7 Creative Ways of Using Beacons at Events & Conferences


Steve Jobs, bless his soul, had always said “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”

When it comes to events and conferences, especially ones of huge magnitude, it becomes very easy for attendees to feel quite lost without help.

Where should I go? How do i get there? Will it be worth it? What is next? How do i find it? Who are the people I should be interacting to reap the best opportunities? What should I talk about? How should I approach? I wish I had a little more information, Ohh this is so boring…. are possibly some of the recurring thoughts and questions that Apple wanted to address when they introduced iBeacons at WWDC 2013.

Beacons are small, smart objects that you can stick to the walls of an event venue. They send out Bluetooth signals, which attendees can detect and follow by using their smartphones. iBeacon is the trademark for the beacon technology developed by Apple, Inc. [More about beacons]

Cut to 2016, the use of cutting edge event technology like beacons as well as mobile marketing initiatives have become a necessity as compared to a luxury for successful event engagement and outcomes. In fact, a study conducted by inMarket states that events and conferences that use the beacon technology reports a 45% increase in interaction rate with attendees.

While beacons have certain traditional roles and advantages, like any other advanced technology, it can be tweaked to be a little more ‘inspired’. In this article we will try to look at some of the more creative ways in which an already established technology like beacons can be used.

1. Automated Event Registration

Queued up registrations processes can be the bane of most corporate events and conferences. At such times, a beacon enabled event apps is what comes to the rescue with onsite check-in options. Attendees can now scan an in-app QR code at a kiosk, or simply check-in with the app and pick up a badge to complete the registration process without much ado.

For example, the SXSW 2014 festival made used of beacons in the event by strategically placing beacons in and around the Austin Convention Center. These beacons sent event attendees their registration codes via notifications for very quick and easy signup process once they were in the vicinity of the venue. This conveniently speeded up the badge distribution process among the event attendees.

2. Smart Networking

In a crowded room of a very happening networking session, hunting for that perfect networking opportunity by checkingout name badges are so passé! Geofencing is a new concept on the block wherein beacons can easily find who is present in a room at any given time.

So let’s say you are with your kid at comic-con and it would just make their day to come face to face with their favorite marvel comic character, but all you see is a sea of coloured costumes. With beacons, you can pull up the event app and see the signal for where that character is and casually bump into them.

Alternatively in corporate networking session, an attendee can look for their favorite connection or check out their best possible options by the photo reference and bio and initiate that conversation they were hoping to strike.

In 2014, Cannes Lion Film Festival, beacons were leveraged for the same purpose with the “Around Me” feature in their event apps.

3. Heat Map using Wearable Beacons

Booth traffic is a major pain point for exhibitors at any event. With the implementation of beacons, gathering real time data on the traffic and dwell time of attendees has become seamless.

With the data at hand, the booth owners can now react appropriately with the traffic issues as well as make changes as and how necessary to redirect the traffic or change layout for future events so as to deliver further value to their key sponsors. The heat map feature can be integrated into wearable beacons that are quite the rage in the event scenario. Since they provide real time statistics, they recognize hotspots and can send alerts to event organizers about overcrowded areas which are usually zones that can be affected by security breaches.

For example, wearable beacons were used at the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association’s (E2MA) 2016 Red Diamond Congress in Orlando this year in April, to track crowd movement via heat maps. While it did cost an extra 3$ plus per attendee for each wearable gadget, the gadget had a host of features like automated check-ins, wayfinding, location-dependent polling, real-time heat maps, and even push notifications activated by a meter or less of proximity of an exhibitor booth thereby making wearable beacons a huge success.

4. Navigation

In enterprise events and conferences, getting lost while navigation is quite common for attendees. Floor maps powered by beacons are a great way of letting attendees know where in the venue they are and where they go to reach their desired destination. Other than offering direction, push notifications sent to attendees while they walk past a session or a booth can invariation strike their curiosity and draw them in. this will also foster attendee engagement by ensuring they get the maximum value out of the event.

For example, Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Coachella in California used beacons to direct the tens and thousands of attendees towards medical tents and water locations present all over the concert premises. In fact event organizers report that this kind of engagement was so appreciated by the attendees that around 25% of the app users engaged with beacon messaging.

5. Gamification

Gamification is a crucial element that is regularly being featured in events and conferences to enhance visitor engagement. Keeping the attendees hooked to an event by conducting Q&A sessions or delivering personalized deals and messages based on a visitor’s proximity to a booth are all efficient event management tools. Special rewards or offers provided to attendees are excellent ways of encouraging them to explore the less popular areas of the event. Certain value actions such as partaking in a survey or completing a feedback questionnaire can also be clubbed with swag merchandise or freebies.

The iBeacon powered Scavenger Hunt at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 is an excellent case study of the above. On downloading the app, the attendees were redirected to the instructions page for game rules. Through this hunt, the attendees were directed towards all important exhibits of the show wherein they had to collect badges from all beacons that they encountered. The top three collectors had a special reward given to them.

6. Food & Beverage Guide

While sessions, speakers, booth, networking and collaterals are the highlights of a corporate event, one must not really keep food and refreshments out of the list. Corporate events hosts people in big numbers and sometimes from all around the world and thus it becomes important for them to arrange for food that can cater to all needs and requirements.

The presence of beacons can guide event attendees to their preferred form of refreshments, new varieties or choices while also providing them information on any ingredient or food component that they might want to avoid for health reasons or otherwise. The use of beacons provide event managers with the much necessary data about food patterns and choices which helps them plan better for future events of similar magnitude or requirements.

7. Lead Exchange

When it comes to closing on leads, lead retrieval scanners have in the past been the weapon of choice for most eventprofs. Using lead retrieval apps, it is proximity beacons that seems to be taking charge. When a prospective lead spends more that a set amount of time at a single booth, these beacons send out a gentle alert as if they would like to receive a followup from the respective organization.

This has a huge marketing potential at corporate events and conferences much like the opt-in experience present online. It also helps to engage attendees when it comes to feedback tools which is another pain-point of event managers, hosts and event speakers. The Teibeca Film Festival took a leaf out of this idea and sent push notification to attendees requesting a feedback on the film when the exited the screening.

By thus enabling brands to bring innovative changes in the traditional event experience, beacons can be hailed as an integral part of any company’s engagement strategy in the near future. Watch our webinar to know how Event App & Beacon technology can make an event successful.

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