Putting QR Codes to Good Use at Events

Custom applications are powerful tools for planners

• Avoid using QR codes to navigate to a single website. The payoff isn't great enough to keep attendees engaged.

• Never put an unsecured vCard in a QR code on a name badge.

• Use QR codes to replace paper-based business cards and evaluation forms.

• Track registra­tion activity and session attendance automatically.

Despite all the hype about QR codes (those square pixilated icons that you can scan with a smartphone), most event planners significantly underutilize the technology. The number-one use for QR codes today is to be singly placed on promotional material to launch an event website. But their potential goes far beyond linking smartphones to websites: They can actually do work for you.

QR codes have more power when they launch web applications with unique parameters (like a record locator) and perform a specific business task. These QR codes can register your attendees, enable electronic business card swaps, track attendance at breakouts and sessions, distribute evaluation forms and entertain attendees.

Creating a single QR code is free, and can be done at sites such as qrcode.kaywa.com and zxing.appspot.com/generator. With a code you can link information like phone numbers, geographic coordinates and calendar items, in addition to websites. Marketing technology companies such as ours can help with more complex applications, as in the following ways this technology can be of significant use to planners.

Name Badges Place a QR code on the name badge of every attendee, exhibitor, sponsor and speaker for a green and time-saving electronic information exchange. But be careful: If done improperly, you could actually sour your attendees on the technology.

The security and logistical nightmares associated with embedded vCards (electronic business cards) in QR codes at events are too many to list. So choose an opt-in secure solution that remotely stores contact information and scanning activity. Don't rely on your attendees to manually store data; rather, automatically send an e-mail to all participants at the end of the event. Attach a neatly formatted report containing all the scanned contact information, which can be easily imported into contact management software. Participants won't have to manually enter business card information.

Check out a demo of such an application here: q3r.us/demo/?l=mcmag. You'll need a mobile device with a camera and a QR code reader.

Outside of Sessions Automate attendance tracking while providing useful information for event attendees. When an attendee scans the code on-site, you can display a detailed list of every session scheduled for that room. Immediately before a session, the QR code can change functionality and allow attendees to check in. After a session, attendees can scan the same QR code as they exit and receive an evaluation form and session notes on their smartphones -- a green alternative to printed surveys and notes. Planners get an accurate list of attendees with completed evaluation forms from every participant. It's also a great solution for CE credit management.

For Fun There are dozens of ways to facilitate scavenger hunts using QR codes. Consider providing clues to secret code locations, embedding questions pertaining to your event, and offering prizes to participate. This is the newest way to establish relationships by engaging your attendees in a fun activity, while simultaneously showing off the latest interactive technology.