Recent data reveals that attendance levels are finally surpassing 2019 benchmarks. Now that events are back in full gear, what top event trends are emerging on the show floor?
In-person events have been in recovery for over a year now, and the industry continues to gain ground. Recent data from Freeman shows that average attendance numbers surpassed 2019 levels for the first time in May of 2023. It’s time to stop making predictions about show floor trends based on hunches. What is the on-the-ground evidence telling us? In this article, we’ll dive into a recent case study — Hunkeler Innovationdays 2023 — to uncover the latest event best practices as they’re unfolding on the show floor.
Hunkeler is a global leader in paper processing, and its onsite flagship event, Hunkeler Innovationdays, is a prime example of what big business needs to pull off a successful exhibition in this new era. Efficiency and convenience have never been more important. Just as digital literacy is reaching all-time highs thanks to the adaptations of the pandemic, businesses of all kinds are facing pressures to get the job done as quickly and economically as possible.
How did Hunkeler Innovationdays keep everything running smoothly while exceeding its 2019 attendance levels? The company got ahead of the show floor trends outlined in Stova’s recent white paper, A Guide To In-Person Events: Best Practices in a Changing Environment. Here are the top three that proved most crucial for Hunkeler’s business goals.
1. Attendees Demand a Frictionless Check-In Process
With some badge-printing services leaving the market during the two-year downturn of the pandemic, event organizers need solutions — and they need them fast. Attendees are used to contactless convenience and automation, and first impressions are vital. The last thing today’s event registrants want to do is to eat into their valuable time on the show floor with a long wait in a crowded line. That’s why Hunkeler partnered with Stova to ensure a tech-smart way to cover all its check-in needs.
Kiosk-Based Access Control
Phil Graham, Enterprise Sales Director for Stova, recommends that check-in lines should never have more than a five- to seven-minute wait. “Check-in must be a fast, frictionless process that allows people to check-in and get their badge as quickly as possible to begin to engage in the event,” he said. A set of check-in kiosks with automated badge printing can provide a convenient and efficient way to keep traffic flowing without straining precious staff resources at a time of labor shortages.
With digital tickets, checking in can be as simple as scanning a QR code — creating a contactless experience that maximizes both convenience and hygiene.
Other show floor trends to keep in mind include a growing movement to source recyclable materials for badges. While attendees may have to be more careful with unlaminated paper badges, many appreciate the effort to be more eco-conscious. Graham also recommends using two hole punches to keep lanyards from twisting, and for those who want to give attendees the ultimate choice, there’s always the option of using three.
As a final logistical best practice, Graham suggests setting up drop-off boxes for badge returns at all the entry and exit points — preferably right from the first day so they’re top of mind from the get go.
For event organizers looking to maximize sponsorship opportunities, the check-in area is also prime real estate for posters and LED screens. Even with only a very short wait in line, the majority of attendees will be looking from side-to-side for something to catch their attention. Most television commercials are only 15 seconds long, and even art lovers tend to spend only 15 to 30 seconds studying a museum piece. Even a short pause is long enough to make an impression.
Ever made it to the check-in line only to realize you’ve forgotten to download the event app when you see others browsing through the agenda on their phones? The event lobby can also be a good place to display QR codes that will lead to the app download, as well as information about the WiFi network name and password. (And to get the most bang for your buck, consider upselling a sponsor by making their brand name the WiFi password.)
For more involved questions about the app and badge scanning options, Graham recommends setting up a dedicated info desk separate from the check-in line — the last thing you want is to create an extra bottleneck to entry with questions holding up the queue.
Once attendees have checked in and logged into the app, they’ll be ready to hit the show floor fully prepared and engaged. To make the process as frictionless as possible, consider offering attendees the option to use a single sign-on (SSO) login. This technology allows attendees to use the same username and password across multiple applications, making the sign-on process as simple as a single click.
2. Contactless, Automated Lead Retrieval Will Boost ROI
Whether it be for convenience, health and safety, or environmental concerns, contactless solutions are now the gold standard, and that’s just as true for lead retrieval as for any other part of event management.
If you need proof as to whether the tech is worth it, just look at adoption rates. At Innovationdays, 120 exhibitors from 70 different exhibition groups made use of Stova’s contactless lead retrieval system.
Reducing Friction With QR & NFC Badges
Stova offers two ways to collect leads. One is to manually scan QR codes on their badges, and another is to collect the information instantly with the tap of an NFC (near-field communication) badge — think of the tap function on your debit and credit cards. The advantage of NFC badging is that it makes the process a bit faster and more secure, but otherwise the process is almost identical. No one needs to type their name into an iPad, or worse, hold onto a pile of business cards.
Empowering Attendees With the Mobile App
To offer attendees even more options, Graham recommends including a function within the mobile event app that allows registrants to add themselves as leads on the exhibitor’s company page. This can be especially helpful for buyers who like to browse a series of exhibitor booths before committing to share contact information.
Gamifying Lead Generation
Convenience is great, but there’s one incentive that may be even more powerful: fun. When badge scanning is run through your event’s mobile app, it’s easy to assign gamification points to everything from attending a sponsored session to sharing contact information with an exhibitor. “You get scanned as a lead, you get credit for that activity on the leaderboard. If you scan into a session, that could be worth X points on the leaderboard too,” explained Graham.
3. Fully Integrated Mobile Apps Are Now a Must-Have
“There’s an app for that” — this phrase pops up more often than not these days, and it’s moved beyond an added bonus to a must-have for events. And some show floor trends extend beyond the on-site location: The virtual event wave of the pandemic means that many attendees now also expect a virtual platform.
An all-in-one solution like Stova allows you to offer the best event experience possible while also keeping your own logistical responsibilities manageable.
Tools to Enhance the Attendee Experience
Besides allowing event organizers to streamline and enhance lead retrievals, mobile apps can act as command central for all communication and navigation needs. That means it’s just as beneficial for attendees as it is for exhibitors, with added perks like engagement tools. Live polling and gamification may not be new, but attendees are more eager than ever to participate digitally.
End-to-End Tech Solutions for Streamlined Data
With tech that combines an end-to-end event management solution and a virtual platform, event organizers have the benefit of easy access to all relevant event data in one place. Think of it as a central portal to manage check-in, session attendance, and lead retrieval — with all those metrics being funneled into your CRM or marketing automation platform from a single source of truth.
A built-in exhibitor management system can similarly be a win-win solution. It empowers exhibitors to add content to their own company pages, and at the same time removes the need for the organizer to act as the go-between for every single edit. By the same token, it can streamline approvals, communications, and task management.
Taking the full event life cycle into account, a virtual event platform can be a great way to keep attendees engaged before, during, and after the event — while also keeping track of all those interactions for ongoing marketing efforts.
When the app, event management tools, and virtual platform are all part of one complete solution, you don’t have to worry about juggling multiple integrations and cross-checking the flow of data at every stage.
Command Central for Digital Displays
Just like other forms of digital technology, LED screens are becoming ubiquitous on the show floor. A rotating display of sponsor graphics and timed event messaging can be an effective way to reach attendees, but it can also be a logistical nightmare without a robust management system in place. That’s where Stova’s display builder comes in handy. It allows organizers to control all event signage through one portal.
Staying on Top of Show Floor Event Trends
2023 has so far been a landmark year for the recovery of in-person events, but planners are facing higher expectations than ever before. To learn more about all the tips and tricks that will keep you at the top of your game, download Stova’s full report, A Guide to In-Person Events: Best Practices in a Changing Environment.
This content was created collaboratively by Stova and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.