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What event organizers should know about the future tradeshow.
Anyone working in a fast-paced industry right now is aware of industry disruptors and the need to understand how to adjust and adapt. The internet of things (IoT) is undoubtedly one such disruptor. It’s already affecting our homes, our cars and our workplaces but in a business sense, many are struggling to develop a foothold and clear strategy on how and, more importantly, on why to use it.
There are a few reasons for this:
With that in mind, we wanted to dip into how the events and tradeshow industry, one that is continually evolving by its very nature, could use IoT right now and what it might look like in the future through five key battlegrounds.
If you’ve ever been to an air show event like the ones held annually or biannually in Paris, the Middle East and the UK, you’ll know that a lot of it is held outside!
These sites are huge, usually so they can chuck a few Boeings or Airbuses out into the forecourt, have them fly into the air and still have enough space for private pavilions, media rooms and more.
So naturally, within this scenario, travel and logistics can be hard work. You have to navigate thousands of visitors around the grounds, keep them safe and also ensure a good experience, one where you aren’t waiting 40 minutes for a bus!
And here’s where the robots come in.
Sensor-driven community and robotic navigators and welcome “staff” will become big areas for the future of the connected event space, helping visitors to navigate the area and get to where they need to be faster, as well as to reduce staff costs.
If you think of an event as a mini smart city, you can see the appeal of sensor-driven autonomous cars and computing systems. New transit concepts are coming into play all over our cities, such as high speed rail lines and modernized trams, yet an event setup is temporary. The space used for an event once or twice a year often can’t afford (and doesn’t really require) a huge transport infrastructure. It simply needs one that can be adapted during those key show hours.
Autonomous cars and robot event staff fulfill that exact need. Could they be implemented now? Probably not. Driverless cars are still under scrutiny; due to the pressure of events (which can’t be done twice if something goes wrong), autonomy in vehicles and staff almost needs a stronger foothold before it can be seen as truly feasible.
Organizers of events and tradeshows are under a huge amount of pressure to adapt and grow the event each year. They have to find more event delegates, more event exhibitors, more space, better speakers, better sessions.
What drives this? Often it’s statistics from the previous show year—numbers that show who attended and what the return was for exhibitors.
Unfortunately, these numbers (through no fault of the organizer) are often vague and based on qualitative data.
Luckily, it won’t have to be that way for much longer. One thing that IoT-enabled events guarantee is more analytics and better data.
Right now, scanning of badges usually clocks who enters. Available now are smart sensors which track footfall.
Connecting with the delegate’s smartphone will allow organizers to track their exact journey around the hall; apps along these lines are already launched and awaiting uptake. Being able to monitor how many people attended a session and how long they stayed will make a huge difference to event stats and return on interest.
These IoT-enabled devices will see the busiest positions in the hall and the most effective speaker sessions.
With so much big data on offer, it won’t be that difficult to pinpoint what works and grow it year-on-year.
If we were to advise organizers one place to start in the connected event space, looking into how analytics and big data from the show floor can be harnessed better would be it.
The event setup is temporary, yet the way the event runs is often fixed. Because so much meticulous planning, expense and building goes into creating the perfect event environment, once live, there is little room for maneuver.
For example, if on day one of your event you realize that the speaker can’t be heard in hall one, what do you do? You could turn his or her mic up and hope for the best.
In an IoT-led connected event space, you would have a ton more options.
Firstly, the event space would notice the problem and adapt itself. Monitoring tweets sent by users, it would realize that the people at the back couldn’t hear. Next, it might turn up the mic, turn down the background noise, close any windows or doors, increase the lighting and even limit the number of people entering the room.
If the issue couldn’t be fixed, the devices could “talk” to other rooms and theaters and find one that is free, automatically rescheduling the rest of the sessions and sending out an email or push notification to attendees letting them know where the new location would be.
When the systems and setup of the physical space are built “smart,” all of this could be achieved without a person having to intervene; it would readily adapt to any last-minute problems.
The same applies for light, sound, heating, refreshment refills, badge entry, queue minimization and smarter traveling.
Digital screens placed around the venue itself could manage meeting rooms and speaker sessions, allowing the venue to adapt dynamically to time, day and footfall.
This is already available now with digital signage systems like ScreenCloud managed from the Cloud, allowing organizers to change content from anywhere, at any time.
Visitors are active consumers and chances are, they’ll be expecting IoT-enabled connected events quicker than organizers can facilitate them.
As we discussed previously, smartphones will play a huge part in this as they become the driver of personalized, targeted experiences.
Samsung Electronics has announced that by 2020, all of its products, from smartphones to refrigerators, will be internet connected. This will affect the visitor’s home, workplace and in turn, what they expect from the events they pay to visit.
Another study showed that 80% of people are interested in connected thermostats, 79% in smart meters, 78% in connected lighting and 78% in connected cars. These are high figures for an audience that clearly isn’t afraid of what an internet-enabled world may have to offer.
If events are to keep up, they will need to be first in line to adapt to this rising visitor adoption and demand. With the amount of success seen at worldwide shows such as CES, Mobile World Congress and IoT Expos themselves, where IoT is not just enabled but also a key theme of the show, the pressure will be on.
One of the things we love most about IoT is that its very design is to make the lives of the customers easier, better and more targeted.
Within event spaces and any business targeted at face-to-face interaction or live engagement, creating the best possible experience is key.
The connected event space of the future is where internet-enabled devices are used to target audiences on a micro level. Rather than one show, that everyone attends, it will create thousands of mini shows that are tailored to each individual audience member.
Some of the ways these could be created both now and in the future are:
The future winners of IoT at tradeshows are the technologies that address specific visitor, organizer and exhibitor needs and invest in making a difference to their experience. It’s likely that in another 4-5 years, the market will be crowded with solutions and event organizers will be under pressure to adopt, adopt, adopt, making room for technology for technology’s sake.
Events that truly want to differentiate themselves and be seen as adopters should look at what they can do now: making small steps towards a connected event space that will safeguard them for an easier, better, more fun and successful future.
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