Meetings

New Navigation Tools Boost Attendee Experience

By / Aug 30, 2013 The navigation-friendly app the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals used at a recent conference.

New technology not only helps attendees better navigate your conferences and tradeshows but also helps your association deliver an enhanced attendee experience now and in the years ahead.

You know what could make for frustrated and aggravated attendees? Getting lost in the convention center or being unable to quickly figure out how to get to their next session or to a booth they want to visit on the tradeshow floor.

And let’s face it, no matter how much signage or staff you have directing attendees, a few are likely to go astray. Luckily, new technology is helping attendees navigate your events better. And as an added bonus, these navigation tools will also allow your association to collect data that will help you better serve members and attendees in the future.

We think the association could recuperate its costs at the very least, and quite possibly add positive revenue.

For example, at the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference in June, Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), a professional association for financial and technology personnel working in hotels, clubs, and other hospitality-related businesses, launched a mobile app that included an indoor, GPS-like way-finding system. Its goal: Help attendees easily locate sessions, exhibitor booths, and conference amenities.

Once the app was downloaded to attendees’ smartphones, they were provided with an internal view of the expo and convention center layout, and the app’s Cisco-based hardware and software determined where attendees were, so they could receive turn-by-turn directions to any desired location within the convention center. In addition, location-based notifications were given to attendees who opted-in to receive them. For example, when an attendee was standing near the soon-to-start keynote session, they received a reminder to step into the room.

“Within four days, there is so much going on and so much information to take in; it will be immensely useful to have the app act as a guide. And of course, with friendly reminders to stop chatting and get to the next session,” said HFTP CEO Frank Wolfe, CAE, in a press release. HFTP is also hopeful that once it dives into these location analytics, it will be able to better understand in-venue behavior and trends, which will help them to deliver better attendee experiences in the future.

Another association trying out new attendee navigation tools is the Heart Rhythm Society, which used pressure-sensitive floor mats at its June meeting in Denver. The two-by-three-foot mat, which is thinner than a stick of gum and developed by Scanalytics, was used by HRS’ marketing firm Freeman XP to track visits to touchscreen kiosks designed to help attendees find sessions or locate places around the convention center.

The kiosks were a definite success, according to an article in Meetings and Conventions, which said that they got five or six times more hits than organizers thought and that some kiosks were so popular that they were never unoccupied for more than two minutes at a time. Basic data collected included how many people walked onto a mat, how long they stayed there, how traffic fluctuated throughout the day, and from what direction people approached.

According to David Haas, director of digital solutions at Freeman XP, meeting attendees spent more than a day in total in front of the screens, creating a prime opportunity for sponsorship in the future. “We think the association could recuperate its costs at the very least, and quite possibly add positive revenue,” he told Meetings and Conventions. “We always thought the kiosks were a great opportunity for a sponsor, but this data really drives the value home.” He also added that the data the mats provide can be used to attract new exhibitors.

In an interview with BizBash, Matt McCoy, cofounder and chief operating officer of Scanalytics, said content that appears on screen can be manipulated in real time, depending on whether a person has just walked up or walked away from the screen. He also added that the system can send text messages to event staff based on predetermined measures. For example, if an attendee is in front of the screen for more than two minutes and has yet to talk to a real person, association staff can get an alert to let them know someone should walk over—a real win for customer service and member engagement.

What new things are you trying to help attendees better navigate your conferences and expositions? Let us know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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