02 Apr Beacon Technology Solutions for Events
What is beacon technology?
Visitors to Apple stores in early 2014 were surprised to find that the staff already knew their name – and in some cases, why they were coming into the store – even though they had not told anyone. How? In late 2013, Apple had launched iBeacons (a form of beacon technology) in 254 stores in the United States.
The new hardware, still in use in Apple stores today, uses low-power Bluetooth transmitters to determine with high accuracy the location of a smartphone. That location can be used to transmit highly relevant information at just the right time, such as the name and reservation number of the person walking through the door.
Since Apple rolled out the first major deployment of the technology, some surprising use cases have been discovered for beacons (the generic term for the device): grocery stores pushing recipes to shoppers, bars detecting when a guest’s drink is almost empty, Google telling railriders how to connect to free Wi-Fi, and airports giving travelers navigation assistance.
With a little ingenuity and a dash of innovation, beacon technology can also be used to seamlessly improve attendees’ experience at every stage of an event, beginning the moment they arrive.
Registration can be one of the most frustrating parts of a conference. Long lines, agonizing waits and a convoluted process leave a bad taste in attendees’ mouths before the conference has even officially begun. Beacons offer myriad ways to streamline registration, reducing or even eliminating the wait time and giving conference organizers the chance to make a great first impression.
- Similar to how smartphone boarding passes work, QR codes can be sent to attendees’ phones when they near the venue entrance. Scanning the codes will check them in.
- Badges and registration materials can be printed as soon as the attendee arrives at the venue, so the only thing that is left to do is a quick check-in.
- Beacons can automatically check in attendees as they arrive, without any action required on their part.
Every trade show has hot spots – the places where people line up to get a chance to view whatever is on display – and every conference has places where people naturally congregate.
Beacons can be used to encourage people to visit all of the trade booths by, for example, creating a scavenger hunt that requires them to check in at every booth. They can also be used to help with crowd flow by encouraging people to find easter eggs (hidden items or exclusive features) throughout the venue.
While most people at a conference want to network, there is a common problem: the signal to noise ratio is atrocious. The odds of walking up to a random stranger and finding them to be someone you actually want to talk to are low. As a result, people hang out in their respective, familiar cliques.
Beacons make it as if everyone from the conference has a political aide giving them vital information on the person they are about to talk to. They abolish the barriers between people by showing them the faces and names of people around them, as well as relevant LinkedIn information, for example.
If registration is “one of” the most frustrating parts of a conference, then navigation can take the cake. Beacons were made for precisely this purpose.
Because of their ability to precisely locate a user, they can tell with far greater precision than GPS precisely where an attendee is, and gently prompt them to where they need to be. It can even go beyond that by giving them additional information regarding what is going on around them as they get to their destination.
The cherry on top of the beacon ice cream sundae is the ability to not only reduce the attendees’ pain points, but also to optimize their entire experience.
For example, the information from the beacons that register who is going to which session can be used to automatically distribute the relevant presentation materials straight to the attendees’ devices.
Beacons throughout the venue can help perfect crowd flow, right down to the food that attendees eat, and the data collected from the beacons can be used to make sure every conference is better than the one before.
Finally, beacons make fulfilling continuing education requirements easy. The International Association for Continuing Education and Training, the organization that governs all continuing education, requires that learning events be at least one hour in length, and that attendees be present for the entire session. Beacon technology streamlines the process, eliminating the need for attendees to wait to check in and out with a person.
From seamless registration, to easy navigation and annual optimization, beacon technology can be used to provide event attendees with the most engaging, smooth event experience they have ever had. If you want to know more about how beacons can be used to light up your event, contact ESG today.