In this article, we’re going to look at some of the key operational challenges facing convention and conference organizers, and explore some of the best practices from adjacent event verticals like music festivals and sporting events.
We will naturally look at RFID’s role in advancing growth in these sectors, and how it can be harnessed effectively by conference organizers looking to both elevate the guest experience whilst delivering significant ROI.
The Biggest Problems Facing Conventions and Conferences
Problem #1 – Security
One area that festivals and sporting events have gained considerable ground on conventions and conferences is security.
Given some of the recent tragedies at festivals and sporting events in Las Vegas and Paris, it’s no wonder why these industries have collectively responded to the risks posed to them, and are updating their standards to meet the increased threat.
The reality is that all events are potential targets for extremists, and that includes conferences and conventions. Mitigating and diminishing the chances of this begins at the access points, and maintaining the utmost control over who goes in and out of your venue.
“Anyone that doesn’t understand that Europe, the United States and Canada—free and open societies where we exercise our democratic right to assemble—are targets for terrorism had better start paying more attention.”
– Chad Ladov, president of Unified Command
Solution – RFID Access Control
RFID has proved to be a successful solution to this problem, as it limits and restricts access to the event and sensitive areas within the site to those with the right credentials.
“RFID has reduced human error and brought accuracy into access control functions,” explains Caleb Jones, Head of North American Sales for event credential firm ID&C. “Organizers can know exactly how many attendees have entered, at which gate, at what time etc. This data-led reporting leads to better planning for crowd control, and therefore safety.”
By taking control of the access points of your venue you can know exactly who is coming in and out at all times, and the standardized ‘green light: yes, red light: no’ system will free your security staff to focus on assessing and mitigating suspicious behavior and real-world risk.
Access Control technology also allows organizers to create tiered access zones (e.g. GA, VIP, Security, Production Staff, Artists etc.), which give a greater level of oversight over who can go where and when at your event.
“At almost 100 percent of events that we work on we find holes in their access control system. You can set up the most elaborate structure, pull out all the stops with your security, and then find out that there’s one door leading to a staircase that everyone’s walking through.”
– Jon Zifkin, Intellitix’s VP of Customer Succes
Problem #2 – Lack of Data & Insights for Organizers
Go to any B2B conference today and you’ll likely be lulled into a light slumber with all the talk of data and insights that businesses should be gleaning from their customer base.
The irony is that conferences and conventions themselves often leave so much data—and thus revenue—on the table by not taking their own advice.
Every sophisticated event marketing operation today is harnessing customer data, using tracking pixels, look-a-like audience profiles etc. But significantly fewer events are gathering data on their audience when they are at the event.
Solution – Better Data Collection On Site
By using RFID badges to gain access to speaker sessions (GA/VIP/Mastermind sessions), organizers can gauge the popularity of each session by knowing exactly how many people attended (and left midway through…). This data can steer your programming at your next event and ensure that you are responding clearly to what your audience really wants.
And then there is the ROI derived from improving your logistics. RFID Access Control gives you live traffic flow data, which can give event organizers a birds-eye view when it comes to staffing, managing shift patterns and security deployment. These all represent opportunities to become more efficient, and thus save money.
Problem #3 – Archaic Data Collection For Partners
While we’ve seen the “classic” clipboard and sign-up sheet recede from conference booths everywhere, the iPad’s that have come in their place are only marginally more effective.
Yes, they eliminate the glaring fundamental problem of not being able to read a person’s handwriting, but they are still painfully inefficient at the data-entry point, and if your partners are looking to engage as many of your attendees as possible on a busy convention floor, this can really eat into their lead gen on site.
Solution – Help Partners Gather More Data, Better
Conferences and conventions that use RFID can allow or encourage users to create profiles, which are effectively digital business cards. This means that when they see a product or service that appeals to them, they can simply tap their pass on the RFID reader at the booth and be immediately dropped into the database.
Streamlining the data entry process enables booth representatives to focus on engaging people passing by and forging deeper, more meaningful connections. The end result is significantly more high-quality leads in your partners’ CRM, and higher value sponsorship packages overall.
This digital business card feature can even be expanded to integrate content preferences based on the panels or talks that your audience visited. This will deliver added value to your partners, as it enables them to better segment their leads.
Watch how the Reebok Crossfit Games integrated RFID into the convention section of the event and gave significant added value to their partners.
Problem #4 – Ticket Fraud
Comic-Con San Diego had a significant problem: they were just too popular. Demand far outstripped supply for tickets, and the result was a lot of ticket fraud.
This is a very common problem, particularly at the highly sought-after consumer conventions which sell-out in advance.
Ticket fraud is a significant headache for any event producer. The hard cost of having even a few dozen successful fraudulent attempts to enter the event site can represent tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Traditional printed paper tickets with barcodes and electronic QR codes are notoriously easy to forge. There are a number of tutorials available on the internet to guide the average user through the process of creating fake credentials for any kind of event.
Pervasive ticket fraud means that you have relinquished some control over the door and have no idea who’s really at your event. This both hampers the best efforts of your security system and seriously undermines the paying fan’s experience when they learn that others are scamming their way into an event that they forked out their hard-earned money for.
Solution – RFID Practically Eliminates Ticket Fraud
By employing RFID as a solution for your access control needs, you also take significant steps to quash the risk of ticket fraud. RFID chips are nearly impossible to forge, and merely having this technology in place acts as a deterrent in and of itself.
Read about how the Intellitix Access Control solution helped turn away over 7,000 fraudulent entries at the San Diego Comic Convention.
Long lines have been the scourge of the fan experience at live events for a long time. In fact, in Intellitix’s State of Live Events Report 2018, we learned that 58% of fans felt that long lines were their biggest frustration.
The attendee experience at popular conventions and conferences is often severely hampered by long lines just to enter the event. On-site box offices are more often than not understaffed and overwhelmed, and the result is having attendees lined up out the building and around the block on the first day of the conference or convention.
Given the data that supports this, all event organizers should ask themselves if that is really the first impression they want to make with their guests?
Solution – Cut Lines with Advanced Fulfillment
By offering your attendees advanced credential fulfilment (i.e. mailing out passes prior to the event) and installing an RFID solution at the entry point to the event, you lift a significant burden off your box office and heavily cut into wait times at the gate.
Problem #6 – Low Energy, Low Engagement
While it’s unfair to pit the energy levels of conference or convention against that of a music festival or a sporting event, there are a number things that the conference organizers could stand to learn from these adjacent verticals when it comes to engagement.
Music festivals and sporting events are extremely adept at driving engagement with fans. Whether it’s through making audiences hashtag aware, using novel Spotify integrations with their event app, or incentivizing sign-ups through giveaways and rewards programs, these organizers know what it takes to keep the fans engaged.
To be fair, conferences are becoming considerably more adept at courting engagement. Tech advancements like Twitter Walls are disrupting the intimidating Q&A format, panels and keynotes are becoming shorter and more laser-focused, and revolutionary ideas around tactile learning are becoming incorporated into the programming.
But there’s still a lot more than conference and convention organizers can be doing to ensure that their events are insightful, fun and engaging—in all ways—for their attendees.
Solution – Using Gamification to Boost Engagement
Depending on the kind of conference or convention you are producing, “gamification” could be the perfect way to drive your engagement through audience participation.
Merriam-Webster’s defines Gamification as “the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation”. This has become an increasingly valuable technique in the experiential marketing space, and it could be exactly what you need to invigorate your conference or convention.
One example is using RFID badges to create a scavenger hunt with a “digital passport”, encouraging attendees to visit all the booths/vendors to collect digital passport stamps. Attendees that collect all the stamps are then automatically entered into a draw for a grand prize.
Not only does this encourage attendees to visit all corners of the event, but it gives more value to the vendors on less explored periphery of the conference footprint.
Watch another great example of gamification at the ELEAGUE Boston Major where a scavenger hunt for stuffed chickens was used to help increase fan engagement and greater conference exploration.
One of the best things that an event producer can do is get out of her or his own lane every now and again and see what the adjacent verticals are doing. Go to a music festival and observe the entry process. Go see your local major sports team in action and think about how they are encouraging and incentivizing engagement and participation on social media.
The conference space is being opened up quickly to some of the tech developments that have spurred vast growth in the festival and sporting event space. By harnessing existing and proven tools like RFID you can make your event more secure, more profitable and deliver major value to your partners.
If you’re an event organizer looking to implement some of the solutions above, take a few minutes to learn how the Intellitix solutions can improve your next conference, convention, trade show, or expo.