The market for enterprise lead retrieval applications—those offered by third-party vendors independent from trade show registration companies—has begun to expand. Because there are so many options, it’s become more difficult for exhibitors to select a solution. Here are some features to look for when choosing a lead retrieval platform.
Lead collection across multiple platforms (devices). The best-in-class lead retrieval solutions will work on and with multiple devices and operating systems including tablets (iPad, Android), notebook computers (Microsoft Windows and Apple OS) and handheld scanning devices.
Customizable surveys with branching logic. Modern lead retrieval surveys can be tailored to the specific needs of the company. The most sophisticated systems not only guide users through a series of questions, they also employ branching logic so that the questions in the series change based on the users’ previous answers. They are also designed to accommodate the most widely used response types: text, single select, multiple select and lookups.
Cloud data storage. The days of storing contacts and data on the collection device are long gone. Today’s systems can upload data immediately or on demand to a remote server multiplying the number of ways the data can be displayed and analyzed.
Functionality with or without Internet Wi-Fi access. Internet access in convention centers can be expensive and intermittent for exhibitors. Many new lead retrieval solutions can function with or without Internet access; however, the most advanced systems will auto-update as soon as a hotspot is detected removing the need for an additional step to activate the data download or upload.
Support 1D, 2D, magstripe, QR code and RFID badges. The time expended in getting badge data into the lead retrieval device has been reduced to seconds. Although some solutions require exhibitor staff to hand-key the attendee data into the device, others use a handheld scanner connected to the device to scan 1D, 2D, or QR Codes or rely on RFID readers. Credit card-type swiping scanners are used for magstripe badges. In the newest configurations, the scanner and device communicate wirelessly without an Internet or hardwired connection.
Use on personal devices. The need to rent devices on which to deploy lead retrieval systems is optional. With several companies offering lead retrieval iPad platforms, the apps are free and can be downloaded on any compatible device whether it is rented or owned by the individual or company.
Data visualization tools. Data collection functionality is only one part of the lead retrieval solutions offered currently. The ability to import the information into multiple reports automatically in order to perform detailed analyses of buyer prospects and the quality of the reports (an excel spread sheet vs. an analytics dashboard) are key differentiators among solutions.
Lead scoring. Some systems take users beyond the collection of data and into the qualification of leads. Lead scoring tools available through lead retrieval applications help companies identify prospects who are ready to buy.
The advantages of pursuing an enterprise lead retrieval system are obvious: one solution can be utilized across multiple events and exhibitors have complete control over their own data. Today, the options and opportunities for exhibitors are virtually unlimited.
With so much event technology to choose from, it’s difficult (even for the experts) to predict which products, apps and approaches will gain the most traction with exhibition organizers, corporate meeting planners and exhibitors. There are; however, some trends to pay attention to:
Organizers and exhibitors will continue to integrate tablets into the marketing, sales, and operations workflows of their events. As a result, more applications will become available for the popular device. Although the Apple iPad (with its iOS operating system) is the most widely used, other devices using the Android operating system will begin to make headway and capture market share.
“Data” and “analytics” will be the watchwords of 2012 as platform developers further refine the concept of intelligent events—a holistic approach to analyzing all of the data from surveys, mobile event guides, social media, attendee behavior (RFID), and registration to understand the interests and preferences of attendees.
Smartphones will become even more integral to the attendee experience in the next year as adoption in the event environment increases and developers refine their offerings. Applications, data, and capabilities formerly offered by multiple (non-mobile) vendors will be available on mobile phones. The number of location-aware mobile applications will also increase in the next year.
Visual Reporting & Analytics
Intelligent reports—data extracted from multiple sources during the course of the event—will become more visual and more available in real time so that planners can make changes to the event as it unfolds. Post-conference planning will become easier in the next twelve months with standardized decision-making tools.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID will become even more affordable in the coming year as prices continue to drop and entry-level offerings such as Tap ‘N Go become more widely available. The increased adoption of RFID technology (particularly in the corporate meeting setting), driven by the need to understand attendee interests and likelihood to purchase, will drive costs down across the board in b-to-b exhibitions, conferences, and meetings.
Conversations about the Internet connections—cost and availability—inside convention centers will continue to heat up as demand for the services increases and prices have failed to drop. . Third-party vendors offering 4G cellular connectivity to individual exhibitors and organizers will expand the range of options for event planners and participants when facility services are too expensive.
As the nation and the meetings industry emerge from the economic downturn, the innovation of the last three years will come to fruition. The tech trends to watch in 2012 are those that have been in the early adoption stages for some time and are now ready for widespread use driving the costs for planners down and the value and utility for exhibitors and attendees up.
The tradeshow industry has been a notorious creator of paper waste. The left over paper brochures, show dailies, and trade publications strewn across the floor after a show tell the story of environmental disregard. Fortunately, event organizers are in an increasingly strong position to adopt technologies and vendors that replace paper with digital text, video, and images. Here are a few strategies for reducing paper and meeting an organizer’s green objectives.
Using Smartphone apps to replace or at least diminish the number of printed show directories and conference agendas. It would be difficult to eliminate all printed directories at first—some attendees still prefer print—however, in the not-too-distant future, mobile devices will be increasingly used to take the place of printed booklets.
Offering Session Surveys for conference sessions. The phrase, “please pass your surveys to the aisle so we can collect and tabulate the results,” is nearly a thing of the past. Free apps for Smartphones and tablets make voting and Q & A sessions incredibly easy and green. Making presenters aware of the apps and how to use them helps reduce paper waste.
Using Tradeshow surveys for attendee feedback. In the past, on-site surveys were performed using paper and clipboards. Not any more. Today, survey takers roam the trade show floor with iPads or other tablet devices and record responses with a pad and finger instead of paper and pen.
Offering QR codes for maps and session info. As Quick Response (QR) codes become more popular inside the trade show booth, event organizers can make use of them outside the booth. In locations where it doesn’t make sense to place an expensive kiosk, a QR code can be a paperless way to deliver floor plans, session descriptions and speaker bios.
Making Digital tote bags for e-brochures available to exhibitors and attendees. Some new technology for trade shows streamlines the delivery of electronic exhibitor brochures to attendees. By making the technology available, exhibitors will be encouraged to forgo printing paper handouts.
Selecting show dailies that utilize digital formats. Outside the industry, magazines are making a big push toward content that can be read on iPads, Kindles or other mobile devices. Taking paper out of the equation may lower the cost of the publications as well as decrease the flow of paper waste through the event.
Reducing environmental impact is at the top of the list of objectives for more and more event organizers. Looking closely at how vendors and products address the “green” issue will help bring planners closer to their goals.
The overall cost of using radio frequency identification (RFID) to monitor conference session attendance and attendee interests continues to decrease, pushing the ROI of RFID even higher. Two options—Tap-N-Go and Enterprise RFID (overhead readers)—offer event organizers the flexibility to select a solution that fits the event requirements and budget. Understanding which alternative is the most appropriate is the first step toward getting the best return on investment.
The Tap-N-Go system requires attendees to tap their badges (containing an embedded RFID tag) on a stand-alone reader that registers attendance for a conference session or special event. Tap-N-Go eliminates the need for room monitors or session proctors. It is a simple and inexpensive way to verify attendance for continuing education credits.
When to use Tap-N-Go:
- On a tight Budget—Tap-N-Go is less expensive than the enterprise solution
- Tracking Continuing Education Credits may be a requirement
- Access control is optional
- Real-time reporting (vs. post-session reporting and analytics) isn’t critical
- Direct engagement with a sponsor’s brand (logo and messaging on Tap-N-Go kiosk) is of interest
RFID readers are mounted above the entrance to a conference session room to collect attendance data that is transmitted by attendee badges when visitors enter. Attendees are not required to interact with equipment or individuals, yet session attendance and the amount of time attendees remain in the room is recorded. Data is displayed in reports and dashboards for near real-time or post-event analysis.
When to use Enterprise RFID:
- Event manager wants a non-intrusive solution that requires no action on the attendees part
- Tracking large entrances such as an exhibit hall entrance
- Attendee duration in the room is of interest
- Budget permits a more comprehensive attendance tracking solution
- Near real-time reporting is important to the event manager
- Volume of attendees is high
Successful conference organizers measure every aspect of their event including attendee interest. New RFID solutions make measurement less expensive and more functional.
Steve Jobs and Apple have had a profound impact on so many industries, including trade shows, conferences, and events. For example, the mobile event guide would not be popular today if Apple had not transformed the Smartphone industry. Lead Management and exhibit booth surveys are currently being revolutionized by the iPad.
And, could you imagine working on a computer today without a graphical user interface, mouse, or track pad? What about how we listen to and purchase music? Apple revolutionized these innovations.
Here are the top 7 things I have learned from Steve Jobs in my tribute to him:
1. Less is more.
- Steve worked relentlessly to create an intuitive user experience for the products Apple produced. Ease of use won out over everything else.
- Describing these products in as few words as possible to capture their essence was equally challenging. Steve was a marketing genius. Who could forget the first iPod product description? Instead of some technical description of all the features, it simply stated, “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
Simple is hard. Less is more.
2. Build Great Products that connect with people.
Never before has there been a company that has connected with users more on an emotional level than Apple. It is simply amazing. Steve did not believe in releasing a product before it was ready. Apple is one of the few companies focused on the long term. They strive to build the very best products in the industry.
Corporate America, in general, is focused on quarterly earnings. Getting a product to market is more important than getting it right. For Apple, it was just the opposite. I hope to bring this same sense of “lets build great products that inspire” to the event industry and Alliance Tech.
3. Be Passionate about your work.
Steve Jobs was often referred to as a perfectionist. He worked long hours and loved what he was doing. In his Stanford commencement speech (link below), he talks about finding your inner voice and listening to it. If you are not doing something you enjoy and are passionate about, consider changing professions. I love what I do here at Alliance Tech. I look forward to getting out of bed and getting to work every day.
4. Never fear failure.
Apple, the company he created, fired Steve Jobs in the 1990s. It was one of the most public embarrassments in business at the time. Yet, he didn’t sit on the sidelines. He did not retire or become a venture capitalist. He followed his passion. His following venture, Next, was far from a hit or success either. He quickly burned through the fortune he earned at Apple and in a last effort to save Next he converted the company into a software business that Apple later purchased back. Eventually he was appointed interim CEO and created the “Think Different” campaign we are all familiar with today. Steve never feared failure. He had the courage to follow his heart and the wisdom to learn from his past.
5. Brand is everything.
Steve Jobs recognized early on the importance of brand. He created a marketing agency whose sole client would be Apple. His products and innovations would ultimately define Apple’s image. Apple re-thought the entire supply chain dynamics when Steve opened its first Apple Store. Today, Apple’s brand is one of the most respected in the world. Great products + great marketing = great brand.
6. Surround yourself with great talent.
Steve didn’t build all those great products by himself. He surrounded himself with a great team. A recruiter once told me that you will pay more for great talent, however, they can be 2-3 times more productive than a B or C employee. Get rid of poor performers as quickly as possible. Don’t kid yourself into thinking “someone is better than no one.” Great talent can do amazing things for your organization.
7. Stay hungry… Stay foolish.
Another quote from Steve’s Stanford commencement address. I don’t think this one needs explanation.
Below are a few links that capture the essence of the inspiration he brought to the world:
Steve Jobs “Think Different” Ad
Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement address
Join me at IAEE’s Expo! Expo! on Thursday, December 8, 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. for “Using New Tech Tools to Organize “Intelligent” Events.
Deploying a mobile app before, during, and after a trade show and conference has one obvious benefit—the cost and environmental savings from replacing some or all of the printed show directories. However, that isn’t the only reason for event producers to consider a mobile app. If building an intelligent event—one that yields relevant, immediate, and accurate information—is one of the organization’s goals, mobile apps are a critical part of that strategy.
Getting session & speaker evaluations back ASAP
Using a mobile app to deliver electronic session and speaker evaluations has some significant advantages. (1) Results are obtained in real time, which improves the organizer’s ability to evaluate content just after it is offered. Paper evaluations—basic handouts or Scantron forms—are not environmentally friendly and require more labor to distribute, collect, and summarize. A mobile app can collect feedback and tabulate the results instantly. (2) Speakers can learn how attendees received the content shortly after presenting it as opposed to weeks after the event ends. (3) Evaluation results from all of the sessions can be combined at the end of the conference and presented in a digital dashboard to make analysis of the event easier.
Helping speakers interact with the audience
Other than a “show of hands,” conference speakers have few ways to gauge an audience’s interest and opinions on the fly other than audience polling. Using mobile apps to carry out this mission helps speakers understand what attendees are most interested in. This way, the presenter can tailor his presentation to the attendees in the room. Using mobile devices for polling and Twitter for backchannel conversations gives speakers a chance to engage more fully with attendees and offers participants a valuable opportunity to connect with one another.
Getting a daily gut check from attendees
Using Smart devices to survey attendees once per day on show content and their experiences promotes engagement. By sending out a “Daily Poll” such as “how would you rate last night’s gala” or “have you found the show services to be satisfactory,” event producers can obtain instant feedback that can be acted upon right away or analyzed at a later time along with the information from more detailed post-event surveys.
Deploying overall trade show surveys more efficiently
Most surveys are delivered via email days after the event is concluded. One way to boost response rates is to use the same mobile app that attendees have engaged with during the event to deliver the overall show survey in the final hours of the show. Doing so gives the survey more visibility. Rather than sending an email that becomes buried in a sea of other correspondence after the show, a mobile survey can be taken at the show, in the airport, in a taxi on the way home, or anytime it is convenient for attendees.
If speed, accuracy, analytics, and simplicity mean anything to trade show and conference organizers, they will look further than the more obvious benefits of mobile apps. This is only the beginning of a mobile revolution that smart devices, including (and especially) the iPad, have helped to launch. Mobile apps are one of the cornerstones of an intelligent event strategy.