Technology: Registering innovation

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Third-party registration companies are considered part and parcel of a trade show supplier checklist. At the heart of their offering is the visitor badge, a well-recognised identifier that allows organisers to register who’s attending the shows, and exhibitors to record the details of potential customers.  But are badges really only the province of a third-party registration company? Or are improvements in the way we manage our databases, along with widespread smartphone adoption, giving organisers the tools to cut out the middle man entirely? The annual Ad:Tech digital marketing exhibition’s efforts could certainly lead you to believe so. At last year’s edition at Olympia on 19-20 September, a new registration process and leads management app was sourced and managed by its own team before, during and after the show. One of the advancements underpinning Ad:Tech’s registration offering is the ability for visitors to print their own badges in advance. Much like the online flight check-in procedures and electronic boarding passes we’ve become familiar with, visitors are digitally supplied with a ready-made badge, which they print off in the comfort of their home or office and fold to fit it into a badgeholder. Ad:Tech is not alone in taking badges online. Several, such as Reed Exhibitions’ World Travel Market and the TNT Travel Show, have introduced the ability for visitors to register and receive ready-made badges digitally this year. Ad:Tech organiser DMG Events however appears to be the first UK organiser to accomplish this without a third-party registration company. According to head of Ad:Tech Christophe Asselin, the new registration system is the latest step in the evolution of badging and moves it a sizeable inch closer to environmentally-friendly badging. Long-term, he expects electronic badges via mobile devices to be the only identifier visitors will need. “Ten years ago, anyone who registered was sent their badges via post. In 2000, we introduced the electronic registration form to allow you to collect your badge when you turned up, but that’s still a double-printing effort: The waste and postage diminished, but it’s not greener,” Asselin claimed. “It was also done as a way to fast-track entry to the show, but having to print out each registrant’s badge caused long queues. We have made it more efficient again by creating a PDF badge so that when you register online, the confirmation is also your badge. You can go onsite and walk straight in – we’ll just hand you a badgeholder. “We believe this is a mini-revolution in terms of shows becoming greener. It’s also cutting out the middle man – we don’t need the infrastructure onsite to do it. The registration technology is built into our database and there’s no need for someone else to handle our data.”Show floor experience Asselin claimed registration at this year’s Ad:Tech was well received and resulted in the same percentage of visitors turning up without their registration or badge details (approximately nine per cent), proving the process was quickly accepted. For those who didn’t have pre-printed badges, Ad:Tech staff were on-hand with a supply of printed paper and merged the data onsite. In addition, visitors could personalise their badge with a schedule of meetings and sessions. The badges also featured a barcode and QR code for capturing visitor information. To do this, Ad:Tech launched an iPhone app allowing exhibitors to scan the QR code and manage data in real-time. Traditional light pens were on offer to scan the visitor’s barcode so exhibitors could access information later. “As we roll out this new concept, it’s about changing attitudes and mindsets; we’re not just dismissing the old world,” Asselin explained. “This app has come from the same developer as our registration system in France and it’s all connected to our database. “The heart and brain of an exhibition is in the pre-registration and holding and utilising that data. Yet we have been led by registration companies to do other things and let IT lead our show strategy, rather than lead the IT ourselves. “We are innovating and tailoring this new platform to suit the needs of our event.” Asselin said controlling registration information first-hand gave it more agility and flexibility while streamlining data management. “As an organiser, our data is a goldmine. This way it is hosted by us and not at the mercy of anyone else,” he said. Of course, not every organiser is going to have the in-house competency to undertake registration without the aid of a third-party provider, and Asselin agreed different industries will have varying rates of technology adoption. Digital marketers for example are highly savvy when it comes to using their mobile phones and QR codes, making it imperative for Ad:Tech to keep up. What Asselin did assert was that registration companies will need to reinvent their value proposition. “Registration companies will have to reduce their profit on traditional registration services like producing badges and offer more value-added services, because it’ll all become digital,” he said. “Bringing registration onto a mobile platform is going to be a must. You’re unlikely to see a senior manager without a smartphone today, even if they haven’t grasped the full capabilities the device offers them yet. Mobile will become the new standard and interactive tools and registration processes will move faster and faster.” Over the next year, the focus for Ad:Tech is educating people about the value of its fast-track badging systems and how to use mobile offerings better. For now, Asselin claimed its new registration and lead generation tools were a positive experience on all sides. “We’re re-engineering the way registration is done and it has been a positive experience for both our visitors and exhibitors,” he added. This was first published in the November edition of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashemedia.net
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