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CDS offers tips for communicating show changes to exhibitors

Stephen Leach, operations manager for Americas Expo, is responsible for audience acquisition services, exhibitor communications and Social Media for SEMICON West. While planning to utilize QR codes at the show, he collaborated with registration partner Convention Data Services (CDS) to create and execute a proactive communication plan aimed at exhibitors.

The goal for SEMICON West:
After attending an Advisory Group meeting with our peers, which was organized by CDS, we knew we wanted to secure our data with the latest technologies and switch from barcodes to QR codes. We met with our CDS team to plan the change, and they began the process of creating a QR code on the badges for our SEMICON West show in July.

The steps followed:
1.    Met with our partners and staff to get their buy-in
Before we took action, we met with our partners and staff to discuss the advantages of making this switch and identify any issues we needed to address. This helped us determine our strategy and timeline. We also consulted with our CDS team to help us plan the rollout and timing.

2.    Identified the message
We created our message that we wanted to use to educate our exhibitors:

“The proliferation of downloadable 2D barcode readers for mobile devices has brought new challenges to data security at conventions.  Moving to QR codes only and secure lead retrieval systems protects our attendees from being on unofficial lists that third parties may collect.  This also protects our exhibitors’ investment by ensuring that only they can access the appropriate data that has been shared with them by attendees.”

3.    Planned and created an ongoing communication plan
We created an ongoing pre-show education campaign for our exhibitors to educate them on the benefits of switching to a QR code and provided them with a forum to ask questions. In addition to our written materials, we also implemented the following:

  • Created a portal for exhibitors to order lead retrieval equipment that includes our QR code message.
  • Included the QR code information on all of our exhibitor materials and asked for feedback.
  • Offered an early bird rate with incentives on all of our materials.

4.      Created written materials
In our written materials, we explained why we needed to make the switch and what the benefits would be to our exhibitors by posing the following questions and then providing the answers:

Why QR codes? What do they offer?

  • Security:  Lead details are retrieved securely from the event database and not printed on the badge, which protects attendee and exhibitor privacy.
  • Real-time:  Complete and current data is retrieved instantly when the QR code is scanned.
  • Reliability:  QR codes scan faster, more accurately and include error handling.
  • Complete Reporting:  Secured access ensures show management controls data for comprehensive post-event reporting and lead distribution.
  • Better Technology:  QR codes are mobile-compatible and replace older 2D barcodes.
  • More Than Lead Retrieval:  CDS’ QR codes allow show management to use this technology for attendee check-in, onsite verification and exhibit hall reports.

5.    Created a timeline for the campaign

  • Nine months pre-show: Sent first exhibitor update. Included information that a change to a QR code was coming and encouraged them to contact us to discuss, especially if they own their equipment.
  • Monthly pre-show: Send out exhibitor updates.
  • Four months pre-show: Webinar for exhibitors.
  • Two weeks pre-show: Send out additional exhibitor update with a focus on the benefits of the CDS portfolio of in-person and virtual services.

On all communication pieces we included critical contact information:

  • I included my name, email and direct number to make it easy for exhibitors who have questions to reach me. I believe that personal approach will help us address any problems onsite.
  • We worked with internal members of the service team to be able to communicate the change effectively.
  • We also included contact information for our CDS exhibitor services account manager for exhibitors to order the developers kit if they plan to use proprietary lead retrieval equipment.

The result:
So far the result has been very positive. Through our continuing education and communication efforts, we have been able to explain the process, answer questions and address any concerns.


  • Always encourage feedback.
  • Maintain contact with your exhibitors through written materials, updates and webinars to keep the conversation active.
  • Answer questions and respond to concerns immediately.


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