Leading event organizations are utilizing technology in a variety of ways to keep up with the demands of the “new normal.” Whether it’s online or offline, new media or traditional media, SPE, Hanley Wood and Graph Expo are cooking up some tasty tech tidbits for 2010.
Enhancing the Exhibitor Experience
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) is focusing on the exhibitor experience in 2010. “We are looking for better exhibitor visibility and better matchmaking tools,” says Andrea Bahr, special projects manager at the association. SPE plans to add A2Z, Inc.’s matchmaking application to their existing suite of tools. “As an A2Z enterprise client we can easily add an additional module without having to change the user interface,” Bahr explains.
Part of Bahr’s responsibilities at SPE include researching new technologies for use at the association’s events. She admits to being impressed by the digital signage and content strategies offered by Prism Technologies. Their touch screen kiosks that Bahr describes as looking like “a really large iPhone,” work with A2Z applications and the Map Your Show App, for example. Prism can also develop a content strategy that includes exhibitor and sponsor advertising. The SPE Board is due to make a decision on the Prism purchase sometime soon.
Boosting Lead Generation
Hanley Wood will approach lead generation from two fronts this coming year. Shawn Pierce, executive vice president, is planning a major data infrastructure update. The Master Data Management upgrade will pull in data from all over Hanley Wood’s organization including the trade shows and publications. “We are trying to become a source of leads for our customers and to do that we need to have all of the leads in one place, Pierce says.
As the infrastructure upgrade is completed, Hanley Wood will launch nine virtual events, all but one of which will run before the corresponding live event in each vertical. The World of Concrete show will be the exception, as its virtual counterpart will run alongside the face-to-face show. In addition, they will boost the subscriber base for newsletters in each market segment using the newly enlarged database and feed specific show information dynamically into specially designed sections on each newsletter.
Making the Virtual Connection
In October of 2009, Chris Price, vice president of the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC), Inc. attended a ConnexLive event. “ConnexLive uses a hosted-buyer model to facilitate targeted 30-minute face-to-face meetings in private settings between pre-screened guests and hosts,” according the web site. Price had an opportunity to learn more about matchmaking, hosted buyer events, white label social networking platforms and RFID (radio frequency identification). “We wanted to know what we don’t know,” he says. During the event, he was able to hear presentations from four virtual event companies and participated in a focus group organized by Freeman.
The focus group introduced Price to a partnership between Freeman and Maritz, the meetings, travel and incentive company. MaritzLive is their suite of virtual event solutions (offered through partnerships with other companies such as InXpo and VELOCITY Broadcasting). GASC will produce its first virtual trade show using MaritzLive’s strategic support and the InXpo platform sometime in August 2010., approximately two months before the live Graph Expo 2010 show.
The virtual show has two principal goals according to Price; to inform virtual attendees about the face-to-face show and help exhibitors introduce new products. Each of the eleven market segments that make up the Graph Expo community will provide content in the theatre at the virtual event. The hope is that the high level content will drive virtual attendees to the physical event. “The virtual event opens the door for us to share information with people. Our strategy is to use it as a marketing tool,” says Price.
In 2010 Graph Expo will also launch a social media platform designed exclusively for the eleven vertical market segments it represents. The platform will enlist the support of at least one media outlet and one trade association from each vertical. “We are creating a platform that allows each of the segments to interact with each other and have appointed thought leaders to start the conversations,” says Price.
Price sees the obvious advantages of the new platform. “It helps us as much as it helps the participants. We will be able to see all of the conversations in one place and we can learn things that will help us mold and shape the show,” he says.
The Takeaway: Although the approaches are different, some common themes are emerging among exhibition and conference organizers:
- Renewed focus on the customer. Organizers realize that a passive approach toward attracting and servicing exhibitors and attendees is particularly ineffective in these recessionary times. Matchmaking, enhanced lead generation as well as hosted buyer programs and small focused one-on-one buyer/seller meetings are coming on strong in 2010.
- Cultivation of the community. Organizers are stepping up efforts to understand who the community is, where they interact and how to enhance the conversation in an effort to drive attendance and participation in their live events.
- Virtual events as lead generators. Virtual trade shows and conferences are being used as lead generators. We may not know until the end of the year whether that use yielded measurable results on a significant scale. Stay tuned.