The Benefits of Internet Technology at Conventions & Tradeshows

By George Cagle, Smart City‘s General Manager at the Minneapolis Convention Center

In October of 2010, Apple trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that.” Today that phrase has never been more true for the convention, events, and meetings industry. Mobile devices and their applications translate to remote badge scanning, indoor location-based services, and improved audience engagement. With most apps requiring a reliable connection to the Internet, choosing a facility with a seamless and robust infrastructure is a critical part of the event planning process.

For exhibitors, information is the cornerstone of every presentation. Whether they are collecting or distributing data, the numbers and statistics filtering through their booths can be gathered, analyzed and applied. Apps and connected mobile devices have made the process of data gathering with surveys, data organization, and lead captures much easier. Quality consumer information can contribute to improved responsiveness and business decisions. By using an app to gather and distribute information, exhibitors can provide interactive demonstrations, give responses based on real-time statistics, and close sales.

An efficient use of technology can also optimize the next most valuable item of a tradeshow event: time. A general rule within the world of convention and tradeshow sales is the more time someone spends in your space or booth, the more likely they are to do business with you. Capturing your audience’s time in a competitive tradeshow environment can be difficult. Pens, reusable bags, and beverages branded with your company’s logo may draw an attendee to your booth but not necessarily keep them there. While attendees may carry your promotional items around during an event, it is no indication that they have received your intended message. What if exhibitors could give attendees something that was highly sought-after and not physically tangible, but still guaranteed a return on their booth investment by giving them a captive audience? Technology, when used to its full potential, is the ideal giveaway item. Charging stations attract clients and keep them in close proximity of your booth for the duration of their device’s charge, which in turn creates the perfect scenario for you to showcase your company’s message or product. A complimentary battery charge isn’t tangible, but it is a high-demand service valued by event attendees who are using their mobile devices to conduct business, track event updates, and browse the web.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms have become the modern day word-of-mouth. More companies are integrating social media into their business strategies to promote new products and gather client data and information. It is not uncommon to see events using these platforms to share invitations. But why hope that a client will happen upon your social media activity when you can showcase your activity in real time during the event? Event management can set up trending screens for attendees and staff to monitor and contribute to the event’s social media stream. Exhibitors can create hashtags to engage clients while simultaneously spreading their company’s message. Hashtags are both easy to create and useful for monitoring event health.

Finally, utilizing technology at a tradeshow can be a way for exhibitors to participate in tradeshow philanthropy. Whether it’s by providing Internet service for one booth or the whole exhibition space, the act of offering free Internet access is a way to give back to the business community. Complimentary WiFi may be available within meeting areas, but we cannot forget the need within the exhibition area as well. When an exhibitor offers connectivity to their clients, they are extending a goodwill offering. Imagine if every booth in an exhibition space offered WiFi. Not only would all event attendees benefit from unlimited access to online storage banks, but there would also be an increase in the free access zones in the exhibition space. With that type of connectivity both exhibitors and attendees can make better, faster and more informed business decisions together.

The advancement of mobile technologies, coupled with the fast-growing Internet of things, presents the opportunity for a fresh approach to the dynamics and social interactions taking place within the convention industry. Exhibitors can cultivate additional attendee engagement while collecting analytic data through the help of mobile applications and hashtags. Attendees walking the tradeshow floor can benefit from the opportunity to recharge themselves and their devices with mobile charging stations. Ultimately, we all can benefit from the concept of tradeshow philanthropy by extending WiFi to our attendees and partners.

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