There are “apps” to facilitate the planning, execution and post event feedback. Social media affords exciting new opportunities to not only promote meetings and conferences but also allow those who could not attend to experience events virtually through real time tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook updates shared by attendees.
With so many choices in event technology available to meeting and event professionals, how do you decide which to adopt, which to adapt and which to avoid altogether?
Lizette Chantaracharat, Senior Marketing Specialist, Digital Media with Unified Grocers looks back on Unified Grocers Expo 2015 “firsts” and shares her firsthand experience integrating emerging technologies into a long-standing tradeshow.
An Event App First
“I used Expo 2015 as a pilot for [using an] event app and was pleased to find it was easy to administer and manage content on the fly. An event app is a great tool for any event. The app we chose has contact exchange features, exhibitor information, maps, line-up information, sponsorship, advertising and promotions, gamification and scavenger hunts. It also has the ability of geo-fencing and push applications.
The attendees that used the app had very positive comments. However, because we used Expo 2015 as a pilot, we didn’t promote it as well as we could have prior to the event. As a result, our attendee survey revealed that there were participants that didn’t know about the app."
The use of beacon technology is on the rise in the meetings and events industry. More and more planners are beginning to see the benefits of beacons and implementing them into their conferences and conventions. “Unified Grocers’ Retail Marketing Services department recently introduced beacon technology to our retail customers to use in their grocery stores. We saw Expo as an opportunity to test beacon technology for our shows and as way to further promote it to the retailers at the event,” Chantaracharat shared. “We also felt it would help engage, empower and enhance the overall show experience of the retailers, vendors and associates in attendance.”
Utilizing beacons in events also brings a greater level of personalization to large scale meetings and conventions that can leave attendees and experts feeling like one of the masses. “This technology has the capability to push personalized information to attendees and direct them to specific areas of the show based on the proximity of where the beacons are placed,” Lizette commented. “An example of how we used beacons was by placing one by the entrance of the show floor. As each guest entered it pushed a message that read ‘Welcome to Unified Expo 2015.’” Chantaracharat encourages other planners to “consider adding beacon technology as part of their sponsorship/advertising package. Sponsorship banner ads and personalized location based advertising are great marketing tools for any event.”
A Social First – Integrating Social Media
Social media is a component of any major event. Attendees are posting their favorite keynote quotes, interacting with vendors, and sharing their event experience in real time. The use of event specific hashtags can give attendees an additional way to network with other conference goers, vendors, and the event-dedicated social accounts.
Unified Grocers Expo integrated the use of an event hashtag #UnifiedExpo2015 – a first for the show- to “create conversation communities surrounding various show topics.” Looking through the posts from the event, there were distinguishable trends in platform and use by audience segment. Chantaracharat recalls, “Most of our attendee engagement was on Facebook and Twitter. To no surprise, Facebook was where we saw most of the picture postings and Twitter was primarily used by vendors to attract attention to their booths.”
How can a planner encourage hashtag use by attendees? Unified Expo set up two large monitors on the show floor that displayed the Twitter feeds using the Live Tweet App. “It certainly increased social interactions during our event,” Chantaracharat shared.
Event organizers can also help encourage and grow social conversations around conferences by programming social media posts to coincide with key events and transitions throughout the conference. Social media publishing apps like Buffer, Tweetdeck, and Hootsuite can save time-strapped planners valuable time during the event days by pre-programming posts to be shared during the conference, freeing them to address issues, interact with vendors or attend portions of the program.
Chantaracharat utilized HootSuite to schedule social media posts that needed to publish while she was attending the event. “Hootsuite is also my tool for social listening. It listens to conversations taking place about our brands and relevant topics in the industry that are taking place on social media and surfaces opportunities for me to join and participate…” which is really what the meetings industry is all about- participation.
With so many event apps and technologies to choose from, it’s can be hard to narrow your focus. We recommend the following decision-making exercise:
Create a table with two columns; in one column outline your event goals and in the other the proposed event technology or app. Then take some time to ask yourself the hard questions. Will that event app help grow attendance? Will a social media hashtag raise awareness of your organization?
Answering these questions can be a difficult but worthwhile first step in series of “firsts” for meeting professionals looking to bring events to the next level in the new year.
Special thanks to Lizette Chantaracharat and Unified Grocers for sharing their insights on Unified Expo at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center!