by Sarah J.F. Braley | November 01, 2005

The PDA-based scanner from ExpoExchange

The PDA-based scanner
from ExpoExchange

Even though the first-ever Portable Media Expo is just now setting up at the Ontario Convention Center outside Los Angeles for its mid-month debut, exhibitors and attendees have long been exchanging related information through the show’s website.
    Online visitors checking out the list of exhibitors coming to the show can select a check box next to the names of the companies in which they are interested. On the click, a form pops up, the visitor fills it out and the information is e-mailed to the exhibitor.
    When buying a booth, the exhibitor gets the online space without charge and has the option of uploading an auto-reply message that gives the visitor a quick follow-up. This simple pre-show lead-retrieval system was built by LightMix Design Studios ( of Vienna, Va., creators of the expo’s website.
    “We’re trying to extend our exhibitor’s investment beyond the two or three days of our shows,” says Tim Bourquin of TNC New Media, which is producing the expo. At the beginning of September, he notes, “some exhibitors were already getting four to five leads a day. A couple
of exhibitors have said the early lead-retrieval is one of the reasons they signed up early.”
    This is only one example of the way the lead-retrieval process has been transformed. In the past, after an exchange of business cards, exhibitors returned to the office to decipher the notes they had scribbled on them. Most shows now provide attendees with cards on which their information is encoded on a magnetic stripe or a smart-card chip that exhibitors swipe through a reader at the booth. But even that process has been morphing steadily.
    These days, leads are being captured online before the show begins and then sent by Bluetooth-enabled devices to servers on the show floor or scanned by camera phones. Following are some of the latest trends.

Before the show
ExpoExchange (, part of Twinsburg, Ohio-based Conferon Global Services, offers a sophisticated pre-event system as part of its web-based registration solution, SmartEvent. Called SmartBooth, it creates a personalized web portal for each trade show participant, whether exhibitor, attendee, speaker or student.
    The system has an analytic element that looks at the information entered by attendees and then presents sessions and exhibitors they might be interested in, much the same way a website like Amazon offers its customers personalized recommendations.
    “The more you define yourself, the more the system will be able to point you in directions that will be useful,” says Bob Lucke, executive vice president of business development for CGS. “Then, any participant can extend an invitation to another participant to make a connection; if you choose to participate, the names are exchanged.” He adds that the system is Internet- and portal-based, not e-mail-based, so no one can hound another attendee beyond the first “do you want to meet?” contact.
    A byproduct of the online, pre-show activity is that ExpoExchange gathers behavioral statistics on the connections between the participants. “[A show] can have a great audience and a great exhibit, but if they aren’t compatible, you can have dissatisfaction on both sides,” says Lucke.