With Covid-19 vaccines available and travel restrictions lifting, enterprises are planning face-to-face meetings for the second half of 2021 and beyond.
The past year has seen tremendous breakthroughs in virtual event platforms. Now, as live events return, innovation is underway to improve safety for exhibitors and attendees on-site.
What are these innovative new solutions that are enhancing safety in the Covid era, to what degree are they delivering on their promise to protect participants, and do they enrich or detract from the attendee journey?
In this article, you will find eight solutions that pave to way back to safe in-person events using technology, from mobile apps to artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. You’ll also see how these tools enhance the experience for organizers, attendees and exhibitors.
1. Hybrid Events Drive Covid Safety
Hybrid is a major component of the future meetings and events market. In fact, 89 percent of global event organizers say virtual components will remain critical post-pandemic, according to a recent survey by Aventri.
Hybrid events provide that optionality for attendees and exhibitors to travel to the event in person or remain remote and attend online.
Businesses see hybrid as a way to reduce risk, expand audience reach and create new revenue streams. Savvy marketers make content available online post-event to drive engagement not just for one gathering, but throughout the year.
One challenge with a hybrid format is that event organizers must leverage and integrate multiple solutions, creating a choppy experience. In this model, participants must download different software, re-enter information, combine separate data sets and more, all of which complicates the experience for attendees, organizers and stakeholders.
To avoid this problem, modern event management software (EMS) solutions are fully integrated and handle virtual, hybrid and in-person events on one platform. The integration streamlines workflows and lets users move seamlessly back and forth between formats. What’s more, in the event of a disruption to the live event, they can transition easily to the virtual format.
2. Mobile Technology Powers Hybrid Engagement
I am frequently asked how attendees can network effectively when they are split between those participating live at the venue and those joining remotely.
The answer sits within the mobile app. The latest event software apps provide networking tools that allow attendees to connect regardless of location. Not only are participants able to share in the event content without latency issues, but they also can engage in chat, breakout rooms, and video conferencing on demand. Attendees can share in live polls and ask questions of in-person and virtual presenters as well.
Additionally, there are networking engines that leverage AI to recommend introductions between attendees based on their interests. Attendees can keep track of their event ROI by tracking their meetings via the mobile app.
Hybrid engagement tools should not be restricted to live sessions; they should extend to on-demand content as well. This provides a safe, easy way to keep attendees engaged beyond a single event.
3. Digital Badges Strengthen On-site Safety
At live events, pre-printed badges get a lot of handling before they even arrive at the registration table. Plus, there’s the problem of long lines, where people stand in close proximity waiting to check in.
Fortunately, digital badges speed up the process and reduce shared surfaces. The QR or NFC code badges are available through the event app. They present ideal solutions because so many people carry phones at all times during events.
Attendees can download the app ahead of time and arrive at the venue with digital badge in hand. The tool minimizes physical contact with on-site staff members. Attendees hold up their phones to a scanner and breeze right into the event.
The paperless badges also:
- Lessen an event’s carbon footprint
- Integrate with event registration software to boost efficiency
- Cut back on the number of staff members needed on-site, an important consideration for companies working with reduced resources
4. Facial Recognition Enables Contactless Check-In
For large-scale events, facial recognition can remove shared-surface contact altogether. Modern systems detect people, greet them by name and verify registration in a few seconds.
Top-of-the-line facial recognition software works even in crowded, fast-changing environments – which is why many Major League Baseball stadiums use it at the main gate.
Essentials for successful facial recognition check-in include great cameras and lighting, processing power and recognition engine.
To comply with data privacy requirements, enterprises must make sure their platform does not store images, but rather uses them to create a digital signature for just one event.
5. AI and the IoT Personalize the Experience
To some people, contactless check-in sounds impersonal. There are no handshakes or smiling staffers to hand you a badge.
Fortunately, sophisticated onsite technologies leverage mobile technology, artificial intelligence and the IoT to personalize events start to finish. Here’s how this works:
- When attendees scan their badges at check-in, they receive customized recommendations through their event app. Suggestions cover the gamut, from sessions and exhibit booths to event goers with shared interests based on registration data.
- Event apps and iBeacons play a vital role in the IoT. As attendees participate in sessions and move about the show floor, these tools passively track activity and collect a goldmine of data.
- Interactivity features – such as live polling, Q&A’s, session ratings, scavenger hunts and exhibitor booth visits – not only keep an audience engaged. They also provide business intelligence on attendee interests and business challenges.
- Thanks to AI and machine learning, recommendations get more relevant the more an attendee engages in the event.
With audiences expanding dramatically due to virtual components, easy networking capabilities are essential. Smart recommendations present a Covid-safe way to drive high-quality connections for attendees and exhibitors.
6. EventBots Help Keep Attendees Safe
Check-in is not the only place gridlock occurs. The information desk is another place where crowds often form.
To reduce congestion, EventBots provide quick answers to common event questions. For example: Where’s the awards dinner? What’s the dress code? Do meeting rooms have Wi-Fi? Can I get gluten-free meals?
EventBots use AI to answer thousands of inquiries at once – with a response time of a few seconds each and an accuracy rate exceeding the call center industry average.
The tools work great on mobile devices via SMS text. Now, there is no need to wait in line; attendees have the answers they need in the palm of their hands.
In addition to answering questions, EventBots deliver targeted communications, such as greetings, feedback requests, reminders and schedule changes. If an emergency arises, they are also a reliable way to reach participants in an instant.
7. Scanners Cut Crowds
Pre-Covid, session capacity limits could be hard to control, and popular sessions drew standing-room crowds.
Luckily today, scanners ease congestion. Organizers place customizable pods equipped with readers outside large breakout rooms and use handheld scanners for smaller sessions. Attendees simply tap their digital badges to a reader and get their attendance counted for continuing education credit.
Scanners share real-time capacity status. Organizers use this information to:
- Control access for social distancing
- Even out traffic flow
- Support contact tracing if needed to alert attendees who may have been exposed
8. Contactless Lead Gen Boosts Safety, Adds Value
As everyone who attends trade shows knows, the busiest part of an event is typically the exhibit hall. Sponsors and exhibitors sign on with high expectations to drive quality leads and return on investment.
The problem is in the new normal for physical events, they can’t generate leads the same way as before. Gone are physical business cards, handshakes and printed marketing material.
The good news is scannable lead generation provides a Covid-safe way to drive business.
With this solution, exhibitors can use their phones to scan, or they can rent a device. Attendees walk up to a booth, scan their badges and receive an email from the exhibitor for a quick, contactless way to capture leads. Exhibitors can also send digital marketing content to visitors through the lead-gen tool instead of handing out hard copies.
Lead-gen devices capture useful attendee engagement data. To add more value, advanced EMS platforms create data-rich reports for exhibitors and sponsors. The customizable reports share metrics like booth traffic, sponsored session attendance, dwell time, questions asked, ratings, digital networking preferences and more.
In addition to contactless lead gen in live booths, modern software platforms offer a virtual booth experience. Should attendees not feel comfortable entering a physical booth to discuss content, learn about products or conduct business, they can launch a virtual booth that provides both the content and the option for a live chat or videoconference, all with the same data and intelligence.
The business intelligence quantifies ROI. It also gives exhibitors and sponsors fresh customer insights to personalize event follow-up and improve future sales and marketing.
Event tech providers have accelerated their product roadmaps at an unprecedented rate throughout the pandemic. The innovation continues as in-person events restart.
In the new normal for meetings and events, you will find powerful technology to help keep people safe, while also advancing business goals.
To learn more about event solutions for Covid-safety, get our free Onsite Health and Safety Technology Guide.