Post authored by Brian Scott, Chief Information Officer
Trade shows are temporary deal-making ecosystems. Tens of thousands of buyers and sellers converge into a small and controlled space to discuss problems, solutions, aspirations, pricing, etc. For many, trade shows represent a year’s worth of critical deal-making conversations compressed into the span of a few days.
Once the show is over, the ecosystem is torn down to make way for the next one. Success rates are largely determined by human capabilities – namely, the maximum number of meaningful face-to-face exchanges each exhibitor and/or sponsor can have with qualified buyers.
Technology has been and will continue to be a deal-making enabler. Mobile apps help buyers find sellers more quickly. Lead retrieval allows for swifter contact info swaps, with digital notes to guide follow-up steps. Yet with trade shows serving as mega-business transaction hubs, there’s often that nagging feeling among attendees, exhibitors and sponsors that they missed a few critical connections and conversations… sometimes more than a few. Who didn’t I meet but should have?
The Holy Grail for savvy show organizers has been the promise of being able to understand the behaviors of all participants well enough to facilitate more and better business connections. Succeeding on that count would dramatically improve the trade show value proposition and justify all associated expenses.
In the early 2000’s, RFID was thought to be the answer to this challenge. With the promise of low cost tags, show organizers hoped that tracking systems could be deployed over enough show floor square footage to glean meaningful behavioral insight. Alas, the promise of RFID was never fully realized. Issues, such as the human body’s interference with signals and high deployment costs associated with RFID readers rendered this solution less effective.
But then along came Bluetooth, something that would change the trade show game forever.
The Evolution of Bluetooth Technology
Most people are aware of Bluetooth technology in the context of smart phone capabilities. This wireless protocol enables the use of wireless phone headsets, car-phone integrations, and wireless music streaming. In 2010, the Bluetooth standard was extended to include Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It’s virtually ubiquitous in all smart phones today, allowing the device to act as both BLE transmitter and BLE receiver.
Vendors cheered as this solved half their RFID challenges without the costly hardware deployment. Attendees’ personal devices could now be set to run software specific to the trade show and these devices would serve as transmitters of an attendee’s presence or readers of pre-positioned beacons within an event location. At last, show organizers could deploy a networked system that could more accurately gather information about actual behaviors on the show floor.
There are two approaches to consider when deploying BLE technology within a trade show or meeting environment:
- Deploy Stationary Transmitters or Beacons: Beacons would be placed at known locations throughout the facility or exhibit floor. Attendees would download and run the event’s mobile app and app would act as a receiver. Data on where and how long attendees would linger at a particular location would be generated and stored. The granularity of the data is highly dependent on the density of beacon deployment. But then, a new challenge emerged. This approach required getting the attendee’s cooperation to download the event mobile app, identifying themselves on the app, and running the app while they’re at the show. Further, if attendees chose to power down their device to preserve battery strength (as is often the case when people are away from home), data capture would be curtailed and data integrity would be compromised.
- Tag Each Attendee with a BLE beacon embedded within their badge: With this second option, a network of BLE readers could be deployed throughout the event facility to capture all attendee data. This method removes the attendee involvement step, enabling 100% involvement and in turn, richer data capture for all. This also opens up meaningful value-add offerings that show organizers could sell to exhibitors and sponsors.
eventBit: A Breakthrough That Delivers Priceless Trade Show Insight
Recognizing that option #2 was the far better path, Experient set out to solve the trade show data challenge once and for all by developing eventBit, which adds BLE reading capabilities within existing mobile app products. Given the existing high density of application use by exhibitors, with the addition of BLE reading capabilities via eventBit, Experient is able to help show organizers “light up” the entire show floor without additional hardware distribution. More importantly, with eventBit, 100% of attendee activity is tracked at a very low cost.
That means show organizations can now provide insight not only on booth visits, but on activity for all attendees across the entire event space.
But won’t this spark mild angst among casual trade show attendees?
What good can come from all this tracking? The same questions have been posed repeatedly in similar situations, such as Google’s tracking of location information through their MAPs program. Or Amazon’s tracking of buying behavior within their ecommerce portal. In both cases, consumers willingly relinquished their valuable behavioral data in exchange for measureable value in return.
With eventBit, attendees receive relevant and compelling recommendations on which exhibitors to visit, which education sessions to attend, and which other attendees they may be more interested in connecting with. They’ll also be able to instantly share this activity roll up with colleagues and leadership, once they return to the office.
As for exhibitors, they’ll be able to better qualify booth visitors based on their behaviors across the entire show. They’ve have richer insight on all traffic and behaviors than they’ve ever seen before. Show organizers will be able to leverage this richer behavioral insight to improve show floor design and traffic flow. They’ll have more comprehensive and credible data to charge more for booth space near high-activity hubs. They’ll also be able to provide more personalized information and experiences to attendees, to further differentiate their show in today’s competitive environment.
We’re living in a world where event experience palates are growing more sophisticated. Trade show participants have come to expect business interactions that are valuable and hyper-relevant – experiences they can’t easily find elsewhere. Make no mistake – we are the “show me you know me” generation and personalization has become the gold standard for assessing all business engagements.
The trade show industry is immersed in a disruptive revolution, yet technology will be the true differentiator. Those who deploy it wisely will seize significant rewards. Those who hesitate will struggle to survive. eventBit is the most expedient path to the winner’s circle, driving surges in business activity and customer loyalty for years to come.
Interested in learning more about how eventBit can deliver a vastly improved trade show experience? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.