Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heat Map vs Hot Lead

Kiki L'Italien streaming #assnchat from the trade show floor.
The sign is powered by LEDs and requires human power from the bike!
I appreciate we have access to a plethora of resources available to provide information and ideas that make us think, reflect and grow - with ideas to improve and adapt our events to our changing stakeholder needs. After listening to an #EventTech podcast today with one of my favorites John Federico aka Gadget Boy I am finding myself thinking about how we consider stakeholders, in this case exhibitors. During this show the guest's approach to meeting exhibitor expectations using event technology, specifically in this case, beacons and their ability to create a heat map surprised me. 

A heat map provides a digital visualization of where people are traveling through your event. It shows by colour or density higher volumes of traffic, and each beacon can indeed tell you exactly how many devices (presumably with their people attached) have gone past any specific area. This is useful for understanding flow, for managing in real-time movement of participants and allows for adjustments that can positively impact the guest and exhibitor experience. When combined with smart gamification strategies, push messaging and 'near me' tech, the possibilities become very interesting.

The suggestion from this guest was with a heat map and its data "we can show unhappy exhibitors how many people walked past their booths and provide evidence we have 'done our job' as organizers and provided them people to talk to". The conversation continues to note that any lack of success of a particular exhibitor at a show could be attributed to any of the following -  if their booth staff wasn't good / were on their phones / talking to people they already knew / were understaffed or had uneducated staff, etc. 

Anyone who has been an exhibitor knows how many resources - human and financial - are invested in participating in a show. Nobody takes this lightly, and while not all booths are visually stunning, and not all exhibitors stand out front with a smile waiting for the next guest to come and talk to them - there are many factors at play on both sides - flow, timing, placement of food and beverage, time of day, competing events within the overall program, and reasons the participant has attended and may be interested in talking to or meeting with as examples.

For exhibitors, trade show success is often judged on hard leads returned to the office and shows focused on buying with both buyer and seller understanding this purpose will deliver this. Often these shows include hosted buyers, across all industries and not just events / meetings because if your show is being judged on "hot leads" then bringing buyers who have business to do and can do this in the most expedient way is good for everyone.

Other shows will deliver success based on conversations which build or grow relationships; others when show education offers a way for thought leadership from the exhibitor to be shared. "Success" requires thoughtful activation and a responsible investment - understanding which shows get a tabletop and a banner with limited staff, vs. the shows where you bring out the big booth and a significant portion of your team, and focus on demonstrations, opportunities available and conversations.  For busy people attending a show where the majority of the suppliers they are interested in meeting are also in attendance makes sense from a resource perspective - time and financial. As organizers we need to ensure we allow enough time on the show floor at defined times for there to be adequate traffic flow for both exhibitors and guests - it is more than just a numbers-passing-by game.

To put this in perspective if you don't regularly follow or otherwise know me, I believe deeply in the power of technology and its ability to benefit human interactions. I have been actively using all types of #eventtech for some time. I have been a planner, producer, trade show designer and exhibitor; I have been the organizer and the client and I have also been responsible for spending tens of thousands to create memorable on-floor activations for multiple clients. I have also worked at QuickMobile and been behind the scenes where beacons have been used to heat map entire shows and tracked traffic patterns through a venue, a city and even back to origin airports. This data is used for real-time adjustments as well as future planning by many organizations working with a variety of savvy vendors and analysts to interpret and apply recommendations driven by the data. There are great success stories from PCMA, CES and SXSW who all used beacons in ways that made a positive difference to the experience.  

Ultimately success is defined by each person who attends, and perfomance is not defined or defended by a heat map. We need to consider the technology we implement - why and how it is applied to achieve interaction, knowledge retention, contact exchange and data collected within the realm of what is most useful - and take advantage of this ability to measure more clearly the impacts of face-to-face business events.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Powered Couches and Secret Notes

Powered couches!
These are two things I remember clearly from attending 11 events for meeting professionals over a 12 week period last year later. Why do I remember these? The Power of Positive Surprise. This is not easy to achieve, but when it works-BAM! you are set on a course for your attendees to return and to tell others why they need to attend.

Imagine the joy of sitting down in a general session on a couch, conveniently placed in a chevron format for easy viewing, to find out that each couch had an arm with plug-ins, both electrical and USB ports. Comfort means knowing i don't have to worry about powering up devices; I won't miss an important email, text or call from a client, or potential client, or my family. For the meeting organizer, having guests with powered devices means they are more relaxed, focused on learning and sharing ideas. If you are using a meeting app you now have the ability to have every participant become more participatory through live (anonymous) feedback,questions, polls and more and they aren't worried about having one more thing open draining their battery. If you add in wi-fi, especially for non-local guests, your chances of positive social sharing from participants creating more buzz about your event also goes up exponentially. As a highly connected, NON-millenial, the powered couches were even better than the ubiquitous charging stations, aka the new "water cooler" of the conference.

Secret notes were another positive surprise when my neighbour on the next couch over would pass me funny notes every time there was interesting tidbits, or even things that didn't make sense from the presentations. Eventually I leaned his name, more about his thoughtfully run company, and endlessly appreciate to this day his great humour and event savvy. This is not something as an event producer or meeting planner you can replicate, plan for or even encourage, but it is the kind of serendipity that makes me want to return to this event again. 

What else do I remember? Moderating a panel where I had the presenters answer a question in "freeze tag" format familiar to improv lovers. Why? Because it forced the panel members to pay attention to and build on the answers of their co-presenters, and engaged them and the audience who were keen to see how this would all work. I recall meditation rooms which allowed 15 minute reprieves from the pressure of being always ON during busy events offering a deeply embedded sense of peace. A burger and a milkshake with great company being as fulfilling as any gala dinner and gala dinners where the accomplishments of friends were celebrated. Ultimately it comes back to creating emotion - accomplishment, peace, joy, comfort, anticipation, surprise, delight. Using our environment, content, creative deployment of messaging and designing thoughtfully to deliver so much more than what is listed in the program.

In addition to program, logistics, risk management and so much more, it is incumbent upon us as meeting planners to leave space in our programs for these types of connections to be made. Things to consider include white space; interactive elements that increase reasons for conversations to begin; spaces, facilitators and presenters to encourage meaningful dialogue and thoughtful reflection; music that is at a level that can be talked over; visual elements that spur emotion, and build memory; anything else you might imagine - after all you are the creative professionals your clients rely on to deliver beyond objectives and create outcomes that have reach beyond the conference space. When you do this, and see the reactions during your event, it will be worth every minute of the planning energy you put into this.

What have you experienced or created that is rocking your events right now?