My experience participating in one of the first in-person events since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic

by Kahle Williams

On July 24, 2020, the Together Again Expo took place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. It was one of the first in-person trade shows in the U.S. in a long while. CompuSystems had a booth there, and I was joined by two of my co-workers. I’m not going to lie, I had concerns about participating due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida. Here’s how it actually went (plus my takeaways at the end):

The flight

I got to O’Hare airport an hour and a half before my flight. It wasn’t as crowded as normal but busier than I expected given the circumstances. I boarded the plane and was happy to learn that United Airlines is keeping its middle seats open. Other than an emptier than normal flight, the only real difference was the smell of hand sanitizer (United gives out free disinfectant wipes) that subsided after about 10 minutes and a face mask requirement. I was a bit surprised that there were no temperature checks at the airport or on the plane.

The hotel

We landed, grabbed an Uber, and headed to the Orlando Hilton to check in to our rooms. I was told by the hotel receptionist, who was behind a plexiglass shield, that there were a few COVID-19 restrictions that is, face masks must be worn in the common areas at all times, and the once-standard daily room cleaning service must be requested. That was it. The gym and pool were both open but with some minor restrictions. My room was extremely clean and I felt completely safe and comfortable.

Exhibitor move-in

There was nothing out of the ordinary except for the mandatory face mask requirement and temperature check before entering the convention hall, both of which we expected. What we didn’t expect is how uncomfortable it can be to set up a booth wearing a face mask in a hot and humid conventional hall on a 93-degree day in Florida, but we managed. After we finished setting up our booth, we called an Uber and went out for sushi at one of our favorite restaurants in the area. Face masks were mandatory in the common areas of the restaurant but not in the dining areas. We found that most restaurants in Orlando were open for business.

Opening day

I can’t tell you how excited we were to see a trade show floor with people mingling and taking in sessions. Everyone I talked to was upbeat and so ready to get back to business. There were lots of interesting face masks of all colors, shapes, and sizes, and the chairs in the session area were placed 6 feet apart for social distancing. Other than that, it looked and felt like a regular trade show. Many of the booths featured interesting new products and services to help people feel safer as they start going to trade shows again. 

For the first trade show back, the turnout was phenomenal. I’m proud of everyone who participated and wanted to thank Alliance Nationwide Exposition, the producers of this amazing event, the Orange County Convention Center, and all the Sponsors that helped make this possible. One day we will look back and realize that this event was instrumental in getting our wonderful industry back up and running.

My takeaways

• Traveling and participating in trade shows with COVID-19 restrictions is only minorly inconvenient

• It feels amazing to get out and do all the things I used to do pre-COVID-19

• Overwhelmingly, people are ready to get back to going to trade shows

I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please send us an email at marketing@csireg.com.

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5 Event Registration Solutions that are Contactless, Self-serve, and Support Physical Distancing

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been in regular contact with our customers and have been encouraged by the creative solutions they are finding to reopen their live events under the new health and safety regulations. We are happy to report that many of them with live events later this year are planning to proceed as scheduled.

Here are some of the safe event solutions we’ve been talking to our customers about that will hopefully give you ideas for your event.

1. Virtual Badge

The traditional name badge is replaced with an identification-only printed name tag and a virtual badge that resides on the registrant’s smartphone. The virtual badge is used to gain access to the event floor and into sessions and for lead retrieval purposes. 

Features

    • Registration confirmation includes a link for the registrant to add their virtual badge to their Apple Wallet or Google Pay pass.
    • The virtual badge will include a QR Code to be scanned for event floor and session access and for lead retrieval purposes.

Benefits

    • Eliminates the need to have a badge printed at onsite terminals
    • Registrants’ uploaded photo ID can be included in the virtual badge
    • Touchless scanning of virtual badge will allow for increased security and health safety

virtual badge on iPhone X

2. At-Home Name Tag Printing

Registrants print their own name tag on plain paper before they leave for the event. Their name tag is provided in a PDF document that is conveniently downloaded from a link on the registration confirmation or customer portal. When onsite, the name tag is easily folded by the registrant to fit into the clear plastic badge holder used with a lanyard (supplied by show management).

Features

    • Works on any type of printer.
    • Can be customized to match the event’s branding.
    • On-demand remote contactless printers are available for name tag reprints onsite.

Benefits

    • Self-serve
    • Limits onsite equipment required for badge printing
    • Increased health safety by limiting onsite printing

Want to see how the at-home name tag printing works? Click on the name tag image above to print it out.

3. On-Demand Contactless Printer

A self-serve and touchless solution for registrants to print their name tag or badge from printing stations that can be strategically placed throughout the convention hall. Registrants launch the printing application right from their registration confirmation. After punching the printer station code into their phone or tablet, their badge prints immediately. 

Features

    • Printer stations have a small footprint and fit nicely on tables or counters.
    • Stations include a printer, long-lasting onboard battery, and internet router.
    • Printing application works on any phone, tablet, or computer.

Benefits

    • Can be placed in remote locations such as airports and hotels
    • Increased security and health safety
    • Reduce foot-traffic in the main registration area 

Remote Badge Printing Station

4. Staggered Check-in Time for Registrants

One of the best ways to limit the number of people in the registration area at one time is to implement staggered check-in times for your exhibitors and attendees. Getting people to select a check-in time can be difficult so we recommend making it a mandatory step in the registration process. 

Features

    • Exhibitors and registrants will be required to choose a specific time window and location to pick their badge.
    • The time they select will appear on their registration confirmation that they will add to their Apple Wallet or Google Pay pass.
    • Upon arriving at registration, they will be required to show their scheduled pickup time to the Guard before proceeding to the contactless badge pickup area.

Benefits

    • Increased health and safety
    • Fully integrated with the registration process
    • Control the number of people in the registration area at one time

Staggered check-in Businessman using calendar on laptop

5. Contactless Express Registration Carts or Kiosks

A lot like our on-demand contactless printers, but with more capabilities. Our kiosks and mobile carts have onboard self-serve barcode scanners to support a larger influx of people that you would have in the main registration area. 

Features

    • Kiosks include a tablet, badge scanner, and badge printer for contactless printing. The registrant simply scans their registration barcode to print their badge. 
    • Mobile carts can be equipped with either a laptop and scanner or a tablet on a stand in conjunction with a badge printer. The registrant simply scans their registration barcode to print their badge. 
    • Can be placed in the main registration area or in virtually any remote location such as airports or hotels.

Benefits

    • Self serve and contactless
    • No need for badge holders
    • Eliminates the need for barcode scanners in areas that require security entry

contactless kiosk

We hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please send us an email at marketing@csireg.com.

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decentralized registration

Decentralized Registration Becoming the New Normal

Not so long ago, many trade show organizers stopped mailing badges due to improved badge printing technologies. With a simple barcode on their registration confirmation, an attendee could print their badge at the show in a matter of seconds. What this meant though is that there were many more check-in stations required at the event. It would be normal to walk into a convention center to see massive registration areas capable of producing tens of thousands of badges over a few days. 

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, we were already seeing fewer massive registration areas as shows began placing badge printing stations in other areas outside the exhibition venue. In light of the pandemic, massive registration areas may be a thing of the past. As the industry begins to incorporate stricter health and safety protocols in their face-to-face event planning, decentralized registration is one of the ways that will move the industry forward into this new normal.  

Here are some of the reasons why more shows would want to do away with the one central registration area.

Space is at a premium. If attendees must maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other, it would make for quite a long registration line! Having multiple areas outside of the venue, such as at the airport or hotel, not only prevents areas where people must congregate, but also enables growing shows to free up that prime space to sell to sponsors or exhibitors.

Registration technology has gone mobile. Printing badges from registration carts has become easier, as they have their own internet connection, run on batteries, and can literally be rolled to wherever they are needed. Additionally, on-demand contactless badge printing stations enable attendees to punch in a code on their phone to instantly print a badge at the station, eliminating the need for printing stations to be manned and reducing exposure to high-touch areas.

Printing badges from registration carts has never been easier. There is no longer a need to order services from third parties. A registration cart can have its own internet connection and run on batteries! It can literally be rolled to wherever it is needed.

Bring the badge to the attendee and not the attendee to the badge. What this means is to bring registration to places the attendees already are: 

    • Badge pick up at the airport. More and more shows are adding badge pickup stations in baggage claim areas. This makes it convenient for attendees. Once they pick up their bags they can stop and pick up their show badge at the same time. By keeping badge pickup areas open during the key arrival times, an event can see up to 40% of attendees get badged before even stepping foot inside the convention center.
    • Badge pick up at the major hotels. By placing badge pick up stations at all your major hotel blocks, attendees can now check into the hotel as well as the show. Many attendees will also network in the hotel lobby and hotel bars so try to get badge pickup stations near these high traffic areas and keep them open past ‘normal business hours’ to maximize output offsite.
    • Think ‘outside the center’. Utilize space outside the convention center. Registration tents can achieve the same impact as if the registration area were inside. Also, think about putting badge pickup stations strategically placed outside the convention center such as near parking lots and shuttle bus drop-offs. Remember, the key is to get as many people badged as you can before they enter the building!

Virtual badges. Perhaps the most decentralized registration option of all, some shows will eliminate printed badges altogether. Instead, they’ll send virtual badges to registrants, which can be added and stored digitally in a mobile wallet. When they’re ready to go on the exhibition floor, they’ll enter a turnstile and scan the virtual badge at a kiosk to gain access, similar to entering a gate at the airport.

Virtual badges, contactless mobile carts, and badge printing stations are a few of the offerings that CompuSystems has incorporated into its Contactless Safe Event Plan. Learn more about CompuSystems’ Contactless Safe Event Plan here.

We hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please send us an email at marketing@csireg.com.


5 Ways To Supercharge Your Registration Website

Online registration for trade shows has come a long way over the years. Simple two or three page websites with just a few registration categories, business rules, and demographic questions are a thing of the past. Show organizers now expect a lot more functionality – everything from mobile optimization to sophisticated web service integrations – all aimed at creating a high-tech user experience and driving registrations. We’ve assembled a list of our most popular tips and tricks, from the over 700 websites we develop annually, that we think can help you take your website to the next level.

1) Register Socially

Leverage your own attendees to help market your event by integrating InGo, an industry-leading social media marketing tool, with your registration website. It allows attendees to register and spread information about your trade show across their social networks. Attendees can also send personalized invitations to their network, which will further increase your event’s reach and impact. Some organizers boast a 20-25% growth in registrations as a result of using this tool.

2) Registration Widget

An easy way for exhibitors, from their own corporate website, to promote both their booth and your trade show. A widget is a small snippet of code that an exhibitor can download and place on their website. It functions much like a banner ad that includes information about the trade show, their booth, and a link to the registration website. A win-win opportunity.

3) Mobile Optimization

Every year, more people register for trade shows using mobile devices and tablets. In fact, mobile registrations for some trade shows exceeds 20%. That’s a reason that it’s so important to mobile-optimize your registration website to be sure you are creating a good user experience for this audience. Mobile optimization accounts for site design, site structure, page speed, and more. Also, Google favors mobile-optimized sites in their SERP (search engine results pages), which means more people will find your website.

4) Web Services Integration

There is a lot of buzz around web services integration in the trade show industry. In short, it allows you to integrate and share data between different systems such as member management, registration and housing, to create a cohesive and smooth user experience for your registrants. It has the added benefit that you, the organizer, receive real-time registrant information. Here are some additional benefits:

  • Single Sign-On (SSO): allow registrants to use one set of credentials for multiple applications
  • Membership validation in real-time: sign up new members and have their status recognized immediately on the registration website
  • Pre-population of contact information, member status, and rates speeds up the registration process
  • Data synced with show app in real-time: provide a seamless transition from registration website to show app
  • Combined housing and registration confirmation: confirmations are compiled into a single confirmation

5) User Experience

The possibilities for adding interesting website features and functionality are endless, but be mindful of the user experience you are creating so that it doesn’t become cumbersome. The process should be quick, simple and pain-free so people don’t struggle and abandon their registration midstream. Here are a few ideas to help you create a good user experience.

  • Keep business rules for attendees simple and straightforward
  • Limit the number of pages on the site
  • Avoid excessive button clicks
  • Minimize required fields
  • Don’t let design elements get in the way of usability
  • Limit your demographic questions to 10 or less

We hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please send us an email at marketing@csireg.com.


data-protection

General Data Protection Regulation

International visitors and exhibitors are an important segment of trade show participation.  Some organizers even offer special visitor programs and exhibitor pavilions to their overseas participants.  The rules that govern how we handle the personal information associated with these participants have changed.

You may already be aware of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since it has made the news with some regularity recently.  But what it is and what it entails may still be a mystery.  This will help to clarify the GDPR.

What is it?

The GDPR, agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council in April, 2016, which  on May 25, 2018, will replace its predecessor, the Data Protection Directive, is Europe’s primary law regulating how companies protect European Union (EU) citizens’ personal data.

What constitutes personal data?

According to the GDPR website (http://www.eugdpr.org/), ‘personal data’ is any information related to a natural person (a ‘data subject’), that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address.

What does it do?

In short, the GDPR imposes a uniform data security law on all EU members so that each member state no longer needs to write its own data protection laws, and so that laws are consistent across the entire EU.  Furthermore, any company that provides goods or services to EU residents, regardless of its location, is subject to the regulation.  Consequently, GDPR will have an impact on data protection requirements globally.

Some of the key privacy and data protection requirements of the GDPR include:

  • Consent of subjects for data processing
  • Anonymizing collected data to protect privacy
  • Providing data breach notifications
  • Safely handling the transfer of data across borders
  • Requiring certain companies to appoint a data protection officer (DPO) to oversee GDPR compliance

What should we do?

The most important thing we can do is to familiarize ourselves with the GDPR rules and requirements (http://www.eugdpr.org/).  By beginning to implement data protection policies and solutions now, we will be in a much better position to avoid penalties and achieve GDPR compliance when it takes effect.


wearable beacon graphic

Wearable Beacons

wearable beacon graphic

Savvy event organizers of the trade show and meeting industry are increasingly turning to wearable beacon technology to deliver real-time analytics and behavioral data to show organizers, exhibitors and attendees. The process is simple; a wearable beacon is attached to and subsequently electronically associated with each registrant’s badge. Receivers then capture the data in any space or common area with all event data accessible in real-time via a desktop or mobile device. The benefits of using wearable beacon technology are substantial for all parties involved.

Show Organizers

Event organizers will get real-time, actionable insights about their events allowing them to do their job better, faster, and cheaper.

• Complete event metrics and data set

• Access to all onsite behaviors

• Heat maps

• CE/CME tracking and crediting

• Helps shape future events

• Typically integrates with 3rd party applications

• Revenue generation

• Customizable dashboard interface

• Experiential features

Exhibitors

Exhibitors want more exposure and qualified leads to justify their event spend.

• Complete booth metrics and lead data

• Access to all visitor behaviors

• Heat maps for large booths

• Helps with marketing tactics for future events

• Typically integrates with 3rd party applications

• Revenue generation

• Customizable dashboard interface

• Experiential features

Attendees

Attendees benefit from a more targeted experience during the event. All of the behavioral data from each attendee is used to make real-time suggestions for sessions, exhibitors, and other attendees doing similar activities.

• Event app integration

• CE/CME tracking and crediting

• Intuitive dashboard interface

• Experiential features

If you’re not currently using wearable beacons for your event, you should at least consider it. The data they provide will enhance your event and help you to take it to the next level. While they may not be commonplace now, they are sure to become an integral part of the industry in the near future.


The Future of Trade Show Reporting

The Future of Trade Show Reporting

The Future of Trade Show Reporting

Show organizers are often plagued with trying to gather and make sense of relevant information from current and past shows. Just getting their data can be difficult. Pulling data from multiple sources and compiling lists of data into systems that are not robust enough to handle the information used to be the norm. Fortunately, that has all changed.

New, data-driven business intelligence and analytics systems have been created to help alleviate the pain points that show organizers have experienced. Data is now in the hands of the show organizer, meaning no more back and forth with your registration vendor to mine data and get the information and reports that you need. Technology now gives you the ability to have unlimited custom dashboards and reports of your own rather than viewing your vendor’s standard set of reports.

Registration vendors that use these systems provide advanced capabilities. Taking data from multiple sources and uploading it into their system, as well as customized user dashboards that highlight your preferences in an organized and clean manner are just a couple of examples. Mining registration IDs, billings, credits, refunds, discount codes or demographics is no longer a struggle, nor is comparing your data to past events or to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Show organizers have the information at their fingertips to get real-time charts and graphics without waiting weeks for them to be produced.

Think of these systems as Google Analytics for your registration and trade show information. Website information and registration data populate with little to no lag time. Dealing with International data? New reporting platforms allow you to separate out registration data by country. Need to know your highest refund dates? A custom financial dashboard can be created. Want to compare show information from past years? This technology makes it easy to import past data for comparison to the current year. Customization capabilities are endless, allowing for relevant data to be extracted and displayed without hassle.

Updates to data mining and reporting capabilities now leave the ability to collect data in the hands of the show organizer. Simpler and faster technology allows for completely customized dashboards and reporting based on the needs of the show. The headache of getting your data how you want it, when you want it, is a thing of the past.


exhibitor

Triple Play

exhibitor

How many buyers were at your last event? Did your attendance increase from the previous year? While show organizers know the importance of growing their attendance, one major group they shouldn’t overlook is exhibitors. While sessions and other events are certainly important, having the ability to meet and connect with a variety of exhibitors is huge. In an effort to show exhibitors how important they really are, why not give them some special attention? At CompuSystems, Inc. we have done just that by implementing our “Triple Play” program.

The “Triple Play” provides a one-of-a-kind experience for your exhibitor groups, especially those that would be considered high profile. We provide exceptional service, helping them increase their performance and subsequently, your exhibiting company retention rates.

VIP’s

CompuSystems receives a list of the top 20 VIP exhibitors attending the event. They can be VIP’s for various reasons, including their booth size, their years of participation, etc. CompuSystems will contact these special exhibitors in advance, offering comprehensive, personal concierge service, tailored lead management solutions and one-on-one onsite training.

First Time Exhibitors

CompuSystems will reach out to every first time exhibitor to offer them best practices training, as well as a complimentary, optional webinar hosted by a lead capture expert. Making first time exhibitors feel special from the beginning and giving them the keys to succeed is the foundation for a long lasting relationship.

Exhibitor Registration and Lead Retrieval Co-location

Combining exhibitor registration with lead retrieval pick-up provides a one-stop shop for badges and lead devices. It increases lead retrieval product exposure, is easy to find and is convenient (and oftentimes less expensive) for Exhibit Managers as well.

Exhibitors play an integral role in your event. Provide them with the extra attention they deserve, making their participation as meaningful as possible. You may find yourselves noticing an uptick in exhibitor retention and even booth size.


website design

The Importance of Good Website Design

website design

In the trade show industry, the importance of getting people to register for your event is paramount. Every year, show organizers are experimenting with new and different ways to do just that, such as using social media event marketing plugins and offering incentives to register for your next event while at your current event.

Gone are the days of mailing in and faxing forms. Arguably, the most important (and fastest) way to get people to register for your event is through your website. I know… everyone knows that. But what everyone doesn’t know is how important it is to make sure your registrants have an excellent user experience. Your websites should be easy to use, intuitive and inviting. If you’re not quite sure how to accomplish this, take a minute to look at the tips below.

Simple Typography

• Choose fonts that are legible.

• Veer away from using a script font on body copy as it’s hard to read.

Good Image Quality

• Crop your images in interesting ways and make sure those images are relevant.

• Do not use pixelated or distorted images; they aren’t good representations of your product.

• Keep your image quality, but consider compressing the image size to a minimum. Smaller images help websites load faster.

Clear Navigation

• Utilize hierarchies – big, medium and small (but legible) text.

• When using buttons, make it clear that it’s a button.

• Concise labeling is important; you want registrants to know what they’re looking at.

Choose Color and Contrast Properly

• Don’t use dark grey font over a light grey background. There isn’t enough contrast making it hard to read.

• Keep the color scheme to a relative minimum. Too much color can be just that… too much.

Consistency is your Friend

• Buttons should look the same throughout.

• Labels should stay consistent – don’t label navigation one thing and the page header another.

Relevant Content

• Display what matters for your audience. If you have a long paragraph, break it apart into smaller chunks that are easier to digest.

• The top half of your web page determines if the user will stay on your website or not; display the most important information here.

By incorporating these design principles into your event registration websites, you will improve your user’s experience and increase your chances of repeat attendees. Your event will be amazing. Make sure people are there to see it.


social media integration

Social Media Integration

social media integration

Clients, as well as registration vendors understand the marketplace need for social media within the registration process.  Incorporating online marketing tools, in addition to standard marketing tools to drive traffic to your event is an integral part of a well-rounded, multi-faceted marketing campaign.  To stay current with this growing trend, many companies are turning to their registration vendor and InGo, a social media event marketing plugin, for assistance.

Registration Vendor Integration

Your registration vendor likely already has some social media integrations in place.  The integrations may vary with each media outlet, however, each should be designed to link the attendee to the Client’s social networking sites, announce that they have registered for the Client’s event, and allow an invitation to be sent to others.

Examples of what these integrations may look like include:

Facebook – After someone registers for your show, they click on an icon to connect with Facebook.  They can choose to become a friend or fan of your show and post this information to their Facebook page and their friends’ News Feed Wall.  On your show’s Facebook page, fans of your event are able to see the friends they have in common with your show.

Twitter – After completing the registration process, a registrant can opt in and follow your show’s tweets.  Twitter users can also tweet show related information and links to all their followers, thus promoting the event.

LinkedIn – Once the registration process has been completed, the registrant has the ability to join a LinkedIn show specific group that will allow them to see which of their colleagues using LinkedIn are currently registered for the show, as well as connect with other people attending your show.

Integration with InGo

As mentioned earlier, InGo is a social media event marketing plugin.  You might be wondering what that even means.  Well, InGo is a third party company that provides widgets (small chunks of code) to your registration vendor that get incorporated into your attendee registration websites.  Their functionality allows for greater social media integration, including:

Social Media Login – The widgets give the attendee the ability to login to the website via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter; it speeds up registration by auto-filling fields with social profile data.

Social Posting – Attendees can interact via their social networks after they have completed their registration.  They can post to their newsfeed, alerting friends they’re attending your event.

Personal Invitations – Attendees can invite their network to attend, based on targeted keywords and InGo’s socially-smart ranking algorithm.

Who is Attending – Attendees can discover who is attending your event, both in and out of their network and can invite new contacts right from your website.

In sum, social media is an essential marketing channel for trade show organizers.  No matter which option you choose, it will make an impact.  By encouraging attendees to promote the event for you, you’re creating pre-show buzz, increasing your recognition and building a social community around your event.