The global exhibition industry is undergoing a quiet revolution, thanks to new technologies developed primarily for other media, and enthusiastically adopted by users at exhibitions.
I employ the word ‘users’ in its internet sense, because today one can no longer imagine an exhibition without use of the internet: its social networking opportunities, marketing reach and innovative technologies are here to stay.
The Quiet Revolution in the Exhibition and Congress Industry
By Isaac Shalev*
The New Face of Exhibitions
From now on exhibition organisers, exhibitors and visitors must accept the new face of exhibitions, and learn the new rules of the game, while integrating and making the most of new technologies.
An exhibition used to be an interactive shop window where visitors could see, touch and smell the products on display. They could collect printed marketing material, and speak with exhibitors face to face. If exhibitions had remained this way in terms of size, number of exhibitors and visitors, then maybe that format would have continued to this day. However, today’s exhibition floor space can reach 250,000 square metres. The number of exhibitors can be around 5,000 and the number of visitors over 100,000. With the exhibition typically lasting 3 days, face-to-face interaction is no longer feasible. Back to list
Only 10% of Visitors Stop at Each Booth
Due to the way exhibitions have developed, visitors must plan in advance which sections of the exhibition to visit. They must decide which exhibitors to meet, and when. The new technologies help them to do this.
For their part, to justify investment, exhibitors must now take action to attract the 90% of visitors who do not stop at each booth. They can only achieve this by using the new technologies.
The crucial issue today for exhibitors and visitors alike is ROI (Return On Investment) from an exhibition. ROI needs to be converted into measurable results. However its value is often unknown, or even negative. Inevitably, this in turn reduces the organiser’s ROI from an event. Therefore, the challenge for organisers is to provide exhibitors and visitors with a tool to measure and improve ROI. Back to list
The New Queen: the App
For organisers the key to solving this challenge is to facilitate meetings between exhibition stakeholders.
How do you enable visitors to meet as many relevant exhibitors as they would like to during the exhibition? How can they use their time most efficiently before, during and after the event?
Here the app and smartphone come into the picture. They provide a way for all stakeholders to interact more effectively. Back to list
The Essence of the App
The app connects the exhibition organiser, exhibitor and visitor. It collects data from each, enabling everyone to interact more efficiently. The possibilities are virtually limitless. And the results depend only on the ability of each user to make the most of the information available. Everyone benefits.
This all-in-one exhibition app provides a digital catalogue of the exhibition, a GPS location finder, a meetings diary and a detailed visit log. And it can do more . . . Back to list
Apps providing some of the features described above are being developed. Some are already in use, with varying adoption rates. There is one app which incorporates all these elements, and more.
This app – www.smartexpomatch.com – combines the ability to provide all the features mentioned. It does this before the exhibition opens, and in realtime during the exhibition. It can also remain active after the show, right up until the next event.
The app is based on the insight that the most important interaction between parties at an exhibition is driven by a common interest in the products.
The app creates profiles of visitors, based on their actual behaviour at the exhibition. It connects between visitors showing an interest in particular products, and exhibitors featuring those products.
Internet technology enables exhibitors to send messages to visitors in realtime during the exhibition, informing them: ‘We are aware that you are interested in product ‘X’. We are exhibiting that product, but you haven’t yet visited our stand. Our stand is ‘A123..’, and we look forward to seeing you’.
Meanwhile the visitor receives messages from the organiser in realtime on the exhibition floor, saying: ‘There are ‘Y’ exhibitors displaying the product you are interested in, but you haven’t yet visited them. Here is a list of those exhibitors and their location at the show’.
In both cases the source of the information is the exhibition organiser’s server, which stores data collected and processed by the app for the benefit of visitors and exhibitors. Back to list
Revolution in Exhibition Marketing
Generated by the behaviour of visitors and exhibitors, the data stored on the organiser’s server provides a powerful marketing tool.
For example, when marketing the next show to potential exhibitors, the organiser can say with precision: ‘X visitors at the last show expressed an interest in the products you supply. We know who they are, and will inform them that you’ll be exhibiting at the next show. We will recommend that they come to visit you’.
At the same time, the potential visitor receives a message saying: ‘At the last show you expressed an interest in products A, B and C. We are pleased to inform you that at the coming event ‘X’ exhibitors will be featuring those products. They will be looking forward to your visit.’
Furthermore this app can match between stakeholders who have not previously been connected, but whose profile shows they have a potential business link based on product interest.
Using this app, both exhibitor and visitor receive accurate advance knowledge about the forthcoming exhibition. This enables each to estimate its ROI value.
This new marketing interaction is now possible because the organiser’s server stores data concerning specific products of interest to each visitor.
The app analyses and processes the information automatically. It links between people and relevant products. Using their contact details, it sends tailored messages to enable effective advance planning. It continues to generate leads during and after the event. A double opt-in system ensures that the app operates ethically: messages may be accepted or declined.
This app promotes the efficient use of time before, during and after the exhibition, further improving ROI.
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The exhibition and congress industry will advance to the next step of the new era by adopting the new technologies wholeheartedly. They need to ensure adequate internet connection on the exhibition floor, and signal for using personal smartphones.
Exhibition organisers must ensure that their employees keep pace with technological innovations, and communicate effectively with service suppliers.
The revolution, which has already begun, will succeed because it is a quiet revolution, taking place gradually, without destroying what already exists (as can happen in revolutions).
The innovations integrate with existing systems, enhancing, upgrading and bringing them smoothly into the new era, able to measure and improve event ROI. Back to list
* The writer is an exhibition organiser with 40 years’ experience in international exhibitions. Together with a German partner he has developed the new ROI app ExpoMatch