Sometimes tradeshows can feel like the oldest marketing method in the book. You spend a ton of money on a temporary space, turn up for a few hours, pitch randomly to those walking by and then go home hoping you’ve made enough leads to cover the outlay.
Of course, there often is more strategy behind it than that and tradeshow organizers do a great job of ensuring the success of exhibitors, but how well do we really use the space and opportunity available?
Enter the connected tradeshow space.
Just like offices, schools and healthcare facilities, we see IoT and smart technologies entering the events industry in order to join up all of the dots more easily. From making tradeshow navigation easier, to improving efficiency of the temporary environment and making the journey from booth, to breakout, to seminar more effective, fluid and impressive.
Here’s where we see the connected tradeshow space and smart booths heading.
Tradeshow visitors and the connected space
Here’s the big benefit at tradeshows, each person entering the event already has an IoT-enabled device in their pocket; their smartphone. This can be utilized as a sophisticated system of sensors and reactors to create interactions with the connected tradeshow space.
The visitor’s smartphone can track their entry to the show, removing those annoying barcode scanner and QR systems. This reduces hundreds (sometimes thousands) of registration and entry staff whose sole purpose is ticket scanning. Visitors can use their smartphone as their digital pass to the show, to sessions and even to buy food or order coffee.
For organizers, questions such as ‘how many attendees RSVP’d?’, ‘how many attended?’ and ‘which sessions did they go to?’ can all be answered by IoT smartphone tracking.
The smartphone then becomes the key to other experiences at the show. For VIPs, specific facilities or perks are unlocked.
Smart exhibitors can employ beacon-led offer codes, instructions and reminders from small sensors placed throughout the show that talk to the visitor’s smartphone.
From these interactions, event organizers receive a huge amount of data on the journey path of each visitor. Plug this in to analyze and it becomes easy to determine any bottlenecks, where visitors peeled off and lost engagement, plus the areas of high interest and footfall.
The smartphone can also be used as a simple and non-intrusive way of tracking body count. Rather than guesstimating figures of attendance at individual seminars or demonstrations, organizers can monitor real figures in seconds. This allows connected systems such as lighting, temperature and sound to adapt depending on how many people are in that room at that time. So your speaker talking to just six people can have his microphone turned down and simultaneously, the packed theatre session speaker can get her mic turned up.
The IoT-led “Smart Booth”
Exhibitors are always hungry for the ‘next big thing’ that will make their product or service stand out from within a sea of competitors.
First you have smart booths that are able to adapt to the conditions around them. Rather than being a static setup that lasts for the entirety of the show, smart booths use IoT-led devices to make their areas more appealing and adaptive, as the event is happening. For example, heating sensors that keep temperatures regulated or lighting that monitors circadian rhythms and adapts accordingly.
With meeting spaces, digital signage can be used to monitor when the space is occupied and if required, to redirect guests to the areas that aren’t.
Digital screens used throughout the tradeshow booth can be used to tell a different story at each part of the day. Sensors that note how many smartphones are in close proximity could help determine how many eyeballs were on the screen at any one time, leading to improved content creation.
When it comes to making conversation (something exhibitors and delegates can be notoriously bad at) smart booths and badges will help. Think of a badge (or smartphone app) that points out the right people to you and shows you who you should have conversations with based on mutual interests.
This also feeds into social media - an area most events are crazy keen to harness. Event delegates get to tweet a part of the booth to release information or trigger some sort of experience. This raises the social engagement of the event, while simultaneously putting the delegate in charge of their own experience.
Connected event spaces and higher sustainability
Sustainability has always been a concern within the tradeshow industry. The pressure to create a space out of nothing, yet ensure it doesn’t have any effect on the community or environment is huge. Tradeshows that employ IoT will have a chance to deflect some of the issues.
Visitors can collect information more sustainably using their smartphone and bluetooth enabled technologies that allow them to digitally pick up content from individual information points.
IoT also gives exhibitors and organizers instant data on how many people walked through a booth, how many sat on a chair, touched a button and even what they ate or drank for lunch. This could reduce waste tenfold - if you know for a fact it isn’t being used, why have it there?
Connected event spaces and safety
One potential perk of the connected event space is increased safety. Following recent terrorist attacks in places of mass gatherings, tradeshows have had to tighten security. Facial recognition and smart locking systems and entry points could help track, measure and notify event personnel in the event of an unauthorised entry or object. Sensors can track foot count in specific areas and remotely account for safety by tracking of badges.
Digital signage displays, a network of screens often already in place which can reach all corners of an event that security and people sometimes can’t, can be programmed to switch to emergency notices and evacuation information. In the event of a fire, freak weather occurrence or terrorist attack this could help reassure, inform and lead thousands of event delegates by communicating to each screen, with the flick of a switch on a laptop or smartphone.
One of the worries with IoT in any use case is that there are currently few standards (or regulations) for what is needed to run an IoT device. This makes connecting up the different devices tricky and can be an area that’s full of uncertainty. However in a temporary setting such as an event this may not be as big a hindrance. So long as you have one smart system that’s synonymous across badges or smartphones as a central access point for visitors, connecting everything else becomes much more simple. We’re excited to see where event organizers take it.