Events on the Edge Part 2 – choosing event tech

Events on the Edge Part 2 – choosing event tech

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After a week on the show floor at #ExpoExpo I’ve learnt two things. Shows for show people are the same the world over!  And, despite our reputation as innovators, it’s clear we Kiwis are not the fastest off the block in our uptake of new technologies at our events.  This show had an app, a contact management system, social walls and more.

Unlike other key industries in New Zealand like agriculture and financial services that are constantly breaking new ground, our love of technology is much less apparent in the events sector. Month on month, ShowGizmo supports more events in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East than in New Zealand. Tellingly, our tech partners also report that moving organisers from their existing systems to newer/shinier/better ones is exceptionally hard. Social media is still an event innovation, gamification is mostly confined to ‘scan to win’ and ‘events as communities’ is a concept only really exemplified by the larger branding agencies with corporate clients.

Perhaps this is because relationships between event managers and clients are so well established; it’s harder to get new technologies over the line. Or because we’re scared to try something new in case it doesn’t work, and everyone (remember we’re separated by only TWO degrees!) will think we failed. Or simply because our rate of smartphone adoption was behind many other places for some years, our data speeds were and remain slower (only a few cities are even now on 4G) and our data costs are exorbitant.

Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, we have some catching up to do. There are exciting times ahead though. Over the next decade, more than $2 million a year is slated to be spent to almost double the economic spinoff from Auckland’s business events sector to $430 million annually. It’s a critical investment; a bigger events industry will help tackle the problem of seasonality where tourist operators are not busy year round, and if Auckland secured just one percent of the events currently held in Australia, its conference sector would be boosted by 10 percent.  With more certainty we hope there’s more capacity to be brave and experiment with the new technologies available to us — not just the homegrown ones, but the global variety too.

Our strategy for working with companies hesitant to integrate new technologies into their events is to help them think holistically. Sure, we evangelise the many ways in which having a mobile app will increase an event’s ROI (naturally!!), but we also completely understand the need to manage the introduction of new technologies carefully and to understand the implications of each proposed adoption.  As a tech company ourselves we face the same challenges — which new systems to bring in, how to future proof etc.  It’s not easy, but here are three thoughts to leave you with:

                   Keep it in perspective.

Technology is just technology, its primary function is an enabler, so go back to first principles and think about what you’re trying to achieve. Reach more people?  Retain more?  Increase delivery efficiencies?  Make your team happier?  Put the competition in its place by demonstrating a unique value proposition? Every one of those objectives will have many different ways they can be achieved, and using tech might be only one option and possibly not even the best.  At ShowGizmo, we’ve always said that event apps are first and foremost highly versatile communications tools. In that context, what matters is what you want to communicate and to whom. If all you want is to communicate a simple message to a small audience, it may be that a simple -a low-tech whiteboard would be the right solution … and I can’t believe I just said that!

                     Think holistically.

It’s important that your systems talk to each other. In this day and age there’s no reason why not. If they don’t, get rid of the one that’s the island and always check out what integrations are standard when reviewing new tech.

              Go for quality every time.

You want the best, so ask for references, review the standards of other events your suppliers are supporting, etc.  Don’t go for a one-solution-with-everything-in-it and risk sinking to the lowest common tech denominator.  A brilliant event app might include a lack-lustre ticketing system as a bolt on; a slick and powerful registration system may have a ho-hum mobile app that’s not even really an app included in the package.

From the show floor – SIES 2015

From the show floor – SIES 2015

We recently attended the Sydney International Endoscopy Symposium – SIES 2015 for short – in Sydney where ShowGizmo was used for the second time round!

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.03.36 pmOur app concierge Lauren (seen above) was a bit wary going into this event as SIES is renowned for its incorporation of live surgeries into the programme. These surgeries are streamed straight from the hospital OR! However, Lauren says she saw “minimal ‘flesh’ shots’ … a big relief!

Like many medical conferences around the globe, the SIES audience included a high proportion of the older age demographics. This is often perceived to be a barrier to having high uptake levels and engagement with the app. Despite this perception,at SIES, over half of the 600+ delegates actively used the app which can largely be attributed to the great promotion of the app before and during the event! Having a concierge onsite also allowed for troubleshooting on the day and fast resolution of any access issues.

The organisers successfully made the app an integral part of the event by using a number of key features well and highly visible promotion – like the AMAZING app concierge desk above!

1. Live polls were used in an interesting way. During the six featured surgeries questions were directed to the audience from the surgeons regarding the procedures and intercut with ‘flesh’ footage- proved to be a great engagement tool! Some MC’s and surgeons were more into it than others which resulted in higher participation levels – getting the right people briefed/involved is key! What ways could live polling be used to engage the crowd at your event?

2. The organisers also offered a daily prize – $100 gift voucher for the most active app delegate – which was an effective and simple idea that got people favouriting, messaging and evaluating! Could you offer a similar prize at your next event to encourage active app usage?

3. Promotion of the app included a detailed PowerPoint with screenshots and text that demonstrated the main features of the app. This was shown at the beginning of the first day and on screens in the exhibitor hall! How could you better promote your app to delegates?

While results were positive there is always room for improvement – there was potential for getting exhibitors more involved, providing the audience with the ability to ask questions via the app and providing delegates with more content such as presentations and patient updates which both sides can take on board for the future!

From the Show Floor: Avalon AirShow 2015

From the Show Floor: Avalon AirShow 2015

There aren’t many events we go to where we’re handed ear plugs with our access passes as we walk in the door, but an hour after we arrived it made perfect sense…as these noisy planes swept across the skies and stopped all possibility of talk at the booth!

Fasten your ear plugs…

Yes we were at the Avalon Airshow 2015, Australasia’s largest airshow, held every two years.  Amongst the 200,000 visitors were 100 delegations from around the world joining national and international buyers attending this four day trade exhibition at which deals of more than $1bn were negotiated.

You won’t be surprised, given it’s staged by a military organisation, that the trade show was efficiently planned with a huge focus on security of information and safe interactions between buyers and sellers – all fundamental inputs into the design of their event app.

The app included unique features that may not be directly applicable to your show, but which allowed our team to explore new ways to bring people together in the event environment, something we love to do.

1. Delegations Management System – or ‘help your exhibitors meet the right people’

The Avalon 2015 event app only showed the Delegations Management System to those authorised to see it, and only once specific privacy conditions had been confirmed.  Once accessed, trade exhibitors were able to request connections with the visiting delegations, providing live data to the organising team to manage.  This was an interesting variation on the theme of matchmaking or buyer appointment making – putting the influence in the hands of the exhibitors.

How are you ensuring that your exhibitors get to meet the right people on show day?

2. Required confirmation of Privacy terms and conditions before accessing the app

Attendees at this event included high ranking military personnel and exhibitors from defence organisations around the world so privacy and security were a top priority. – something we would suggest should be critical for all events, even when they are less sensitive.  For the Avalon App we built a required acceptance of the organisations privacy and security terms into the log in process – without accepting these, a user could not view content within the app.  Security was further maximised with the inclusion of a unique password per user.  And of course our own company and contractual terms were carefully scrutinised by the organisers to ensure they met their high standards.

How are you ensuring the privacy of your attendee information?

3. App Concierges on site

Every exhibitor on site was provided with a QR code poster to encourage additional lead capture during the event . On the last day the trade floor was opened up to a wider consumer audience meaning that exhibiting staff were swamped with people!  Visitors scanned the poster to get unique information about the exhibitor – so no potential connections were missed even if booth staff were busy talking – and the exhibitor received that visitors name and email as a lead.

This was a new experience for the majority of the shows’ exhibitors so the organisers asked us to provide two on site app concierges to assist with encouraging downloads and scans, to update exhibitor profiles with new content and to field any queries about using the app.  Over 200 queries were responded to by the team – 200 fewer things for the organiser to think about.

How could an app concierge save you time on show day?


How can we help?!


From the Show Floor – CINZ Conference 2015

From the Show Floor – CINZ Conference 2015

Conventions & Incentives NZ (CINZ) held its annual conference in Rotorua last week.  Each year a different region hosts the conference, and shows off its best tourism and incentive hotspots and suppliers.  In a way that choice sets the scene for the event as a whole, which I’ve realized (having now been twice) is heavily geared towards the venues and destinations.

The event has been a staple in the NZ scene, and there were high expectations of something special this year, given the new CEO taking her position 6 months ago.  I really enjoyed last year’s event in Nelson, as an aside, mainly because it was focused so heavily on collaborative strategic planning for the direction of CINZ given the departure of the incumbent CEO and the new appointment.  So I was hoping that not too much would be different!

Starting with the disappointments…

MC – no, not me, but Greg Ward! I missed the amazing Greg Ward as MC, who knows our industry so well and connects us all during the year.

Length of sessions – I wished the concurrent sessions had been 45 minutes each, not 1.5 hours and had been repeated.  Being a speaker who takes six weeks to prepare a presentation, only to find an audience of 9 people and no means of recording the presentation, the opportunity to reach two audiences would have been welcome.  As a delegate, the content was compelling, but choosing only one option each day too hard.

Demographic – of the roughly 200 participants, almost 10% were from the organisers and key partner Tourism NZ.  There was a distinct lack of suppliers and PCOs – and some venues were sending multiple participants which meant networking was limited.  80 organisations represented meant I met only three new people.

No technology.  We barely used the Q/A handsets.  Our app was accessed by only 8 people.  There was no streaming to outside locations, no capture of content for further use, no requests for slides from presenters for sharing on SlideShare.  For an industry event, this felt like ten years in the past.

Good things…

More choice of content – this year there was more emphasis on the conference content.  Not surprising I guess as the theme was ‘educate to innovate’! As well as presenting a workshop on day 1 (one of four concurrent sessions variously addressing personal or technical development)  I attended three interesting keynote presentations – two from within the industry (Tim Alpe, CEO Jucy Group and Mercedes Trautwein, EVT) and one ‘inspirational’ speaker: Dr. Paul Wood who, after having murdered his drug dealer, spent more than a decade in prison during which time he graduated with two degrees and started his doctorate.

Event Design – the conference venue (The Energy Events Centre) was spacious and the designers made the most of the drama, giving us an inspirational stage set up, and flanking screens to support presenters.  And the CINZ team attention to detail (YAY! The lolly bar came back this year!) included varying the ‘swag’ on the table each day.  Thank you for the NZ themed Christmas decorations in particular ☺

Great entertainment – the CINZ team chose the Skyline restaurant for dinner on the first night and delegates were treated to the most amazing buffet dinner!  As a vegetarian it’s not often I get up for seconds and thirds…and fourths!  Their American themed final night went down well, and the troupe that performed for more than four hours (singing, dancing, comedy, the works) could have been equally at home on a big city stage anywhere.  And dressing up really breaks down the barriers between colleagues, so you become friends!

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From the show floor: NZ Marketing Summit

From the show floor: NZ Marketing Summit

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Josh attended the NZ Marketing Summit in Auckland last week. Conferenz were running the Summit and were utilising ShowGizmo, as well as being on site for any necessary app support, Josh was lucky enough to attend most sessions and take in the great content.

Here are a few take aways from the event:

Multiple Streams: worked well in programme and with the use of personalised agenda.
The Summit was organised into four main streams; LIVE, DATA, BRAND and REACH. These streams were on at the same time allowing attendees to chose between the sessions. The agenda in the app displayed these sessions at the same time and with the use of the personalised agenda, attendees could select which session to attend by adding this to their personal agenda. With so many great speakers, this allowed the attendees to also change their mind multiple times – which certainly happened in my case.

Connecting to Speakers: speakers from around the World and experts on specific content.
Having their profiles and contact details, Marketers could get in touch with them directly. Some of the  speakers were very future-focussed and presented a lot of trends and examples of recent successes. With a range of Marketers at the Summit, some speakers struck certain notes with attendees, leaving them wanting more. With a large audience, sometimes not the best for specific or personal questions, attendees could get in touch with the speakers themselves and follow up on specific advice.

Exhibitors/Sponsors Zone: well set out, interactive. Food and drinks in zone, bringing delegates to exhibitors.
This space was done well, allowing exhibitors a large thoroughfare of attendees between each session as all breaks were held in this room. There was a good mix of exhibitors and most stands had an interactive element to them keeping attendees engaged during the breaks.

Exciting Marketing Trends: there was some great content and here are some takeaways for fellow Marketers
a) Infobesity: a term coined by the advertisers in the panel session. Today there is so much information out there that it is overloading and the Marketers who will succeed in the future will be those who can filter this information and provide their audience with content directly specified to them.
b) Experiential Marketing still key for events: NZ’s own V Energy Drink and the RWC showed great examples of this: informing us how they had made their brands come alive with great experiences at live events. This content is all made available on
c) Video + content creation extend the life of your event: And I thought I would leave you with the most astounding stat I heard at summit “1% of the video content uploaded daily is more than 60hours of footage”.