Writer, blogger, meetings & exhibition industry content developer. She blogs at Forkintheroadblog.com.
Update: What's Your Opinion? 10 min survey & chance to win an iPad
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Original article published August 2, 2011:
Dear Show Organizer: I realize you have a lot on your plate. The technology is coming at you so fast you don’t know which end is up. You must get a call a day from various vendors wanting to sell you their products and services while you’re trying to get your regular job done. I feel for you. Here’s a list of what I, Ms. Jane Q. Attendee, want from the technology you select for your shows. Maybe this will help a little.
Wi-Fi - Please settle this tussle between third-party Internet providers, facilities and yourselves. I understand the arguments from all sides (costs, signal interference, etc.) BUT if I can’t have Internet access on the showfloor for my iPad or my laptop, I’m going to use a Wi-Fi card or leave the show earlier rather than later. That said, if you’re going to offer Wi-Fi access to attendees, don’t make the login and password a secret.
Matchmaking Software - Rather than check boxes on a profile during registration (most of the time I am in the “other” category in terms of what I’m looking for), I want a free form text box that I can use to describe what I’m really looking for. I want matchmaking software that is smart enough to suggest matches that really suit my requirements - I’m not so sure that a keyword match will always do the trick. I’d like to be able to speak with a human (not to help me work the software) to assist me with meeting the exhibitors that meet my specific requirements.
Genius Bar - I want “neutral” folks to answer my questions about the various technologies that the show has selected for my edutainment. I want the location of the help desk to be clearly marked on the floor plan, and if I have to walk half a mile in heels to ask a simple question, I want to be able to tweet the Genius Bar instead.
Charging Stations - There has to be more charging stations for juicing up the phones, pads, and ‘puters that are part of the professional dress code these days. I realize that some forward-thinking exhibitors have included charging stations in their booths as a traffic draw, but it’s never the connector I need for my Android model. Plus, I want to be able to leave my phone at the charging station and come back later to get it - remember “Sack Sitters”? Can someone figure this out?
Mobile App - I think every show should have a mobile app with maps, schedules and social media access at the very least, and I want the app to offer two-way communication. For example, what if the app had a big red “help” button and I could ask questions via voice or text and get an immediate answer. I want to be able to rate features of the show that I liked and disliked anonymously. I want a searchable list of area restaurants and bars. And having an app that pinged me (a webcam might do) when the lines at the Starbucks, lunch counter, and taxi stand were down to a reasonable length would be EXCELLENT.
Video Conference Session - I want all of the conference sessions to be available to me after the show. I don’t mind paying for them either if I can choose the ones I want from a list and the price is fair. Hey, $19.99 works on infomercials. SXSW offers replays of select conference sessions practically every week post-conference for FREE. It just makes me want to attend in person that much more.
Social Selling - I would love a trade show floor with a “No Sales Pitch” zone. I would be intrigued to see how many exhibitors would sign up to be part of it. Here’s why: Everyone in that room wants and needs to maximize their efforts. Attendees want targeted information. Exhibitors want real prospects. Why can’t we both get what we want? In social media, overt selling is frowned upon. And what have we found out when a company shares instead of sells? They get more business.
Tweetups - I want show organizers to sanction and support tweetups by listing them on the Web site, helping to get the word out, maybe even including a tab on the schedule where attendees and exhibitors can add their own impromptu group get-togethers. I also want the show’s hashtag to be posted on the web site home page so that I don’t have to dig for it or guess at it.
Tutorials - I want a single Web page that tells me what technology the show has deployed, how it will benefit me and how to use it. I would love a single sign-on login procedure for everything using my LinkedIn or Facebook information.
QR codes - I want to be able to scan signage on every conference session (that takes me to the site where the speaker bio, handouts and PowerPoint slides live), exhibitor booths (leading to product information, white papers, ebooks, etc.), and on badges so that I don’t end up with a jumble of business cards in every pocket.
Most everything that I want revolves around my portable smart device of choice. I want to distill the entire show experience into something that will fit (or balance) on the palm of my hand. That means that now more than ever you, Mr./Mrs. Show Organizer, have to keep mobile top of mind - from the optimization of the show’s website to the brevity of the content to the accessibility of the technology. I’m watching.