Trade Show Engagement in the Post-COVID Era: 6 Tech Ideas and Innovations to “Go Touchless”

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Beacons can be used to deliver location and context information to smartphones | Photo courtesy of Estimote

As we all know, the meetings and events world is going through a historic change. COVID-19 has forced widespread change and reinvention to practices which have been central to the industry for decades, and trade shows are not immune. Particularly in a world which has already been going paperless and virtual, COVID-19 is likely to finally put an end to– for example– the widespread distribution of physical promotional items such as flyers, gadgets, and business cards– all of which used to dominate the trade show engagement scene. With this shift, professionals everywhere are turning to technology in an effort to go “touchless” as well as “paperless.” And while the COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the meetings and events news cycle at present, it is also important to look towards the future. Before we know it, trade shows and conventions will be trying to walk the road to “the new normal,” and when that happens, we need to be ready with touchless promotion that will draw in attendees in a safe and antiviral way. To this end, we have compiled the following list of 6 Tech Ideas and Innovations to go “touchless”– ideas and innovations which will transform the experience of the attendee as well creating a safe and healthy environment for all guests.

  1. PROJECTION MAPPING
Projection mapping enlarges a digital graphic across a flat or irregularly shaped surface | Photo courtesy of Lightform

Projection mapping is a design technology which allows images and videos to be projected perfectly onto irregularly shaped objects and is often used by advertisers and artists to engage with an audience in unique and often breathtaking displays. Using a presentation of this type in a booth is both intensely eye-catching and able to effectively convey information about your product or service. Young professionals, in particular, will be drawn to the novelty and originality, enticing conversation as well as a marked increase in interest in your product or service.

Most importantly, it simply requires an object of interest and a projector– no attendee interaction is required. Displays can be watched from afar or admired up close and can be scaled up and down as required. This will allow participating sponsors to adjust their displays according to the newly scaled-down size of events in the post- COVID-19 era.

2. BEACONS

Often used in conjunction with apps, beacons are devices that locate smartphones within a certain physical radius and interact with them using Bluetooth Low Energy signals. They are often used to send notifications with users that have consented to contact through the app. This allows you to send notifications to potential customers with messages or information, attracting them individually, through their own personal device, rather than relying on them to decide to visit your booth based on aesthetic interest alone. Beacons can be used effectively for distinguishing your products and services from surrounding booths, to impress professionals with underground technological proficiency, and for transmitting information.

All of these functions serve to improve engagement completely touchlessly, requiring attendees to engage only with their phones, and allowing them to participate at any point inside the building. This, too, will assist with proper social distancing; attendees can engage with your booth from a distance if it is too crowded, or up close as space would allow.

3. VIDEO WALLS

Striking visual presentations are a must for booth recognition and product draw. Revolutionizing visual presentations with technology brings them into the modern era, as well as creating eye-catching displays that draw in professionals of all ages. Creating a video wall is a perfect example of this technique– the increased aesthetic appeal of video walls over standard monitors can serve as an excellent venue to showcase product features, social media feeds and pertinent visuals. Another option is to include images and videos of employees or satisfied customers, which increases the personal appeal of your company as well as showcasing a personal touch to your technological approach.

Like projection mapping, video walls can be scaled up or down, allowing displays to be adjusted according to the scaled-back size of meetings and events post-lockdown. Video walls can also be used as another method of promoting interaction with your booth from afar, allowing attendees to both engage and to social distance as necessary.

4. INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES

Interactive experiences, such as scannable QR codes, help attendees engage with products and services using their smartphone.

Although interactive experiences can be engineered without the help of technology, the added boost of modernity will be a stronger draw to trade show audiences. These could include image polls, games showcasing your product or service, or a design experience in which users can virtually interact with your product or service. Experiences like these will distinguish your booth in order to draw in potential customers, as well as cementing your product or service in the user’s memory – largely increasing the chances of user re-engagement. And, most of them can be done using the attendee’s own phone, voice activation, or motion sensors– all completely touchless.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA

Of course, no article about technology can go without mentioning social media. As we know, business is increasingly shifting from physical to online interactions, and vendors must consider how this impacts customer outreach. Easy-add options like Instagram nametags and Snapcodes can be printed or projected and used as QR codes in order to facilitate easy engagement and follow-up with tech-friendly users, allowing long-term customer retention and advertising opportunities.

Long-term virtual retention will also allow attendee engagement not only from a distance inside the trade show environment, but also from the comfort of their own home– allowing professionals who wish to continue to self-quarantine to engage from afar.

6. APPS

Similarly, engaging with an existing meeting and event app or creating your own can promote long-term interest from technologically proficient attendees. Apps can be an effective way to showcase content, as well as remind users of your products and services after the trade show experience. This, as well as social media content, can act as a replacement for traditional paper handouts as meeting spaces and communities continually transition to online spaces. They give the user something to take home, distinguish your products and services from the numerous others they will have seen and allow attendees to engage from home or from afar.

As we have seen, there are three basic aspects to increasing engagement with your booth or display: grabbing the attention of attendees by distinguishing your display from surrounding booths, holding the attention of attendees long enough to successfully pitch, and retaining engagement post-event. All of these aspects can be done “touchlessly,” effectively, and in a manner consistent with social distancing and/or self-quarantine. Most importantly, they can be done in a way that emphasizes antiviral safety– a key PR component of the recovery of the meetings and events industry. Ultimately, tech innovations, COVID-related or not, are the road to the future– and they are practical steps that we can take right now in order to plan for trade shows and conventions post-COVID-19.

MK

Kaitlyn Wallace is a contributing writer from St. Louis.

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