis).
Exhibitors who choose to purchase the camera tracking service are provided with an aerial live stream of their booth. The cameras help people reflect on the busy times at their booth and see how customers reacted and moved around the booth. The cameras can be used to monitor how many attendees didn’t receive service as a result of high volume in the booth, etc. The information collected from the cameras include the volume and timing of registration, exhibit design and staff evaluation, engagement levels, brand exposure, and service areas.
Alan Steel of NYCCOC said “This innovation will allow customers to do more in less time. With this new camera system, customers can demonstrate their products and services while evaluating the impact of their work at the same time.” The video is even available in a live stream so that customers can make critical adjustments in real time while also being able to increase their presence on the show floor. The Javits Center gives their customers a unique analytic perspective, unlike anything before it.
Bluetooth, RFID tags, and Beacons
Bluetooth and RFID tags with beacon technology are not necessarily new. However, there have been innovations and additions to the existing technology that make the systems even more efficient and effective. Most existing Bluetooth and beacon systems require attendee effort and though these systems originally seemed like a great idea, getting attendees to willingly share their every step with you is a formidable challenge.
New systems have been developed that embed Bluetooth chips into an attendee’s badge, wristband, or lanyard. Beacons and Bluetooth receptors are placed around the facility and ping the Bluetooth chip in the badge piece. Each chip is tied to a specific attendee and transmits information on their behalf without the attendee having to put forth any effort. Using this method, you gain the most insight on attendees, giving you the most reliable and accurate data.
There are also systems that use this technology and have an app for the attendees who want to engage and monitor their own data. Companies, such as Eventbit, place Bluetooth transmitters in badges and pair it with a mobile event app that can also work as a lead retrieval system as attendee’s network with others. Regardless of the attendee’s engagement level, the system can still be passive and collect the vital information that event professionals need to improve future experiences, make necessary alterations to the logistics of the event, and meet attendee demands.
The most anonymous way to collect attendee traffic pattern data is through the Wi-Fi infrastructure. Event professionals can monitor where people connect to the Wi-Fi from, where they go, how far they go, and any other data about where attendees are going when they attend an event. The Las Vegas Convention Center has been attempting this. If you visit the convention center, you will see signs posted around the facility that state “The Las Vegas Convention Center collects location information from mobile devices. If you prefer not to participate, please turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth function or power off.” The convention center analyzes the information and can use it in many ways, such as creating a real-time heat map of foot traffic throughout the facility. The wireless internet network receives information about the device, but there is no personally identifiable information connected unless an attendee decides to opt in to share more information.
One of the most convenient attendee tracking systems (for the attendee at least) is the use of counting mats. Counting mats are thin mats with sensors that record the pressure of footsteps that can be placed around the facility to track the foot traffic of attendees. This is done completely anonymously since footsteps are being counted. These mats are typically placed at the entrances of the facility and other locations that will attract high volumes of attendees, such as popular or new breakout sessions. The mats can connect and are monitored with software that shows real-time data, gives analysis tools and generates reports.
Tracking Attendees to Prove Value
Many companies avoided spending money on events because they just didn’t know what they were spending their money on or the marketing value that an event had for their business. With a change in this once held perception, the event industry is taking an attendee-focused, data-driven approach to their operations.
Monitoring foot traffic and attendee behaviors is vital to the success of any event or event business. Choose an attendee tracking or foot traffic monitoring system that fits with the engagement level of your event’s demographic for the most effective outcome. For example, if your attendee demographic are connected and tech savvy individuals, then it may be a good choice to choose a RFID or Bluetooth system that works with an app and also benefits the attendee. Without the capability to report on the traffic levels, attendee engagement, and overall effectiveness of an event, events, and event-related businesses would struggle. Tracking attendees and monitoring the traffic patterns gives priceless information about the engagement levels and ROI of an event that otherwise would be difficult to capture.