Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why You Should Rent Trade Show Technology (Even for a Custom Owned Exhibit)

trade show technology costs rental vs owned

Many times, the decision between owning vs. renting a trade show exhibit comes down to customization options and cost. You don’t want to look bland or outdated this year or 5 years from now, so you need cost-effective options to allow creative flexibility. The same considerations apply to renting trade show technology.

Whether you own your trade show exhibit or rent it, the technology inside offers the same benefits. First, we need to cover the basics.

What Technology Does for Trade Show Exhibits (when done right)

  • Allows practically at-will customization
  • Keeps your brand looking modern and up to date
  • Attracts attention from expo attendees (and keeps it)
  • Offers memorable interaction and product demos
  • Includes options capable of everything from lead capture to sales

Everything from iPads and video walls to electronic whiteboards and projectors have their place at trade shows. But for the same reasons you want customization options for your exhibit, you may not want to be locked in to same technology for every show.

Reasons Your Trade Show Technology Needs May Change

  • New products
  • Rebranding
  • Different marketing objectives or audience at different shows
  • Change in budget
  • Adjustments in strategy like gamification or on-site sales

Disadvantages of Purchasing Trade Show Technology

  • Technology can become obsolete overnight
  • Little to no technical assistance without extra trained (expensive) staff
  • Cost of storage
  • Hassle of keeping the software current
  • Limited to what’s in your inventory

Basically, it boils down to two things: brand image and cost.

Your needs and attendees’ needs and tastes change all the time. The cost effectiveness and choices that come with trade show technology rentals help you keep up. If that’s a good enough reason to influence your exhibit structure decisions, it’s good enough to affect your technology decisions.

How to Keep your Event Technology Up-to-Date

  • Customize graphics and visuals. Low-cost options include Powerpoint; high-reward but higher-cost options include custom apps and videos.
  • See people using technology in a new way in everyday life? Talk to your vendor or exhibit designer about how to incorporate it at the next show.
  • Regularly reevaluate marketing and sales tactics to find things that will make them more effective and efficient.
  • Check out your competition for inspiration—and then do it better.
  • Talk to your technology vendor about inventory and ideas. We love this stuff!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

6 Ways Google Glass Apps Can Improve Events

Now that Google Glass is available for anyone to purchase, let’s follow up on how Google Glass could be used at events, expos and trade shows. How can event organizers and attendees use Google Glass to make the most of live events?
Google Glass is still a new technology, but new apps are arriving every day. Here are some that could prove to be invaluable tools for event organizers and attendees alike.

Using Google Glass at events like trade shows
Photo by Ted Eytan

Apps for Event Organizers
For organizers who want to up their marketing knowledge, Google Marketing Land on Glass is a great app for staying current on marketing trends. This app could help organizers stay up to date with what’s new and trending, helping them to keep their event as current as possible.

Apps for Presenters

Have to give a speech or teach a class at an event? The Google Glass Speech Helper app would make this easy and hands free. You can upload a draft of your speech and your slides directly to Glass, eliminating the need for notes or prompters. Event organizers can easily send ideas and images to speakers to help keep speeches going smoothly, and speakers can feel confident that all their materials are in one place and easily accessible.

Apps for Attendees

The app Glass to Phone allows you to share your photos and videos instantly with your phone. This would make it a snap for event attendees to share with their friends and co-workers, also making for a great WOM marketing tool.
With Glass Tweet, attendees can send tweets straight to Twitter from Google Glass, instantly sharing their thoughts and ideas about the event. Since event hashtags are now a staple in trade show and convention marketing, any way to make using them more streamlined should be a welcomed change.

Attendees can now use Foursquare on Glass, allowing them to check in to events electronically. This could greatly improve efficiency and wait times at event ticketing booths and entrances, and potentially help eliminate wait times all together. Not only would this benefit attendees by making their check in process a breeze, but it would help make the overall event a success. Attendees who get to skip waiting in line are apt to enjoy the event more, generating positive buzz.

Apps for Both Attendees and Organizers
Evernote Memory Keeper allows you to take notes, stay organized, and keep track of everything you experience at a live event. Google Glass will automatically send notes and pictures to your Evernote account, and vice versa. Attendees can keep a list of things to do and see at each event right at eye level, keeping them on track and moving from program to program. This could be a great tool for attendees and organizers, keeping events moving smoothly and attendees informed of when and where they should be at any given time.

Meetup is great tool for keeping track of attendees, or of all new contacts you may meet at an event. For organizers, Meetup provides you photos and information on all attendees and can also provide information from answered survey questions. Attendees can use Meetup to create electronic business cards and photos of new contacts.

Event organizers and attendees can benefit from the easy to use, hands free photo and video capabilities of Glass. In this article describing using glass at a trade show, the author creates an informative documentary using Glass at ASAE’s Tech Conference and Expo. This video is a great example of how Glass can be used as an unobtrusive way to record classes, talks, workshops, or even interview attendees. This can be a great marketing tool for event organizers as multiple employees could be taking photos or video at one time. And with the FullSCREENBeam app, videos can be sent directly from Glass to YouTube. Event organizers and attendees can now easily post video or photos online during the event instantly.

Apps for Out-of-Towners
There are many Google Glass apps now available that help travelers and visitors make the most of their time away. These apps can help event organizers lure out-of-towners to their events, helping to ensure attendees have a great time. The Stay Glassy App can help you navigate an unknown public transportation system, giving you bus and streetcar arrival times.

Word Lens instantly translates words into your own language. Just look directly at a sign, menu, newspaper, or any printed material, and Glass instantly translates. This App could help open up events worldwide, making the event accessible in every language.

The Field Trip app sends notifications of nearby points of interest and allows you to ask questions about what is nearby. You can get recommendations on venues, art, museums, food, and more. Field Trip would allow out of town visitors to plan their own self-guided tour of a given city.
Attendees can now use Google Glass to find nearby restaurants-- a popular after-hours venue for traveling groups. The Glass Eats app lists all nearby restaurants and also gives Yelp reviews and recommendations. Once a restaurant is found, the OpenTable app can then be used to quickly make a reservation. Google Glass can make it easy and fun to find a great place to eat when at an event. Whether you are out of town or simply out of your neighborhood, Glass helps you find the best food the city has to offer.

Apps for Everyone Back in the Office
Do you want your whole office to attend an event but can’t afford to send them?  Have one representative attend wearing Glass, and use the Live Stream for Glass app to share with the whole office. Set up a video screen or monitor and everyone can watch what is going on at the event through the participant’s eyes, live.

Questions to Ask

Many of these apps and uses depend on event rules adapting to keep up with technology. Many trade shows limit the use of photography (usually to protect exhibitors’ products from competitors or for monetary purposes) and the live streaming of presentations could bring up similar issues. Exclusivity and access to speakers and exhibitors are a major selling point for expos. What can organizers and associations do to adapt to Google Glass and get the most out of it?

Technically speaking, WiFi is already an issue at many convention centers. Connectivity will have to improve in order to get full use out of these apps.
Google Glass can provide something for everyone when it comes to live events, expos, and conferences. Although the debate still goes on as to whether Google Glass will catch on at live events, it will be exciting to see if it does, as Glass could greatly improve the experience for all.
Have you used Google Glass at a live event? Share your experience with us!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Audio-Video Technology for NeoCon

Unless you’re new to trade shows or the design industry, you already know NeoCon is one of the largest expos in the industry. It takes place at the Merchandise Mart-- a landmark building in Chicago so big that it once had its own zip code. The annual conference takes up over 1 million square feet of showroom, exhibit and meeting space-- that’s a lot of room.

That much room with that many exhibitors means that the nearly 40,000 attendees are bombarded by marketing clutter and distractions. As the official technology provider for the show, it’s Rentfusion’s job to help exhibitors fight for attention by outfitting their booth spaces with electronic equipment like tablets, touchscreens, video walls and projectors.

Radha Singh, the co-founder of Rentfusion, and I answered questions about what it takes behind the scenes to provide AV equipment for an event this large as well as our thoughts on the show itself.

Just how many iPads and tablets would you guess are used by exhibitors at an event as large as NeoCon?
With technology changing every day, it could be every exhibitor using them for lead retrieval, product demos and more. iPads have become a staple in the trade show and event industry and are so in-demand that we stock 2,000 of them for rental!
How do you keep up with demand and trends?
We closely monitor the industry and then purchase equipment based on customer trends and foreseen demand. We anticipated that video walls would be popular in 2012 and made sure we had enough in supply to accommodate clients’ needs.
How early was the first order for this year’s NeoCon?
We have clients order equipment for multiple years or as early as the year before. NeoCon is year-round for us!
Are last-minute orders typical for events like this? What timeframe do you consider last-minute?
Last minute? Our industry is last minute. Orders come in up to and even after the event starts. Yes, even for seasoned trade show professionals.
Who do you think used technology well at last year’s NeoCon?
Mohawk Group, a commercial flooring vendor, had an impressive video wall that displayed the company’s brand and products in an eye-catching way.

Any speakers you’re looking forward to seeing this year?
Any of the presentations about keeping it green! We particularly hope to see Allison McKenzie from SHP Leading Design's session “Acoustics: The Sound of Sustainable Business.”
What is the optimal height for TV and projector screens?
Height of the screen always depends on the booth layout, location, usage of screen. Typically our techs will install the screen 6” above average male eye level. This allows people down the aisle or in the back to be able to see.
What piece of technology should no trade show exhibit go without?
No trade show exhibit should go without any kind of technology. Period. There is no excuse for not making use of even the most basic products because there are options for any exhibiting budget and attendees expect it.

What is the least effective tech product or app for exhibitors?
There is no such thing as an ineffective technology product. There are, however, ineffective or incorrect uses. If you’re not getting what you want out of your tech at trade shows, rethink your strategy and research the best ways to use them.

NeoCon 2014 is coming up soon! Make sure you’re ready to make an impact on attendees with technology. Still need inspiration? Check out how other vendors used tech at NeoCon 2013 and these ideas for using iPads.

Ready to crunch numbers and place an order? Here are our NeoCon 2014 products with special pricing.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Smartphone as Crowd Mic? We’re Not there Yet

There was a buzz in the events industry this month over a new app that allows attendees to use their smartphone as a mic at presentations.

This sparked a lot of interest, and rightfully so. We all hate that downtime and awkwardness that comes when a moderator hustles around the room with a mic during Q&As. Or when we have to repeat questions or shout them in the room.

Crowd Mics App
Crowd Mics is a great idea, but it's
not a solution for large events yet.
But as good as it sounds, I’m sorry, as a tech and AV guy I have to tell you that the technology just isn’t there yet for people to use their smartphones as microphones at events.

Launched in February 2014, Crowd Mics is an innovative smartphone app that allows members of an audience to connect their smartphones to the event’s sound system. With Crowd Mics, your audience’s smartphones can now be turned into wireless microphones.

It’s free for 20 people or less, but if you want 50 people to have access to Crowd Mics then you will have to pay $25.

The app works simply. The presenter first needs to plug their smartphone in the room’s sound system, then create a name and access code unique to the particular event. Both are given to the members of the audience, eliminating the risk of “rogue” commenters in the process. The presenter then directs the audience on how to download the app and join the event.

Throughout the presentation, the presenter (or the moderator) is offered several options—either to let someone speak, mute them, or enable an “open mic” mode that lets members of the audience comment at the same time.

It’s a great idea, and it could be great for small events or booths, but it’s not a large-scale solution yet.  
Anyone who wants any type of professional audio is not going to want to use it yet. For one, it works off of bluetooth and IP protocol, and the technology just isn’t there yet to work seamlessly. If that connection drops or drags at all it’s going to stall the show.

It’s the same reason you can’t do a full wireless show yet. You have 500 devices or more trying to connect over wifi, you’re going to have inconsistency. Even if you saturate the floor with airports they’re going to drop signals.

The tech is just not there for a pro style conference Q&A. If a conference came to me and they had more than 50 people in a room and wanted to use it, I’d make them sign off that there’s a 50/50 chance this isn’t going to work.

But first I’d try to talk them out of it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Does Google Glass Mean for Events?

Since its introduction it in 2012, Google Glass has been the subject of discussions and debates. The wearable, voice-controlled Android device that was made available for beta testing to a handful of applicants in 2012 has now become one of the decade’s most anticipated gadgets. 

With its commercial release scheduled for 2014, everyone is talking about Google Glass and—more specifically—what it could mean for events and trade shows.

Google Glass
Google Glass could revolutionize the event experience. 

What is Google Glass?

Before going any further, let’s first take a look at what exactly Google Glass encompasses. If you have been following the evolution of this device for a while, you know that this wearable computer can be worn just like any other pair of regular glasses. What sets Google Glass apart from those glasses, however, is its ability to respond to commands—and this is when things become interesting.

Many people refer to Glass as a hands-free smartphone. From what we know so far about it— thanks to this video—it is. The tiny, head-mounted display screen set above the eye allows you to perform a wide array of everyday tasks without ever requiring you to move a finger. 

It does not matter whether you need to find information, translate a sentence in English, take a picture or even record a video—Google Glass does it all for you.

Attendees and Google Glass

Let's say you are attending a technology trade show next year. While wandering around the venue, you come across a product that you think could potentially benefit your company. Had you still been in the year 2013, taking out your smartphone and finding the appropriate app—namely, the camera—would have been necessary. Now you can simply talk and let the magic happen. 

“Google Glass, take a picture.” (If you're comfortable talking to it in public, of course.)

For attendees, Google Glass would mean a revolution in simplicity. This enhanced event experience would promote conversation on social networks, and it would be easier than ever for attendees to share their newfound knowledge with the entire world…
Or simply with people back at the office.

Event Organizers and Google Glass

What does it mean for event organizers when on-site content is being shared on Twitter and Facebook? More exposure, of course—and for event organizers there’s never enough of it. As more and more content is being shared on social medias, the event organizers—and even the exhibitors—definitely benefit from the increased interest shown by the public.

Google Glass, however, might not only simplify the process of sharing on-site content online—it might even simplify the process of finding that content (in real life, that is). By downloading an event app with a full Google Glass integration, everyone at the event would have a clear idea of where locations of interest are situated on the premises.

Drawbacks of Google Glass

As with every new technology, it is impossible to say that Google Glass is without its potential drawbacks. For one, event organizers would have to become really good at social networking to reap the full benefits of increased exposure. They would also need to find a way to handle the ever-expanding need for Wi-Fi connectivity.

The possibilities are endless, and with its commercial release just around the corner, it is quite likely that this device ends up revolutionizing the way we not only see and organize events—but the way we experience them as well.