Tech Trek: A Roadmap to What’s New and Better
By Renee DiIulio, senior editor
The latest developments in technology focus on integration, analytics and ease of use
Trade Show Executive
how organizers have many technology options today to manage more efficiently and to upgrade their shows in general. There are electronic methods and programs for registration, lead retrieval, show floor mapping and/or exhibit booth sales, sponsorship and advertising sales, budgeting, planning and scheduling, exhibitor ordering, education development and session planning, customer relationship management (CRM), attendee tracking, online networking and data management. However, most show organizers have a number of programs that were acquired as the need arose but now face challenges in getting those products to work together. As a result, integration has become a key driving trend for trade show technology. “Organizers want to improve efficiency. They want to consolidate their technology and have it do more. Yet they have invested significant dollars in some of these systems and are not ready to drop them, so they want to integrate,” says Anne Abbott, president of Tradeshow Multimedia, Inc. (EventReady/ TMI). Some of this integration is intended to improve functionality, particularly in the area of analytics. Organizers want to mine their data to develop targeted marketing campaigns, determine which of those campaigns is working and which is delivering the greatest ROI. Not surprisingly, with the event industry focusing on attracting qualified buyers and justifying event expenses for both attendees and exhibitors, CRM, ROI and tracking analytics are expanding. “Corporations are using CRM systems to track everything their customer is doing so they can create targeted and highly customized marketing campaigns,” said Doug Macdonald, managing director of eTouches for The Global Executive. He noted that there is a groundswell of event organizers who are also looking into CRM programs. ”It’s a challenge to get people to events these days. It helps to know what they are interested in and how can we get them out of the office for a few days to come to an event,” he said. As more feedback is gathered, vendors are improving the ease of use of their products. Many have introduced new customer interfaces or dashboard features in the past year, and do-it-yourself programming is seen more frequently. The goal is to give show organizers a program they can use, not one they need to program. Trade Show Executive spoke with numerous companies about the latest innovations they’ve implemented to make a show orga-
nizer’s life easier. Some of these conversations occurred on the show floor of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)’s Expo! Expo! Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2007, where demos were both plentiful and enlightening. Here is what we found.
Event Management & Administration
EventReady/TMI continues to expand the modules available with its show organizer suite. These span event and exhibit management, registration and housing, online and on-site attendee services, sponsorships and marketing and custom technology applications. Show organizers can purchase only those modules which they expect to use. i~plan Software is one module that helps to automate event management functions including budgeting, reporting, financial processing, registration and management of vendor and venue data. “Show managers can take their spreadsheets and start a bonfire,” says Abbott. One newly redesigned module is ExpoPlanner, which can help to drive traffic to the show, both physically and online. Attendee services include a product locator, a session locator, an interactive floorplan and personal itinerary planner. Exhibitors benefit from online exhibitor directory forms and virtual booths. Show management gains customization and administrative features along with banner advertising and on-site sponsorship opportunities. ExpoMap has also been redesigned and continues to work with ExpoPlanner to deliver services that can help with sales efforts, as well as production and marketing. Every show aspect is housed within one application so integration is seamless. Reach Anne Abbott, president, TMI, at (440) 446-9483 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freeman has enhanced the electronic services it offers show organizers. The company recently partnered with a2z, Inc. and Applied Computer Technology, Inc. (ACT/EXPOCAD) to offer an integrated floor plan management system. The program automatically populates a show floor with booths based on the
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information supplied by the organizer, such as room dimensions, aisle dimensions and booth increments. The show organizer can then combine and assign booths as well as determine the exact amount of materials, such as carpet and pipe and drape, that will be needed. For instance, organizers can specify one color carpet for the aisles and the program will automatically calculate the amount needed. As that figure changes, so will the material calculation. As the general service contractor, Freeman can download this information in real-time, increasing accuracy and reducing waste. To help with sponsorship tracking and sales, Freeman offers Plan Tour. The web-based tool is customized for each show and displays the offerings, price and availability of the sponsorships. Exhibitors can browse it to search for opportunities; show organizers can use it to track availability and revenue. To encourage greater use of online exhibitor services, Freeman increased the prominence of its web-based Exhibitor Wizard and Material Handling Estimator. The wizard guides exhibitors through the ordering process, filling their online shopping cart with services they order as they go. The Material Handling Estimator helps them estimate their material handling budget more accurately. “Material handling is often the area that many exhibitors report difficulty with,” says Mike McCool, director of technology services for Freeman. Show organizer transactions have also moved online. iPlanner by Freeman, launched this past fall, permits show organizers to collaborate with the general service contractor online. Organizers can specify their requirements for a show (e.g. registration, cybercafe, aisle carpet, signage, etc.) and manage the project (such as design reviews and approvals) from their own offices. Reach Mike McCool, director of technology services, Freeman, at (773) 379-5040 or email@example.com.
Exhibitors can submit their requests via the Internet or fax and comprehensive confirmations are sent immediately. “GES Intellikit transforms the way exhibitors learn about the exhibition and order services by replacing standard paper manuals with an intelligent, interactive, electronic manual,” said Steve Moster, GES executive vice president of products & services. The product uses technology similar to tax software and was selected as a finalist in the Adobe 2007 MAX Awards, which recognize the best uses of Adobe software. Reach Steve Moster, executive vice president of products and services, GES, at (702) 263-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Global Executive
GES Exposition Services
GES Exposition Services receives 1,200 exhibitor orders every day. To bring these interactions online, and to save everyone time, money and paper, GES created GES Intellikit software. The electronic exhibitor’s manual simplifies the ordering process, helping users to track budgets and orders electronically. Interactive forms feature automatic calculations and prepopulation of data (users have to enter information only once).
The Global Executive has introduced eTouches 2, the newest version of its meeting and event management technology. The update features two new applications: eBudget and eSeating. eBudget allows an organizer to set up the initial budget for an event; estimate costs; and track quotes, expenses and revenue. “The program draws up-to-date numbers from sponsor sales, exhibitor sales and delegate revenues to let show organizers know where they are at in regard to their target at any time,” says Leonora Valvo, CEO of The Global Executive. The information can help with decision making, for instance, determining whether a supplier quote fits into the budget or exceeds cost expectations. The program will also track percentages and make adjustments as participants register or cancel. “Organizers most often use Excel, which is just a blank spreadsheet. Even if adept with the program, it can still be difficult for a team to use,” said Doug Macdonald, managing director of eTouches for The Global Executive. “We see many situations where event managers really don’t have a good idea of costs or revenues as the event comes together. It’s only afterwards that they can understand the financials,” he said. Users do not need programming knowledge to use the program. Organizers set up the agenda, fee structure and other segments using simple forms (most selections are made by clicking on boxes and drop-down menus) although The Global Executive will also perform this task if requested. The eTouches 2 program is designed to be flexible, with a dashboard permitting easy access to all modules for an event. Other
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Keeping Money, People Organized. The Global Executive’s eTouches2 was launched with two new features dedicated to budgets and seating plans. eSeating is an adjunct to the eTouches 2 registration and scheduling tools. eBudget gives organizers a means of managing their budgets for an event in real time. The tool tracks revenues and expenses, records cost estimates, tracks price quotes without using Microsoft Excel.
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new items include eSeating, a seating plan tool, and enhancements to eReg and eScheduler (a room scheduling application). Reach Doug Macdonald, managing director of eTouches, The Global Executive, at (203) 431-8950 or email@example.com.
Experient Inc.: Attendee Customer Relationship Management [ACRM]
The ability to mine data is limited by the data’s quality. If a database doesn’t have the names, demographic info, and history on actual buyers in it, then it becomes more difficult to deliver a targeted marketing campaign to them and subsequently, get them on the show floor. Experient’s Attendee Customer Relationship Management (ACRM) solution, released this year, helps to collect and store data on attendees and potential attendees, but more importantly, helps track, analyze and specify demographic, psychographic and behavioral parameters. The system can be used to compare prospect lists and identify appropriate targets, select campaign elements (e.g. direct mail, email, telemarketing) and evaluate marketing methods. “A show organizer may have 20,000 contacts but may want to deploy various concurrent marketing campaigns that include email, mail, phone and track results real time” says Terence Donnelly, vice president of tradeshow markets for Experient. ACRM works with registration to collect information and prepopulate forms for registrants. But it remains a separate system and does not need to be taken offline while the show is running. Organizers can run queries, such as the show history of seniorlevel buyers or attendees who have not registered in three years. The telemarketing module can be used to develop scripts and record calls to groups such as these—for instance, to those who have not attended recently to ask why. The database stores information across shows and is an ideal solution for large groups with multiple events (Advanstar Communications, Inc.’s MAGIC group uses ACRM). It is also an excellent tool for companies launching new shows (they can mine their database for potential attendees) or those that wish to prove attendee quality. “Shows have a commanding lead when they can prove they deliver qualified buyers to the show floor,”
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The newest version of WingateWeb’s conference management program, WingateWeb Conference 4.8, also provides a doit-yourself element with a new registration set-up wizard. “Our goal is to minimize the professional services component,” says Doug Baird, chief technology officer of WingateWeb. The wizard leads organizers through the set-up, helping to create registration paths, price points, options for groups (such as tailored registration packages), custom fields and question ordering. The corresponding web sites can also be updated without a programmer. Baird expects maintenance of these systems to become easier and less expensive for organizers to manage as a result. Organizers will also find it easier and less costly to manage their web marketing with the new software. Web analytics, enabled by Omniture SiteCatalyst, can provide detailed trend information on marketing and registration. The system works in conjunction with the company’s other new launch: a Session Access Control (SAC) appliance. Comprised of a solid state CPU, flat panel monitor and 1D bar-code reader, the device tracks session attendance for certification or continuing education purposes and can be used for survey functions as well. WingateWeb Conference 4.8 is designed for large, complicated events and offers modules “heavy on the production and management side,” says Baird. Event Console is designed for smaller events but still offers features such as a centralized event calendar, registration software, partner management tools, reporting suite, attendee management tools, and entry-level session scheduling. Reach Jason Mitchell, vice president of product management, WingateWeb, at (866) 224-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knowing the Customer. Experient helps show organizers with their data-mining operations with its newly released Attendee Customer Relationship Management (ACRM) solution. ACRM collects and stores data on attendees and analyzes it for useful demographic and even psychographic trends. The result is marketing that is more agile and focused on particular customer groups.
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says Donnelly. Reach Terence Donnelly, vice president of tradeshow markets, Experient, at (603) 926-5060 or email@example.com.
ExpoTools has debuted RFID tracking posts that are shorter in physical height but not in stature. Only 58 inches high, the posts ship fully assembled (set up in five minutes, tear down in three, according to one company representative) and provide greater than 99% accuracy tracking bi-directional movement of attendees through the posts. The compact devices can track visitors as tall as 6 feet 7 inches. Scan data includes the date, time, location and direction and can be downloaded to CSV and Excel file formats. Standard reports illustrate information such as the number of tags scanned, peak attendance, average time on the floor and attendance change over time. Summaries and graphs provide the data in an easy-to-understand format. The RFID portals can track movement into and out of a show floor, but many organizers (particularly association show organizers) have expressed interest in using them as tools to track session attendance and continuing education credits. Users can then get lists of who attended the session and how long they stayed—information that can be shared with speakers and sponsors if desired. The portals also provide sponsorship opportunity; full-color printed skins are available. Reach Kurt Gehmlich, president, ExpoTools, at (514) 337-4554 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
and average visit durations. Show floor, conference and sponsored-event attendees can be tracked in addition to staff. Traffic analyses, scatter maps, behavior profiles and continuing education credit reports can be developed. There is no charge to the organizer. Fish supplies the infrastructure and exhibitors pay for it. Collection of the RFID tags at the end of the show mitigates their high cost, while information about high-traffic areas can help to more fairly set fees and justify show floor positions that cost more. Michael Gilvar, president, Fish Software, at (866) 287-7019 or email@example.com.
Fish Software uses RFID to track individuals as they move about, not simply as they enter or exit a room. Scalable from a few hundred attendees to 15,000, the system tracks badge-wearers to within four inches of their actual location in real-time (high-performance RFID tags transmit constant signals to ceiling-mounted sensors). The resulting data provides insight into attendee behavior that can illuminate the customer experience and identify areas for improvement or expansion. Using measurement zones (ranging from the size of a chair to a room), reports can be created that measure total unique visits, repeat visits, aggregate time spent by attendees in the zone
Justification has become increasingly important and often takes the form of ROI, which can be difficult to track. To help show participants with this task, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), MeetingMetrics and the ROI Institute, Inc., have partnered to create a post-meeting ROI survey and related reports. The information can be used to accurately demonstrate the financial status of an event as well as provide attendees with justification for attendance. A module in development will address exhibitor ROI. “Show participants, including sponsors and attendees, can get individual and average ROIs,” says Ira Kerns, managing director of GuideStar Research, developers of the MeetingMetrics online service. The toolkit is based on the expertise of the ROI Institute, which compiles methodologies, measures and report formats on ROI. The program offers electronic templates to build surveys from a bank of more than 1,000 meeting measurement questions plus those created by the user for previous surveys. The system uses information about costs as well as gains and can illustrate a successful show visit as well as point out areas for improvement. The toolkit uses five levels of measurement, including people’s attitudes, perceptions and skill levels. The program automatically provides question options associated with the particular metrics the organizer has selected for the survey. “Every meeting has different financial objectives that can be monetized, such as job performance and productivity,” says Kerns. Reach Ira Kerns, managing director, GuideStar Research/MeetingMetrics, at (212) 426-2333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SMART-reg International, Inc.
Arnie Roberts, president and CEO of SMART-reg International, Inc. has introduced his latest ancillary product, SMARTmat. The simple device tracks the number of people entering and exiting a space by counting footfalls. The inexpensive device can differentiate multiple footsteps (i.e. two people simultaneously stepping on the mat) as well as footfall direction. Data can be collected every half-hour or more frequently such as every minute. Easy to slip under a rug, the device can track traffic in different and specific areas but avoid the challenges associated with more complex requirements, such as rigging. Reach Arnie Roberts, president and chief executive officer, SMART-reg International, Inc., at (650) 565-9200, (888) 999-9169 or email@example.com
Reach Richard Stone, chief executive officer, EXPOCAD, at (630) 896-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXPOCAD has expanded its mapping capabilities outside of the show hall. Its new geomapping function permits attendees to view maps broader than the venue, such as those of the city, and marking relevant information, such as hotels in the room block, bus routes, off-site events and area businesses (who pay to participate). All are identified with icons. Map users can turn these icons (such as those for restaurants or hotels) on and off; they can obtain directions to any destination; and they can gain access using their typical method of web surfing. Desktops, laptops and web-enabled cell phones all work. Organizers can generate revenue by selling placement on the map to area restaurants, nightclubs and other entertainment venues. Sponsorships can also help to boost the bottom line. Seamless integration maintains the show branding.
Show organizers often want to put their events on a map— literally. MapYourShow (MYS) provides this capability with seamless interactive mapping of the show floor. Organizers can make changes in real-time, exhibitors can advertise specific products and services in association with their online booth and attendees can map out their show. Full management dashboards make it easy for show organizers to manage the map while exhibitors can use it to determine who is looking at their information. The ability to create enhanced exhibitor listings, including the addition of video, provides greater awareness and marketing for exhibitors and another method of revenue generation for show organizers; banners are another option. Attendees benefit from easy searches and printed maps outlining their agendas, including session schedules. A kiosk option brings these benefits to the show floor. Reach MapYourShow at (888) 527-8822.
You Are Here
You Are Here by MarketArt, Inc., presents an alternative to the printed show floor map. Set up on eye-catching flat-screen devices (the company avoids the term ‘kiosk’), the system provides not only the location but also a marketing opportunity. Company representatives point out that not all attendees preplan their show visit. Some will plan on-site, and will therefore want to search by product and category as well as by exhibitor. When an attendee initiates a search, relevant ads and promotions appear down the side. Exhibitors have the option to enhance their listing with ads and promotions. Fees for these
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Total and Divide by Two! SMART-reg International, Inc. has a new welcome mat for exhibit halls that doubles as a crowd counter. The concept of the new SMART-mat is simple. The device records footsteps as attendees walk across it and updates the crowd count every minute. Yes, SMART-mat can tell when more than one person steps on it simultaneously.
Trade Show Executive
By Sandi Cain, News Editor how managers and vendors often look for ways to do more with less. Internet phone service Skype is one VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) that does just that. The five-year-old company, a unit of eBay, provides free phone calls over the Internet between its 246 million account holders worldwide. It also offers highly discounted service for calls made by Skype account holders to traditional phone numbers. That has helped countless individuals and businesses connect to discuss sales deals, trade show logistics or just chat.
Taking Care of Business via Skype
Gives New Meaning to ‘Face to Face’
Skype also offers video service via web cam. That opens up a host of new possibilities. Cherif Moujabber, president of Creative Expos & Conferences, was an early proponent of Skype – he has been using Skype to run his international business for at least three years. He uses the chat function, which is a form of instant messaging, roughly 50% of the time when he is on Skype, and the voice function about 40% of the time. However, Skype’s video capabilities take discussions to a new level, Cherif said. “Communication is stronger when you can see the expression on someone’s face and their body language.” Trade show vendors such as SMART-reg International have jumped on the Skype bandwagon to more easily demonstrate products to a global audience
without flying halfway around the world. “There’s no learning curve … it’s very intuitive,” said Arnie Roberts, President and CEO of SMART-reg. “And you rarely lose a signal.” Trade Show Executive uses Skype to “meet” with international companies and partners. We tested its capabilities recently in a conference call with partner masexpos magazine in Mexico City and registration contractor SMART-reg International in Palo Alto, CA to discuss two upcoming events. “Business discussions are richer and more efficient because facial expressions and gestures communicate so much more than words alone,” said Darlene Gudea, TSE’s publisher and editor. “It was very productive and ‘face to face,’” said Roberts, who participated in the call. “For trade shows that have partners across the world, it’s a good opportunity to communicate across borders,” said Yves Daoust, executive vice president of the online events, virtual trade show and lead generation division of Montreal-based iCongo Live. Daoust said it saves money, is easy to use and simplifies communication. Roberts was inspired by Skype’s video capability. In the past month, he negotiated with vendors in Hong Kong and was able to demonstrate the company’s registration services to a potential client overseas via web cam. None of that would have been likely to happen using traditional means, he said. Reach Cherif Moujabber at (508) 660-7099 or via Skype at cherifm; Darlene Gudea at (760) 929-966 or via Skype at darlene.gudea; Linda Braue at (310) 792-6081 or via Skype at lindab-skype; Arnie Roberts at (888) 999-9169 or via Skype at arnier-skype; Yves Daoust at (514) 866-2664.
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options are shared by MarketArt and the show organizer. Exhibitor costs are justified by the highly targeted opportunity: the method presents prospects with marketing information at the exact moment they are interested in the product or service driving traffic to the booth. Show organizer clients have the option to use MarketArt’s customer service to handle the exhibitor sales component. The company will also help to determine the on-show configuration, manage the data, supply the equipment and install it. Reach Rob Hamlin, MarketArt, Inc., at (703) 256–4669 or Rob@MarketArt.com.
postcard service. Exhibitors can use the service to develop and deliver postcards to targeted groups from the show organizer’s lists, without the show organizer having to actually share the list. Exhibitors select the layout and colors, add logo and copy and proof the postcard. Printing, addressing and mailing are handled through the service. Reach Alan Danenberg, director of marketing, CompuSystems, Inc., at (708) 344-9070 x285 or alan.danenberg@CompuSystems.com.
Registration contractor CompuSystems, Inc., has introduced a new client services interface for access to real-time information and reports on events. “It’s more user friendly and intuitive,” says Alan Danenberg, director of marketing for CompuSystems. Features include chronological show lists, multiple authorizations, a categorized opening screen and a report scheduler with which report types can be saved and run routinely or singly. The company’s TrafficMax service, an Internet list marketing system, has also expanded with a new customized
Everything but the Handshake. A new handheld wireless device from Shockfish SA takes care of a lot of attendee’s correspondence needs on the exhibit floor. Easier to learn than to describe, the Spotme device is loaded at the start of the show with the user’s business card, photo schedule and in-box. It can also be used to record tickets to events and is even capable of reading other Spotme devices in the vicinity so exhibitors know who is perusing their booths.
Participants of the 46th ICCA Congress & Exhibition in Thailand sent more than 21,000 messages, exchanged 13,000 business cards, completed more than 2,000 electronic feedback forms and wrote more than 1,000 notes using Spotme devices. Only one user reported not using the device; the majority loved it. The handheld tools, produced by Shockfish SA, are wireless communication devices intended to facilitate interaction among show participants. The Spotme device can be used to store show information, send messages, exchange busi-
ness cards, take notes, complete feedback forms, track continuing education credits, control access to ticketed or VIP events and create interactive sessions. The devices are personalized at the beginning of the show with the participant’s business card, photo, schedule, and in-box; they are collected at the end of the show and the information is sent electronically to the participant who can easily upload it to another system. A central server handles updates and backup. The system can be learned in one minute, according to Samuel J. Smith, Spotme marketing manager for Shockfish. Smith notes one of the universally popular features (cited by show organizers, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, and buyers) is the radar. First developed as a networking tool, the device recognizes those in the near vicinity. “It really tells you who is standing around you,” says Smith. Two economic models make the devices affordable and even potential revenue generators: sponsorship opportunities (such as banner ads and surveys) and lead retrieval (exhibitor fees). Reach Samuel J. Smith, Spotme marketing manager, Shockfish SA, at +41 (0)21 693 85 15 or email@example.com. TSE
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