1. Technology
  2. Audience Engagement

Talking Trade and
Thinking Beyond
the Booth

How audience engagement technology is helping the trade show and exhibition sector evolve into transactive experiences.

Although markets and fairs have been around for much longer – think food fairs and Christmas markets of yesteryear - the father of the modern-day trade show, is believed to be the Great Exhibition housed in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park in London from May to October, 1851. This was a melding of educational exhibits, innovation, and traditional retail offerings – all under one roof and the first of its kind in the world.

The Great Exhibition attracted more than 6 million visitors over its five-month opening and was a place to do business, network, see and be seen as well as imagine the future.

The same winning formula used in 1861, is used by today’s trade shows and exhibitions, because nothing beats that face-to-face, in person, tangible sharing of information, relationship building and feel-good factor of discoverability.

Then came Covid-19.
Much as The Great Exhibition shifted people’s thinking about what is possible and opened minds and hearts to new possibilities, the 2020 pandemic accelerated us all into a different paradigm, this one led by digital. But you know this already, because as a trade show organiser, you had to quickly adapt to the new normal and gear your offering to your audiences in a different format.

In this settling period, we witnessed the rise of the Zoom call, followed closely by Google Meet-up, Microsoft Teams and a host of other video conferencing platforms integrated with a basket of networking tools. Some events made the transition a successful experience for their exhibitors and visitors, whilst others did not.

Effective events embraced video conferencing with an array of information technology tools to continue their stakeholders’ ability to network with one another, which also allowed for a broader audience to engage with the content, as time and travel constraints were no longer a barrier to participation.

Fast forward to a newly reshaped world and trade shows and events of all kinds, are adapting again, this time as hybrids that combine the offline and online realms as one, yet still, they only go so far in building engagement between organiser and exhibitor or delegates or exhibitors and visitors and vice versa.

Then came the AEP.
Now mid-way through 2022, the AEP (a cloud-hosted Software as a Service audience engagement platform), is taking the eventing and visitor attraction industries on their next progressive step into the future.

Initially designed to enhance the visitor attraction sector such as museums, cultural heritage sites, aquariums, wildlife parks etc, the AEP is also quickly finding an audience within the conference, exhibition, festival and trade show markets.

Trade fairs and exhibitions are all about footfall, and that’s where an AEP can add invaluable mileage for both exhibitors and trade show organisers alike.

Enhanced engagement, increased insights, transactive experiences.

API friendly, the platform can easily integrate into existing event tools as well as supporting organisers with its own suite of advanced services. Digital ticketing and contactless registration are simple and are increasingly necessary in any event. The ability to create immersive and interactive experiences for all stakeholders is amplified too.

But where it excels, is in the level and type of content it can provide to stakeholders, as well as the data insights it delivers to organisers. A hybrid of a CRM and CMS, the AEP allows organisers to deploy geo fencing, heat mapping beacon triggering technology or a combination, for example, to track delegates through the exhibition area – once delegates/visitors have downloaded the exhibition app.

This can provide invaluable insights for the organiser, sponsors, and the exhibitors themselves. From discovering which talks, exhibitors stands or displays attract the most traffic, to those that don’t.

Armed with this information, it can then send personalised communications – push notifications – to delegates to elicit feedback and further insights. This can be in the form of surveys, polls, straightforward Q&As or even a quiz or two. It’s all set-up on the AEP by the organiser and the parameters for engagement can be automatically triggered or manually enacted.

Understanding what works and what doesn’t is critical to any event organiser, just as it is to provide detailed feedback to sponsors and partners in this scenario. Not only can the AEP provide valuable sales metrics to put in front of clients, but it can also inform conference organisers about optimal layouts and track the effectiveness of exhibitor placements.

But a happy delegate is also a priority, and the AEP can facilitate a deeper relationship between organiser and delegate as well as exhibitor and delegate. Whereas many organisers will have an email database of attending delegates to whom they often blanket communication on a regular basis, the AEP facilitates tailored communications.

These communications can also be layered and spark a two-way conversation, being able to deliver real time questionnaires, surveys, polls, special offers, event notices etc in the moment, or even after the delegate has left the building. In which case, a follow-up piece of communication can be sent out that can contain more in-depth content, such as a company video etc.

This is also an additional potential revenue stream for trade show organisers looking to add value to their sponsors and exhibitors, as they could even intelligently serve profiled advertising to specific audience segments.
The AEP also allows delegates to digitally plan their day, will send them reminders and helps them navigate to the location of their choice through its built-in wayfinding tools, thus saving them valuable time in the process.

Forget about costly printed trade show and conference event guides, the accompanying app powered by the highly customisable yet simple to use platform, delivers real-time exhibitor information with built in way-finding and mapping capabilities - no more bemused visitors trying to find stand numbers. Using interactive triggering such as beacons and QR codes, the exhibitor and visitor journey itself is transformed into a more personalised experience.

For future shows, the AEP makes it easy to keep in contact with delegates from past fairs and inform them of upcoming exhibitors and speakers who will be of interest to them, based on their own previous foot traffic and time spent at various stands.

Imagine if the Great Exhibition had had an AEP to engage with those 6 million visitors…

To discover what other benefits an audience engagement platform can bring to your business and transform your visitors’ experiences, get in touch or let us show you – book a demo today.

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