Is our love affair with technology destroying the visitor experience?

IMG_2921As event organisers, the advent of computer technology has transformed every area of our business.

It’s difficult to explain to anyone with less than ten years’ experience just how laborious the job of registering and managing visitors and delegates used to be. Telephones would ring off the hook as we tried to manage enquiries, bookings, cancellations and name changes.  Registrations came via post and fax and had to be entered into a database if you were lucky (though I do remember some organisations that used to keep carefully typed files) and managed on a day to day basis.  It was unusual if, by the end of your event, you couldn’t name at least 75% of your audience individually.

Websites, automated registration processes, apps, onsite wifi and linked communications make all of these processes obsolete.  And frankly good riddance. (Not least because any spelling mistakes on entry badges are the registrant’s own!) It is so much quicker to find and amend individual records, to send appropriate messaging and to link suppliers to relevant delegates. Exemplary customer service is so much easier when every bit of information is at your fingertips.

Like spectacles for the myopic, technology provides a clear and uninterrupted view.  So now we are on the lookout for other areas to fix. The only problem is that we aren’t researching first if this is what our audiences really want.

Sure, we need to ensure that we give potential visitors, particularly in the B2B exhibition and conference arenas, reasons to attend.  But broad brush, generalised emails and e-newsletters aren’t necessarily the best way to do this. Simply broadcasting constant bland content is unlikely to push visitor numbers up.  Clever use of database information and pre-defined customer journeys will generate far more response. Less is definitely more providing what you are serving is of the highest quality.

At the event itself, there is little point in creating online directories and apps if the visitor cannot find them on your website while standing in the foyer to the exhibit hall.  Or, for that matter, if it requires a registration to the venue wifi or the download of a piece of software incompatible with mobile devices.  By doing this you are already making key information inaccessible  to a proportion of your audience – and that is inexcusable.  Or, you could have the experience I had last week where I couldn’t download the exhibitor list for an event, so I was consulting one of only two you are here boards to try and find the exhibitors I wanted, but I was still thwarted because the stand numbers were printed so small and so high up that I couldn’t actually see them.  This lack of attention to detail is just plain shoddy.

Interruption by technology can be very positive, but why, when we have actually got the visitor in the room do we feel the need to nag them constantly. Some events are worse than going shopping with a toddler.  Every five minutes or less a text or email or notification pops through on a smart phone.  Each one taking the focus away from what you want your delegate to remember from the day. There was a reason why event organisers stopped excessive use of the tannoy system at events… and the same needs to be applied to delegate ‘engagement’ via electronic means… because after a while no one listens any more.

Technology has been revolutionary in event production, management, marketing and operational terms, but that doesn’t mean that it should be used any and everywhere it can be deployed.

 

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Exhibition industry research 2015

Capture2Registration specialists have access to a great deal of data across many events and markets. To illustrate just how useful analysing this data can be, today’s guest post comes from Bart van Bijnen at N200. Over the last two years, they have worked on various research projects, including one in 2014 where they looked at over 500,000 registrations and 320,000 visitors across 46 trade shows to bring the key facts on B2B visitors in The Netherlands.

Here are the top 10 facts that were found in their analysis:

  1. 91% of visitors register online
  2. Average age of visitors is 42, mainly generation X
  3. Over 28% of visitors are from outside The Netherlands
  4. Three out of five registrations turn up!
  5. More visitors are male (82%), though they both convert to attend in roughly the same percentage (60.4% male, 61.2% female)
  6. You have a higher attendance, if a visitor has been recommended your show by colleagues, exhibitors or the trade press
  7. 78.5% of visitors register less than one month before the day of opening
  8. The younger the attendees – the more likely they are to register via social media
  9. You have very loyal visitors, with over 55% of them attending previous events
  10. You have a higher attendance if your delegates register via social media (69.8%)

In addition, N200 conducted some B2B Exhibition Visitor Profiling in partnership with FaceTime in 2013.  This time it was to look at the profile of the average visitor to UK B2B exhibitions. N200 looked at over 250,000 attendees of B2B exhibitions in the UK across more than 30 shows throughout 2012/2013.

The headline Capture3findings included:

  • In the UK 10.1% of professionals are in board level positions*, at B2B exhibitions 23% of visitors hold this position. More than double the UK average.
  • 20% of visitors to B2B exhibitions come from big businesses employing more than 100 employees. This compares against an average of 1.4% of UK business matching this profile.
  • At B2B exhibitions 27% of board level visitors are women, way over the FTSE and UK average regarding board representation.
  • On average 29% of UK businesses achieve a turnover of £250,000*. At B2B exhibitions 48% of visitors represent these types of companies.
  • Foreign visitors account for 18.6% of all visitors meaning exhibitors can have a home-based route to international markets at UK B2B exhibitions.

If you would like a copy of the full research on either of these two projects, please contact N200.

 

 

The future delegate

Perhaps not embedded microchips, but who knows, wearable technology is becoming more and more commonplace…

9718595843_5bb246913a_bInspired by a tech article on the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3307471.stm), it got me thinking about our event tech future.

Forget badges.

Forget iBeacons.

Forget anything you thought was a great way of tracking your visitors around the event.

Why?

Because you can now offer your delegates implants (in the form of a microchip) so you can see where they go and what they do at your event.

Microchips have been around for a long time already and you’d be surprised by how many people already use them. To give you an idea; I  know that my cat feels safe when she comes flying through her cat flap and the neighbour’s cat gets stuck at the door…

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