Onsite Event Tech: A Cure to Planning Pain

The onsite experience at meetings and events has gotten a much-needed face lift, all due to the unprecedented growth surrounding onsite technology. Event and meeting planners have always been hyper-focused on making sure their event check-in process goes smoothly, since it’s the attendee’s first experience onsite. Good first impressions go a long way. Now, they have the tech to help deliver on the dream.

With the nuts and bolts of sourcing, registration, accounting, and procurement simplified by event technology, tech builders turned their laser-focus to the onsite experience for both attendees and event planning teams. Evolving registration processes from manual to digital was a valiant beginning, but more had to be done. A multi-pronged approach to a better onsite experience was growing increasingly urgent as attendees, accustomed to near-instantaneous everything, elevated their expectations accordingly.

Event organizers, knowing that great first impression is mission critical, needed answers. After all, event check-in had long been one of the most stressful components of any conference, trade show or meeting. Manual processes didn’t help. Using hard copies of lists to search and mark off attendee names was time-consuming and created long lines. When badges are misplaced or misspelled, getting a new one printed could be difficult, sometimes requiring ingenuity and a marker to jury-rig a solution. That’s to say nothing of the inherent problems of accepting payments onsite.

Onsite solutions come online

As onsite software began taking off, it came with the promise of significantly speeding up check-in, and the ability to print badges and collect key attendee information onsite. A smartphone or tablet loaded with a cost-effective app allows check-in staff to find attendees through a quick alphabetical search or by confirmation number, email, or QR scan. Mobile apps and kiosks equipped with tablets even gave attendees the chance to help themselves, and check-in with ease.

Best of all, an investment in check-in apps and tablets are typically affordable for even small- to mid-size events, reducing the number of check-in staff needed and freeing them up to focus on other critical event planning details. As they continue to evolve, planners can expect better integration with big data, which will allow the check-in process to become more personalized and engaging. Check-in staff are able to recommend sessions and exhibits based on attendees’ job title, previous event history, or other data. This seemingly simple solution is taking the industry by storm, so savvy planners are advised to keep a sharp eye on this constantly-developing solution.

Badges on Demand

Another onsite pain point that technology solutions is addressing? Issuing badges. Given that, on average, roughly 20 percent of attendees may not show up for an event, pre-printing badges often leads to waste. Money and time. And, even when sorted and alphabetized, it proves time-consuming for planners and attendees to sift through hundreds of names spread out across large tables, to find the correct one, and then it may still be misspelled.  Or a title, or company name may be incorrect. Confusion reigns and queues get longer, and longer, and longer…

Wireless printing technology makes it easy to now print badges on demand, allowing check-in staff to confirm the name and spelling, thus saving time, paper, and money. An added self-check-in kiosk could have adjacent wireless badge printers so attendees could preview, edit, and print their badge on their own. In this area, 3D printing could evolve the process further–moving to event decor, swag, and more.

Painless Payments

In an ideal world, all attendees register and pay online in advance. But as all event planners know—it’s important to expect the unexpected. Faced with these unexpected situations, onsite solutions have become more nimble for the times when an unregistered attendee arrives or a registrant wants to upgrade to a VIP level experience for its networking opportunities. The addition of credit card readers that attach to mobile devices now allows quick and secure payment collection just by swiping a credit card, keeping a smooth check-in process and ensuring the ability to collect all monies due upfront.

Expect to see sensor integration and wearable technology speed the check-in and payment process even gain momentum as well. RFID technology for example, allows attendees to check in, make payments, and print their badges with ease.

The move toward mobile

Along with the need to improve onsite check-in experiences came the need to improve attendee satisfaction and engagement. It’s one thing to get them there. But keeping attendees engaged and coming back for more? That’s a different story. That issue is being addressed by today’s mobile event apps.

Given the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, its a natural way to keep attendees engaged. After all, people check their mobile phones, on average, between 35 and 40 times a day (that number probably jumped in the time it took to write that sentence). When people use smartphones, they are using them to access apps that do everything from checking the weather and mail to paying bills and listening to music. In short, they are ubiquitous and personal. Mobile technology developers leverage this fascination with apps and apply it to meetings, conferences, and trade shows in effective ways.

What can today’s mobile apps do for an event? Create a better, smarter, more personalized event experience for attendees—even before the event begins. Unlike a printed guide, mobile apps give attendees a more convenient way to connect with other attendees, create session reminders, follow speakers on Twitter, join social media conversations, and more. With equipped geolocation technology, staff can identify traffic and weather issues that may impact travel, then pinpoint arrival times so staff can be ready for VIP meet and greets. Plus, the technology makes it convenient to announce last-minute changes to the schedule through push notifications. And, when attendees don’t have a full schedule, an in-app game can help drive the attendee to booths and people the planner would like them to meet. Afterward, surveys integrated within the app make it easier for planners to collect immediate feedback. It’s convenient for attendees, too, because they can do it within the app right after a session, while it is fresh in their minds. The result? An attendee who feels engaged, included, and heard. In other words, more personally connected to the event. For most, the mobile-tech “sell” to a tech-savvy boss is an easy one. It just makes good sense to engage attendees through a medium they already use. When the app covers multiple events, it lives on in their phone and continues their engagement.

Mobile offers another interesting prospect for planners and marketers: the ability to monetize. In-app sponsorships can increase brand awareness, favorability, and purchase intent twice as much as general mobile advertising. Sponsored push notifications can also pique the interest of attendees and encourage them to take action, whether it’s following the sponsor on social media or visiting their booth at the show. Similar to how an app empowers attendees, it enables sponsors to meet their personal goals and get more from their investment.

To maximize the return on your events, integration of your onsite technology with the rest of your event tech is a must-have. This makes it simple to track attendees across every stage of their journey at your event: from registration, to check-in, to attending sessions, to visiting exhibitor booths, to post-event follow-up. You’ll have full insight into your attendees’ journey, and a wealth of data to prove your event’s ROI. And with all your data in one place, post-event reporting is a cinch.

Next, we’ll dig a little deeper into how marketers are leveraging event management technology, and data it provides, to increase ROI, and attribution to the sales pipeline.


John Hunter

Written by John Hunter

Living and breathing words is more to me than a way to pay the bills, it’s a passion. Whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, an eBook, or a feature article, video script or white paper – yes, this includes even finally finishing that film treatment over the weekend. It’s going to be great, I promise. I’ve written just about everything, in addition to the above, this includes radio spots, T.V., outdoor, direct mail, websites, press releases, print ads, and collateral in a wide variety of industries, including: corporate, education, associations, broadcast TV, SAAS, hospitality, entertainment and retail. When I’m not writing I'm leading content teams, and mentoring other writers.