The outdoor exhibits at
CONEXPO/CON-AGG in Las Vegas
In the ideal world envisioned
by purveyors of trade show technology, attendees would
touch a computer or wireless device at practically every turn.
Before the event, they would register online, plan their assault on
the show floor online, make appointments with exhibitors online,
and communicate with friends and like-minded attendees online.
Once on the floor, their badges would
be scanned automatically, with lead-retrieval information being
added to exhibitor databases without any human interference.
Session participants would instantly be counted as they passed
through the doors of the breakout rooms via RFID (radio frequency
identification) readers strategically placed to scan their
The show’s RFID badges also would allow
attendees to exchange electronic business cards and find
participants with similar interests, either business or
All the myriad data gathered would be
available to the host organization, the exhibitors and the buyers.
Furthermore, that information could be parsed into any fathomable
report the meeting planners might need to justify events, determine
the popularity of various sessions, calculate ROI and more.
Sounds futuristic? The technology is
readily available. Why, then, don’t the nation’s biggest shows use
it to the fullest advantage? The following is a look at how
technology has -- and hasn’t -- infiltrated some of the largest
Last year, more than 124,300 people
converged on the Las Vegas Convention Center to walk the 1.8
million-square-foot show floor packed with exciting new entries in
the construction, construction materials and power transmission
industries during the triennial CONEXPO-CON/AGG.
Staged by the Milwaukee-based
Association of Equipment Manufacturers, CONEXPO uses Frederick,
Md.-based Experient (formerly Conferon’s ExpoExchange) for
registration and lead retrieval. The organization’s other large
show -- the biennial International Construction and Utility
Equipment Exposition, at which 17,000 attendees will wander 1.25
million square feet of exhibits in Louisville, Ky., next year --
now buys similar services from CompuSystems International of
But neither show offers much in the way
of sophisticated badging or electronic social networking. The fly
in the ointment for implementing some of the latest in RFID
technologies? About half of CONEXPO’s and more than 65 percent of
ICUEE’s exhibitors set up outdoors, and “RFID scanners don’t work
well in rain or wind,” notes Megan Tanel, CONEXPO’s director and
AEM’s director of exposition services.
Before the show. The
organizers are just beginning to offer a show floor mapping tool,
basically a virtual trade show listing for all exhibitors, provided
by Cincinnati’s Mapyourshow.com. “It’s a way for exhibitors to get
attendees to con-tact them pre-show to set up appoint-ments,” says
Lynda Schmitz, registration manager-expositions for both shows.
Badges. Attendees use
a paper badge and are issued a magnetic-stripe card that holds
their demographic information. It is swiped at booths and in
Experient markets its products to exhibitors, offering ExpoCard
Standard, a desktop unit that stores smartcard information and
provides a printout; ExpoCard Mobile, a handheld device, which also
provides a printout; ExpoCard Connect, where a PC in the booth
connects to the exhibitor’s home office and builds a show database
on the fly; and Expo Real-Timer, a wireless device that transmits
leads to a password-
protected website. After the show, exhibitors get their leads on a
AN EXPERIMENT IN RFID
Spotme users can
find each other
in a crowd.At the Association of Corporate Travel Executives’
Global Education Conference in Atlanta in May, participants were invited to use handheld devices called Spotme from Lausanne, Switzerland-based Shockfish (www.shockfish.com
). About half of the 1,290 attendees took advantage of the free technology -- after agreeing to pay $1,000 if they lost the device.
The upside? ACTE presenters could conduct audience surveys at any time, which helped steer at least one message at the conference. Earlier online polls had shown that direct members -- corporate travel managers -- felt a strong need to be prepared for a worldwide pandemic. At the show, however, a Spotme poll revealed that suppliers -- including hotels, airlines and travel management companies -- were not taking this possibility very seriously. ACTE reacted by emphasizing the need for preparedness among suppliers.
Other benefits for attendees included instant access to the meeting agenda, conference news and fellow participants. In theory, they could also ask the device to beep when people they wanted to meet were nearby, but many users asked to have that feature turned off, as they felt it invaded their privacy.
The downside? Many attendees said a standard BlackBerry was more useful, and they felt the $1,000 penalty for a lost device was rather stiff. For the organization, the instant polling was great, but it sometimes took a while -- up to 45 minutes -- to tabulate the results.
An association spokesperson says ACTE will consider using a similar service, depending on how such systems improve over the next few years.-- S.B.
The Consumer Electronics Show
draws the masses.
Using the Las Vegas Convention Center,
the Sands Expo and Convention Center, and exhibition space at the
Venetian and the Las Vegas Hilton, the January 2006 show attracted
152,203 people who had to navigate more than 1.6 million square
feet of show floor set up by more than 2,700 exhibiting
Before the show.
Introduced last year was MyCES, an online show planner from
BDMetrics of Baltimore. Through MyCES, attendees can find
exhibitors, products, sessions and other attendees, and can set up
One of the most interesting elements is
the attendee justification report. After narrowing what they are
looking for at the show, attendees review a report that lists the
top 10 people they need to meet, the top 10 exhibitors they need to
see, their peers’ top 10 search terms and more. The report is
carry just a paper badge and a magnetic-stripe card, used on the
show floor and to monitor who is allowed into a session.
A small RFID experiment will take place
in January at the next CES for the CE Platinum Club program. About
100 high-level attendees will use the RFID tags to access
restricted areas, such as a special lounge and a VIP luncheon.
“Our long-term goal is to take RFID
show-wide,” says Kelly Ricker, CMP, senior director of conferences
for the CEA. “But it’s a logistical problem when you are producing
a total of about 250,000 badges, and only 150,000 get used.”
Lead retrieval. As
with CONEXPO, Experient markets all of its scanning devices to the
Through MyCES, attendees can find each other and arrange to meet at
the show. The system can match attendees with others who share the
same job and expertise.
Material world: Perusing
fashion’s finest at the MAGIC Marketplace in August
Using 1.1 million square feet of space
at the Las Vegas Convention Center, this twice-yearly fashion show
welcomed about 115,000 attendees from Aug. 28-31 to view pieces
from 3,500 men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories
companies. Registration and lead retrieval are handled by ShowCare
Before the show. A
full exhibitor listing is available online, with a sophisticated
search tool allowing attendees to locate exhibitors based on brands
and products, but digital interaction still is minimal. Online and
during the Marketplace, Sourcing at MAGIC connects sourcing and
supply-chain companies with product development, merchandising and
design teams. Any matchmaking that occurs before the show, however,
is handled by the event team. “They have a keen understanding of
our exhibitor base,” says Chris McCabe, vice president and general
manager of MAGIC International, based in Woodland Hills, Calif.
Badges. Paper with bar
codes. “We have no current plans to use RFID,” says McCabe.
Exhibitors have a choice of ShowCare’s basic ShowLead, ShowLead
Plus and ShowLead Mobile. All offer no-touch badge scanning and
import capabilities to popular database programs. ShowLead Plus
adds the ability to delineate sales action codes for quickly
assigning sales reps to leads; Mobile comes with a handheld device
with a note-taking element.
The National Association
of Broadcasters show
Using 806,000 square feet of exhibit
space, this show, put on by the Washington, D.C.-based National
Association of Broadcasters, attracted 105,046 people to Las Vegas
April 22-27, 2006.
Before the show. As
with CES, BDMetrics provides personal show portals for attendees
through the MyNABShow feature, for scheduling and networking
purposes. Last year, BDMetrics took over the hosting of the
Badges. Paper and a
mag-stripe card. “RFID is still pretty expensive,” says Justine
McVaney, vice president of operations and customer relations for
the association. She would like to implement RFID for gathering
more information about who attends the 300-plus sessions.
Experient has been NAB’s provider for more than 10 years, marketing
to the more than 1,400 exhibitors. “They’re challenged with a show
like ours, where they need to offer options to small exhibitors and
much larger ones,” says McVaney.
MyNABShow works well to get attendees together. McVaney calls the
service the product/people/session locator. However, only about 60
percent of the participants use it. “The average attendee uses our
website to find exhibitors and uses the floor plan to map where
they’re going,” says McVaney. “The above-average attendee is going
to use MyNABShow to justify going to the event. It also helps them
find the needle in the haystack and use their time wisely.”
After the show, the NAB analyzes
BDMetrics’ data to refine the demographic questions that are asked
of potential attendees. “We’ll note how many people looked for a
certain exhibitor, or that we had so many people with a certain job
description,” explains McVaney. “That shows us we need more
products or exhibitors for that group for next year’s show.”