At PCMA Convening Leaders ‘16 in Vancouver, Terence Donnelly from Experient and Jean Heis from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) teamed up to lead a session titled: Harnessing Event Intelligence to Enhance Participant ROI.
After hearing raves from participants, we wanted to circle back with Terence & Jean for a session debrief to learn more about what was discussed in this session.
Here are highlights from our conversation with Terence & Jean …
Participant Knowledge Levels
TD: Anticipating that we’d have a wide range of skill levels, we kicked off the session with a self-assessment based on one question: As far as data mastery, how would you rate yourself? Newbie, intermediate or advanced?
JH: The majority of participants rated themselves intermediate, which was great, because that allowed us to skip the basics and get to the more advanced strategies.
Beacons & Mobile Apps – Gen 1
TD: Many were already leveraging beacons to some degree, but they were encountering some challenges. With Gen 1 beacon strategy, beacons are placed at various points across the event venue—session rooms, pavilions or across a trade show floor. The beacons transmit one-way messages to the event app with identifiers and location. That data is then saved to the cloud, but for this to work, attendees not only need to download the app, they need to have it open and running, plus they need to have Bluetooth on. After jumping through all these hoops, data capture rarely exceeds 10%, which isn’t nearly enough to predict future behaviors and create more personalized experiences.
JH: There were lots of heads nodding as Terence walked them through the Gen 1 beacon process. A few people were using RFID for data capture, but they had problems with signal interference, plus it’s costly. The price tag for putting RFID trusses up across a venue is very high—it’s similar to the technology you might see with E-ZPass on turnpikes. RFID also requires lots of power, which adds more costs.
TD: Another challenge that came up around RFID was attendee opt-in. One planner invested big time in RFID, but opt-in was low. Without clear attendee value, attendee opt-in was going to be an issue which we planned to tackle, but first, we wanted to explore Gen 2 beacon strategies for a better side-by-side comparison.
Gen 2 Breakthrough: Wearables as the Beacon
TD: Most industry experts predict a surge in wearables for 2016. Still, 100% attendee-supplied wearables won’t be happening anytime soon. That’s why the wearable has to be something that every attendee has, like a badge or badge-holder. Now, the beacon can be embedded in the badge and it’s about the size of a Scrabble tile. The wearable beacon sends continuous signals to proprietary receivers, and every activity is sent to the cloud for analysis through a web interface. So now, rather than a small slice of data, conference and trade show organizers can collect 100% of behavioral data. That’s a huge breakthrough.
What about the opt-in concern raised earlier? What’s in it for the attendee?
JH: This was interesting, because the person who was experiencing opt-in challenges with RFID was collecting data for their own use. There were no benefits for the attendees, which explains why some attendees weren’t opting in.
TD: But imagine if you could provide every single attendee the ability to look back and see everything they did while they were at the event? Every session they attended, every exhibitor they visited, and every person they had conversations with. That changes everything and it’s a huge help for attendees who need to justify their attendance. Having a detailed report on all activity at the conference or trade show will also help win approval to come back next year and bring a few co-workers, too.
JH: Previously, I worked at a dental association and we’d work hard to help doctors grasp the value of our conference. They’re booked solid and time out of the office is lost billable time. To have something like this, where doctors could see everything they’re doing, everything they’re learning, everyone they’re meeting—that’s information they would appreciate and it’s never been possible until now.
TD: More and more, we’re noticing that networking is overtaking education as far as the top reason why people attend events. With digital, we have greater access to information and training, but relationship nurturing and networking? That’s a face-to-face sport.
With Gen 2 real-time capture and access, attendees who download the app can also see what’s happening as the event unfolds. They can catch up with people they wanted to meet, discover what’s trending and get a fast gauge on nearly everything that’s going on at any given point.
Gen 2 Value for Exhibitors & Sponsors
JH: Gen 2 beacons help to enhance the event value proposition for exhibitors. Now they can see every single person who visited their booth and how long they stayed. They’ll know who lingered at the booth but didn’t get scanned and also, who was nearby but never visited. This data also helps to improve lead follow up. Sales managers appreciate it, because now they’ll have actual behavioral insights to coach booth staff performance.
TD: For years, it’s been a struggle for event organizers to measure and prove event ROI, especially to exhibitors. Now exhibitors can measure ROI more accurately, plus they’ll have more insight to guide future investment decisions. Having deeper insight on the full scope of attendee behaviors is valued highly by exhibitors and many are willing to pay money for that.
Gen 2 Value for Conference & Show Organizers
JH: With so much attention on experiential design, it’s critical that event organizers understand which event elements matter most, so they can create more of them. Gen 2 beacon strategies are finally the vehicle to measure the impact of experience design.
For event marketers, Gen 2 accelerates and improves personalization. By combining digital, registration, survey and behavioral data, event marketers can do this faster and better.
And there are financial benefits. Food & Beverage is often the highest event expense category. With real-time data on behaviors, event planners can make adjustments for the following day. Membership is another area ripe for financial gains with opportunities to increase membership value through more personalized experiences year-round.
TD: With 100% attendee behavioral insight, event organizers can increase pricing for popular, high activity hubs throughout the venue. We’re seeing many show organizers move to tiered booth pricing based on attendee activity. More comprehensive and accurate heat mapping of the show floor can easily be done. Let’s say there’s an anchor exhibitor that’s hosting in-booth education. You can now show them how traffic shifted when they held these sessions.
Traffic + Duration = a direct Propensity to Consume. You can conduct traffic analysis and know that people are in certain places, but knowing their propensity to purchase and consume content and products is much more valuable. Gen 2 beacon strategies enable that and so much more.
JH: Lastly, there’s no more making strategy decisions based on subjective data and gut hunches. Now, executives can make decisions confidently, based on factual, predictive analytics. They can consider expanding the show, co-locating, or spinning off new events based on actual attendee behaviors and interests.
Are you interested in learning more about how Experient is leveraging Gen 2 beacon technology to help conference and trade show organizers achieve full capture of all attendee behaviors at their event?
Watch the video interview with Terence Donnelly at PCMA Convening Leaders 2016, or for questions, schedule a call with one of our specialists.