The event industry contributes about $600 billion to the global GDP. It is an extremely large sector that encompasses many different sorts of events such as concerts, festivals, sports championships, congresses, and trade shows. Events happen in various types of locations: conference centers, exhibition centers, parks, stadiums, campuses, and even urban neighborhoods. Although those events differ by nature, they share a common ground. They are transient, going from a few hours to a few days and are mostly intended to provide either fun or content, and networking opportunities. While the event industry has experienced strong growth in recent years, most events still offer a poor digital experience when/if available. It has become commonplace to hear participants –whether they are attendees, exhibitors or contractors– complain about the digital tools they have at their disposal failing to provide a smooth event experience. This creates disappointment, tarnishes the image of the entire industry and ultimately results in a loss of revenue and opportunities for everyone.
This article offers a step-by-step overview organizers can follow to make a successful, smart event. From before the event even starts on through the post-event follow-up, there are key tools and processes which organizers should use to help sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees get the most value from their event experience.
The need for up-to-date digital tools starts far before the beginning of the event. A dedicated website is of course necessary but not enough. At this early stage, the website has to fulfill multiple needs, most of which are commercial. Indeed, organizers have to sell sponsorships and booth locations whether it is for exhibitors or suppliers (e.g. caterers). They need a lot of information to choose their location: rich indoor and outdoor maps including detailed insights with traffic rules, construction rules for booths, security policy, and of course numbers of the previous year’s attendance. Prior to the start of the event, it is considered good practice to release a dedicated mobile application. This app must provide useful services to both attendees and exhibitors weeks and days before the event. Among the expected key features, a complete list of conference sessions and exhibitor booth numbers, the ability to prepare one’s visit using an interactive map and the possibility to book meetings with exhibitors. Last but not least, a feature that allows people to connect and message each other is essential to keep the networking promise to the participants.
A mobile app is the most convenient way to provide contextual services during an event. There are many ways to take advantage of it: digital food vouchers and tickets, instant messaging systems to communicate with other attendees or exhibitors, rich indoor maps of the venue including surrounding streets, an efficient search engine to locate any resource including booths, restaurants and attendees’ profiles. Additionally, the mobile app can be used by exhibitors to read attendees’ badges and store data about their projects. Furthermore, an app is the only way to send notifications to all attendees, making it useful for different purposes ranging from meeting reminders to transient offers and coupons. Once you have created the event app, you should next think about physical signage and information points. For example, deploying digital kiosks at strategic crossing locations can provide information and directions, and can also help to remind visitors of the show’s opportunities using the digital display. Most kiosks provide interactive services such as a booth locator along with a full indoor map of the show. The combination of an engaging mobile app and digital kiosks paves the way for the end of printed documents such as maps and booth directories. This is a significant advantage at a time when the environmental footprint is a major concern.
After the event, it is necessary to provide the right tools to help attendees retrieve data about the people they met. This feature is of the utmost importance since most of the event value comes from the follow-ups. For B2B events, the best option would be to offer standardized ways to extract the data and help both attendees and exhibitors to import them into their CRM software.
Your event communications shouldn’t end once the event closes its doors on the last day. Organizers can use the mobile app and email to send follow-up communications to attendees. This could include requests for feedback, reminders to download data and contacts they stored within the app, and even offers to preregister for the next event. Sponsors and exhibitors might also want to send out special post-event offers such as free trials or demonstrations.
While an event might only last for a few days, smart event organizers are using digital technology to engage attendees before they arrive, and to ensure they extract information both during the event and after it ends.
Key points to remember
- Providing a good mobile app isn’t just an option anymore.
- Kiosks are an excellent complement to a mobile application.
- Indoor maps disclose the full event potential.
- Digital maps allow for the removal of printed documents.