Taking center stage at most tradeshows today is technology. From a technological standpoint, this industry has come a long way in a short amount of time.
Currently trending is the mobile app. A number of downloadable mobile applications geared toward the meetings and exhibition industries are designed to make an attendee’s life much easier while navigating an event.
Tradeshow companies are working with technology firms to spotlight and feature show materials electronically, making them available in the palm of a show attendee’s hand, and revolutionizing the way such materials can be accessed.
Gone are the days of thick show guides, which could not only weigh down one’s bag, but are also time-intensive to thumb through to locate booth or company information. Those guides, too, can be uploaded to these mobile applications and simply requires a smartphone to access.
New York-based Bizzabo developed an application that serves as a one-stop shop for convention and tradeshow documents, all loaded onto a mobile device.
According to Alon Alroy, CEO and co-founder, Bizzabo, the app is both scalable and user-friendly.
“The Bizzabo app has been used in about 3,000 conferences thus far,” shared Alroy, adding that Bizzabo usually works with smaller to medium-sized events. “Everything that technology can offer to maximize the attendee experience, we offer it.”
Nearly all apps on the market are interactive in multiple ways, and many integrate with popular social media and social networking programs.
“People log in, create a user profile and then they can connect with fellow attendees. The experience is much more than a name-tag,” said Alroy.
Additional applications are similar, yet serve somewhat different functions. One such app is from San Francisco-based DoubleDutch.
Unlike Bizzabo, photos and video can be uploaded onto a real-time activity feed. Company officials tout that the app feels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all in one.
The primary benefit of the app, according to developers, is the ability to socially interact with fellow attendees. Engaging in social networking can mean the difference between developing leads with future clients at an after-hours event versus eating dinner alone at a hotel.
In fact, according to Coburn, every event is seen as a social experience.
“We are now seeing that event apps are must-haves,” said Lawrence Coburn, CEO, DoubleDutch, whose company has already featured over 1,000 events.
DoubleDutch integrates “ibeacon technology” to connect show attendees by location using Bluetooth LE capabilities, and it even offers an “offline mode” when a Wi-Fi connection is unavailable.
Coburn touts a high retention rate with its customers, particularly due to the social aspect of the application. He added that DoubleDutch is bringing “a concierge approach” to mobile events apps.
“You as a user have the ability to participate in conversations and your event, suddenly, becomes interactive,” said Coburn.
Pathable, another player in the market, performs more of an event-planning function for meeting planners.
Used more for business conferences, the six-year-old Pathable features substantially less social networking and more business networking.
Those attending an event are there to build professional relationships, and this is part of the value Pathable offers, according to Jordan Schwartz, president, Pathable.
“We’ve built a tool that manages a conference calendar, allows one to reserve rooms, tables, etc. We’ve made this process much more simple,” said Schwartz.
One additional feature Pathable has for event attendees is an ability to turn social interaction into engagement, even after the event has concluded. The company creates a community and then preserves the community beyond the ending date of the event.
“Attendees want to get to know each other, putting names with faces. And they want to stay connected not just during the event but after,” added Schwartz. “People walk away more successful with more contacts and leads.”
The applications themselves are big business too. DoubleDutch, for example, has seen a 40 percent growth in revenue since the company started in 2011.
The firm has 80 employees with offices in both Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
All of the applications are available for both Android and iPhone.