Three Wayfinding Technologies to Try at Your Next In-Person Conference

Geofencing, indoor mapping, and digital signage can help attendees find their way around a venue—and reduce the risk of overcrowding at your event.

If you’ve ever walked into a convention center for the first time and had to find a specific place, you already know the value of wayfinding in event venues.

In the past, a printed map might have been enough. But with literally everyone carrying a digital device and with concerns about COVID-19 slowing the return to in-person events, wayfinding tools are due for an upgrade. Today’s wayfinding isn’t just about helping attendees figure out where they want to go, but also ensuring they’re not in places they don’t want to be.

Read on for some technologies that might help your association get there.


Geofencing, a technology that places a digital perimeter around a specified area, has often been used to promote events within venues—say, if you’re entering the space, you get a notification about something that’s happening there later in the day.

But the technology’s sleeper benefit might lie in enabling social distancing to happen at scale. As the restaurant magazine QSR explains, restaurants have been experimenting with geofencing to limit customer and employee interaction and allow for better social distancing with seating and food drop-off, for example.

This could translate easily to conferences, reports EventMB: “Picture this scenario: After gaining consent, event professionals can use apps or bracelets to warn attendees who violate proximity protocol. If two attendees should come too close to each other, the phone or bracelet would vibrate,” writes EventMB’s Julius Solaris. “This type of technology is already available for more mundane issues, such as correcting your posture with smart, wearable devices that warn you when you slouch.”

Some companies are using geofencing in this way. Inpixon, for example, uses it in hospitals to alert staff about wandering patients. The technology could make sense at large events to give meeting planners an idea of the flow of attendees through a venue.

Indoor Mapping

Could your event app have its own Google Maps-style digital interface for navigating the venue?

Indoor positioning systems have garnered interest in recent years as event venues have become more complex. Last year, the publicly traded workflow management company ServiceNow acquired Mapwize, which specializes in the technology both at events and in office buildings.

But the technology isn’t always easy to deploy. Google itself generally needs to partner with event venues to capture building interiors, which tend to be harder to track than exteriors.

Efforts to improve indoor mapping have been picking up steam. For example, BizBash reported that some companies in the event-mapping space, such as ExpoFP, have partnered with firms that specialize in attendee tracking, such as Crowd Connected. Together, they have made it possible to create an indoor GPS-style experience.

Getting it right can offer opportunities to generate revenue through vendor sponsorships.

Digital Event Signage

Digital signage has been available at conference venues for several years, but with a growing need for real-time updates and attendee social distancing, it may be primed to step into a starring role.

The technology has matured significantly, with vendors such as Visix and Advantech adapting to market needs. In a podcast, Visix’s president and CEO, Sean Matthews, noted that the firm has begun to move toward voice activation, which is also used in healthcare facilities.

“I think regardless of vaccines for this current disease, there’ll be a greater awareness for what the normal flu season looks like and what we should be doing in those environments and how you should be spacing yourself,” Matthews said. “I think there’ll just be a greater awareness of how you’re going to utilize the spaces and the guidance that those signs will provide in how you use the spaces.”

As IOT Integrator notes, many venues, such as hotels and conference centers, have been increasing their use of digital signage and are looking to manufacturers to modernize for current needs.

(Sezeryadigar/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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