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Top Tech Trends from International Confex

(Photo credit: AMMP)

If you are wondering what the latest tech trends are for exhibitions, I’m here to help. At a recent panel appearance at International Confex, I shared my predictions on what’s new and exciting to exhibitors everywhere, but I think it’s important to note…what is a trend? A trend is a general direction in which something is developing or changing. Below, I cover a mix of topics that are being addressed by technology or are becoming more commonplace in events. Here we go:

1) Sustainable Technology

First up is Planet Earth. I’m not going to go all green on you – though I would, of course, encourage you to – but we’re going to see more tech or rather better ways to use technology from a sustainable perspective. For example, e-badging and digital content collection is reducing printed collateral at events. Using tech to improve targeting and decision-making ensures the right audience is delivered at the right time and place – minimising waste and overall carbon footprint of an event. You can use event intelligence software to help you focus on your ideal customer profile and on delivering exactly what they are looking for from your event, with no excess.

2) Progressive Web Apps and 3) QR Codes

QR – It’s back baby, but with more insight. QR codes have been around for years but when combined with a progressive web application - meaning no app download required – visitors can now turn their phones into content capture software with just one click. This is a low-cost sustainable solution to distribute content effectively across the show floor. 

It’s pretty simple too…just as visitors are used to collecting content via the tap of their smart badge (see tip 4 below!), they can now receive an email or SMS with a direct link to their visitor portal. They can then scan the QR code from within their browser to collect the digital content associated with it. As the organizer, you can then see exactly who has interacted with which piece of content, giving you greater insight into what is resonating with your audience.

4) Smart Badges

For 2020, these are typically NFC or RFID-enabled badges, which act like digital business cards for your visitors. As they tap an NFC Visit Touchpoint or are scanned by RFID, for example, they can collect digital content from across the show floor, which is then stored in their personalised online portal and can be accessed whenever they want.

Previously, visitors would print their badge and then have to collect and associate an NFC or RFID device with it, adding precious time to their journey into your events. Now, these are being associated at point of print, improving their visitor experience and leaving them more time to engage with your event!

5) AI and Machine Learning

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a program which can sense, reason, act and adapt to a situation. So, it takes known metrics to deliver the answer/result you’re looking for. Machine learning, however, takes it a step further. The algorithms help improve performance as they are exposed to more data over time.

This means as people interact with your events - from registration to onsite interactions, from the content they engage with to the information they collect - AI technology starts to make better recommendations to help personalise each individual participant’s experience.

But also, AI can be utilised to help deliver more relevant information to a participant. If they register interest in X and Y days out from event and selected Z demographics, this creates an opportunity to send them a short email. If they interacted onsite with products A-B-C instead, AI will automatically support you to deliver the best recommended content to the attendee.

6) Enabled Participation 

This should be standard on every event. There’s a reason for having microphones available for attendee participation. Some people in the audience may not be able to hear very well, so use the microphones. Hopefully, your attendees are plugged into assistive listening systems, either on mobile devices through an app or infrared wireless system.

Ask, don’t assume – if attendees have any requirements needed to participate in your event. Ensure whatever requirement you’re including is in at the ground level during planning stages. It could be that you need interpreters, too, not just technology.

7) Real-time Surveys

You don’t need to wait to survey people when they get back to their desks. There are so many ways you can ask people what they think of your event. For example, there are great benchmarking tools out there such as Explori to help you see how you’re performing in your sector. But what about at your event? Maybe try to engage with your participants TSA security style - upon exiting, they tap their smart badge on a happy or sad face-related Touchpoint which then links to a specific form about why they chose that response. Then, not only will you know who selected what, but you have the opportunity to also dig deeper with dedicated surveys or working groups with select audience from each category.

8) Selling Smarter

Tools such as Visit’s Event Intelligence delivers real-time intelligence to organisers to help them sell their show better. Organisers can see exactly what leads exhibitors have scanned, which helps determine by audience type or demographics if they met their target audience. Sales teams can therefore prove ROI or offer timely advice during the rebooking process by using real-time insight from the show floor.

9) Podcasts

Brands are podcasting more. We’re doing it at Visit. It’s cost effective and an easy way to distribute your content. You can easily download apps to your phone such as Podbean and get started straight away. You don’t need fancy equipment, either.

You can use podcasts to engage with your speakers pre-event, too. Give your audience a little snippet of what is going to be on offer during the event, to get greater traction when the doors open. Check out the Event industry News podcast for lots of great conversations and opinions about event technology.

10) Integration

In a tug of war, if you were pulling one way and your teammate pulling the other – would you win? Unlikely. Integration is about getting the various technologies you work with to work together seamlessly. And we’re not just looking at event technologies. What about your CRM, your finance package, your marketing automation tools? There are great tools out there such as Blendr, which help make integration of tech platforms easier for you and they are already connected to many event tech API’s.

However, the real trend we’re seeing right now is the rise of CTO’s being more heavily involved in decision-making processes when looking at how suppliers, such as Visit, can support their integrated experiences and ultimately drive more data back to HQ.


So, there you have it, my top trends for 2020. I hope this helps as you plan your own events and attend others. And, don’t forget to take a look my previous predictions.

About the Author

Matt has been working in events & exhibitions for over 15 years. From organising, to design, to website, and onto registration, engagement and intelligent data services, Matt has extensive experience at every level. With a background in organisation, marketing and design Matt is able to cut through the technology and approach engagement and registration solutions with the end users in mind. As Group Commercial Director for Visit by GES and an active participant in the industry, Matt has been involved in a variety of industrywide research projects and is an expert in creating effective event experiences.

Profile Photo of Matt  Coyne