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‘Jetson’-age event tools

Most of us think about technology on a mostly two-dimensional plane as we flick our way from screen to screen on touchscreen glass. But today’s tech includes applications that are far from flat.

Lights, climate control, projectors and monitors, curtains, fountains and many other functions can be controlled with an app. The data that one takes away from tradeshows can be used to quickly follow up on sales leads.

What if you could control all primary aspects of major events like tradeshows, big weddings and awards ceremonies through your iPad or smartphone; imagine shutting everything down at the end of a long and exhausting night by pushing one button on your phone – that’s just some of what’s possible with today’s software.

I’d like to share three of my favorite new technologies from Tradeshow Technology Summit, held July 9 at the Irving Convention Center in Texas, where cutting-edge technology were showcased, such as QR codes, mobile apps, virtual tradeshows, social media, online asset management, interactive media and live stream video on electronic devices as simple as a mobile phone.

Pre-show: Event Management Software
This one-stop source for managing every detail about your event – from FedEx tracking numbers to vendor contact information to photos from the show – even allows you to manage multiple events from any location.

Event management software relies on cloud storage, so members of your team can access it from their smartphone or iPad no matter where they are. Another benefit: You’ve got just one place to input all that data.

The most common event management applications are:

  • Online registration and delegate management including online payment;
  • Venue selection;
  • Procurement, sourcing and RFP;
  • Content management including abstract and/or paper management, reviewing, program development and publishing;
  • Exhibition management including floor planning, booking and billing; and
  • On-site operations including registration, badges and networking.

Product review: Cvent
Cvent automates the entire event management process from online registration to sourcing suppliers for the event. Managing more than 275,000 events, it is the largest event management software company in the U.S. Used by over 90,000 event and marketing professionals, Cvent helps coordinate over 30 million event registrations and survey responses with flexible and comprehensive management tools. Pricing is $3-$7 per registrant based on features with startup fees starting at $850.

Advantages:

  • Powerful registration tool designed to help meeting planners set up custom events online;
  • Collects and processes registration fees online;
  • Automates communication tasks;
  • Personalizes emails and sends automated reminders; and
  • Award-winning client services team members.

Disadvantage: May not be user-friendly to first-time users.

For more information, visit www.cvent.com.

During the show: Remote sensors
Sensors built into the walls of an exhibit allow you to control all of the electronics from your smartphone or iPad. Not only does it save time, it’s an easy way to add valuable theatrics during a demonstration.

“Say you’re standing at the back of the room and you realize the speaker can’t be heard, you just turn up the volume on his mic, right from your iPad,” said Windham. “Or, if you want to create special effects using lighting and room temperature, you can dim the lighting and drop the temperature.”

My favorite feature? At the end of a long day, rather than walking from one device to the next, shutting off each, press just one button and turn everything off while walking out the door.

Product review: Booth Central by Imagine Xhibits
Remote sensors are built into exhibit walls and controlled remotely using an iPad or smartphone to operate anything with an on/off switch. Imagine a speaker making a presentation yet no one can hear him and the mic volume is on the handset. Simply touch the screen on an iPad and adjust the volume. Or at the end of a long day at the tradeshow- you have only 49 more monitors to turn off – simply push OFF and everything is now off!

For more information, visit www.imaginexhibits.com.

Post-show: Sales leads follow-up
Center for Exhibition Industry Research cites that 87 percent of exhibitors who capture sales leads at tradeshows don’t collect qualifying information. Scanners collect only the most basic data from visitors to each booth – there’s no way of knowing whether they were a “hot” lead ready to buy, or someone who stopped by for the free T-shirt. Now, however, event management software allows exhibitors to include qualifying information every time a visitor’s badge is scanned.

Incorporating lead retrieval solutions that allow customized questions will allow exhibitors to have qualified leads rather than just a contact name. At the end of the event, you can quickly see who your hottest leads were and send them an email or postcard before you’ve even left the event.

Coordinating with show management to allow a handheld phone or iPad to be used for lead retrieval allows for cost savings, less training, customized solutions, real time leads that sync with sales force and other data base software. This is key in collecting qualified leads. Information allows for fast follow up and closing more sales and higher ROI.

For planners who’ve been hamstrung by personnel cutbacks in recent years, these new tools are lifesavers.

Product review: IntelliTouch Digital Solutions
IntelliTouch Digital Solutions eLeads Contact and eLiterature Management technology lets potential clients interact directly with a business by working both online and offline. Features include badge and business card scanning, credit card processing, a shopping cart, and data feeds to CRM systems and fulfillment vendors. A simple download turns an iOS device or PC into a fully customizable interactive sales kit with features like lead capture, quizzes, surveys, product information, video, slideshows and images.

For more information, visit www.intellitouchdigital.com.

After show follow up:
Because a single-source data collection tool just doesn’t exist, here’s your best bet: Create standard database fields. Develop a common survey. Use a customizable device that exports data electronically for easy import into your CRM system. Develop a post-show distribution and reporting system. With a simple, disciplined process, an effective measurement program is close at hand.

Imagine helps client put a program in place to effectively follow up on leads based on the level of interest. For example by gathering the proper information, the “next step” can be determined.

  • Leads should have product interest and associated collateral information can be mailed or emailed directly to the prospect.
  • Email or postcards can be sent out the same day. This can be done by exporting leads to a spreadsheet and printing address labels at show. Apply to pre-printed postcards with postage pre-applied.
  • Phone calls to schedule personal meetings to follow up can be scheduled to call on the Tuesday following the event.

“The days of ‘The Jetsons’ has arrived.”

Ann Windham is the president and CEO of Imagine Xhibits, Inc., a full-service tradeshow marketing company that offers custom design exhibits using modular components. Windham’s company offers customers more than 50 percent savings on operating expenses; expert face-to-face marketing consultants that will work to increase ROI with four-step marketing; quarterly seminars offering continuous education by certified trainers; in-house design services for custom structures, graphic design and brand development; turn-key services and exhibit management program for all logistical needs; and a one-stop shop for meeting planning, promotional products, collateral website and more.

 

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