The most important aspect of any exhibition or conference is personal encounters. So how can they best be facilitated? By bringing participants in contact with each other in advance and ensuring that they easily find one another during the event. This can be realised quickly via a technical revolution called indoor wayfinding. ‘You are now standing beside the person you wanted to meet’. A guide to business conference dating in three steps.
STEP 1: Matchmaking
Provide participant information in advance
At the time of registration, conference and exhibition visitors and exhibitors provide information such as their company name, job function and position. Simply distributing a participant list on site is an outdated method, however. People expect you to provide this information in advance as well as online during the conference. You can make this even more interesting by adding links to websites such as LinkedIn. This gives visitors the opportunity to find out who they’d like to make contact with before the event takes place.
Dare to ask
But are job title, company name and business profiles sufficient? There are other intrinsic criteria which determine whether two people in the same field would like to meet. At an exhibition for architects, for instance, this may involve specific movements that inspire them; at a conference for GPs it could mean various current ethical issues. Try to determine in advance what aspects are interesting to your visitors and/or exhibitors and ask them about it during registration. This simplifies the selection process for participants. Don’t be afraid to think big!
And why not be more proactive? This November I’m going to the Web Summit in Portugal. The organisers are already providing me with suggestions for making contact with other attendants using smart algorithms that recognise links in participants’ information. These suggestions help me establish connections in advance and invite contacts for physical meetings during the Summit. It’s a great way for me to make the most of my time and increase the value of the event.
STEP 2: Facilitate meetings
During the conference or exhibition, you can add value as an organiser by actively facilitating the desired meetings. Familiar methods are meeting plazas or organising get-togethers during lunch or conference dinners. You can raise your event to the next level by taking it a step further.
Making appointments via the event website
At a BIO-Europe event in 2012, an entire hall was set up in numbered meeting rooms, resembling a hotel floor. The event website contained a personal agenda where participants could book a meeting room and ensure that both parties were available at a specific time.
Place people with shared interests together
During the Web Summit in November, participant placement during lectures is related to people’s characteristics, with visitors who may be relevant to one another being placed in adjacent seats.
As the event app is a key aspect herein, the selection process is important. The rapid pace of developments is underlined by this presentation by Lawrence Coburn, CEO of app developer DoubleDutch:
Challenge people to make genuine contact
The technical facilitation of meetings is only half the story. Business also revolves around trust and good will, and this requires more than exchanging business cards alone. The difference lies in making the sort of genuine contact which results from experiencing something together, being open and relaxing. It’s no coincidence that the best deals are closed on the golf course and that the Chinese often invite business contacts to karaoke bars. So ensure that meetings during your event are special; add a game element, create a challenging environment and stimulate an active experience. Only then will your event remain relevant.
STEP 3: Indoor wayfinding
The technology that is set to truly transform the exhibition and conference world is indoor ‘wayfinding, also known as indoor navigation or localisation. We’re all familiar with Google Maps and the way GPS determines your location. Although GPS doesn’t work inside buildings, there are other options. Parties worldwide are currently competing to develop the best technical solution. In the RAI we can now determine the location of each visitor within a range of 50 centimetres. The possibilities are endless: assisting visitors in establishing routes, leading them to relevant stands, and, most importantly, bringing them into contact with each other. Using the aforementioned matchmaking techniques, you can bring people together or send out a signal when they approach each other. The potential is enormous.
The revolution of indoor wayfinding
Indoor wayfinding will completely change the exhibition and conference world, and developments are proceeding apace. I’ll be keeping you updated on their progress via this blog and discuss the very latest possibilities, the available technologies, what works best and, crucially, which applications will benefit you most.
Max Weijers | @Max_Weijers | Strategy Manager RAI Amsterdam | Innovation | Technology | Data | Kitesurfing