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Using Technology to Measure Attendee Behavior By Neal Thompson


activities. Because this technology requires a much more sophisticated user, at this time, I recommend that it be used for “surprise and delight” moments and not for mission critical, or sponsored activities.

n recent years, an influx of new attendee-facing technologies has made new instruments available for measuring attendee behavior at events. These include RFID (radio-frequency identification) name badges and iBeacon technologies, as well as event apps. Each of these provides insight into how attendees interact with the event environment and content, and into their overall participation. I will start off with a brief explanation of how these technologies work and then discuss the types of data each collects and the value they offer.


Most event apps themselves are now treasure troves of data, with the platform recording every attendee interaction with the app. And when this information is combined with the scanning data above, attendee engagement becomes even more measurable, especially in regards to content. By combining attendance data, survey data, comments and likes on sessions, etc., event content managers can now get a RFID 360-degree view of the event’s RFID technology is a chip placed on the name impact on their audience. badge that can broadcast a unique identifier As these technologies of the attendee. Readers can be “near field,” where they Beacon can help continue to gain wider are positioned to provide “tap and go” access to session adoption at events and are rooms, or “far field,” where they read badges from up to organizers determine combined with more robust 40 feet away. New in the marketplace are reader mats reporting engines, they that attendees simply walk over. The scan data can be the level of activity in will also enable proactive combined with registration data to show what types of different areas of the approaches to event sessions delegates are attending, as well as their “dwell time” (how long are they in a room or area). The data exhibit hall. This data can management. For example, recording attendees’ entry can help monetize sponsored sessions by providing inform show floor design times prior to session start attendee lists, as well as show the value of exhibit times at each room allows the halls by quantifying the attendee traffic generated for and pricing structures for organizer to identify locations exhibitors. The aggregate of this data across the entire that may have a load-in event can be analyzed in a number of ways. Examples exhibit space. problem or sessions that are include participation by hour of the day, by attendee starting late. Another example type or by firm. These measurements, when used year is searching for keywords such as “cold” in the app comments and over year, are an effective way to determine ROI on the event. posts, in order to identify environmental adjustments that may be needed. iBEACON While all of these technologies hold amazing promise to continue iBeacon technology, which can be implemented via an iBeacon fob to expand event data collection beyond the typical post-event placed on the badge, is relatively new. While the range of iBeacon survey, they do require significant coordination with the host facility. extends beyond RFID, there are some limitations in providing Equipment placement, power requirements, Internet for real-time “tap and go” session access. However, the cost of iBeacon is reporting and wireless access for attendees’ mobile access must all substantially less than RFID. This scanning technology allows for be carefully considered. Fortunately, most vendors providing these measuring attendee traffic flow over a large area of an exhibit hall. services have, by necessity, become experts on how to manage the Not only can iBeacon provide information on attendees’ dwell time unique infrastructure requirements and work with facilities to create in the exhibit hall, but it can also help organizers determine the an effective plan based on each event’s needs. level of activity in different areas of the hall. This data can inform show floor design and pricing structures for exhibit space. Neal Thompson is the Director of Strategic Technology at A second way that iBeacon can be used is to communicate to Maritz Travel. He joined Maritz in 1993 and was the business attendees via their smartphone. Most mobile apps now support architect for all client-facing technologies. Today, he provides iBeacon technology. Simply stated, a beacon is placed in a certain a strategic leadership role at Maritz Travel, responsible for location, and any attendee with the mobile app running and the bringing emerging technologies to market. Thompson has an appropriate Bluetooth settings turned on can receive an alert when undergraduate degree in Communications and a master’s entering the area. Uses for this technology can be as simple as degree in Human Computer Communication, the study of the welcoming people to the event in a hotel lobby, providing coupons, interaction between people and technology. or gamification via points conferred on the mobile app for certain


Facilities & Destinations 2016-2017 Winter


Profile for Facilities Media Group

Facilities & Destinations - Winter 2016-2017  

F&D's Winter edition, includes: Q&A with Atlantic City Convention Center's new GM, Dean Dennis. F&D A-List: Woman CVB Executives. Planne...

Facilities & Destinations - Winter 2016-2017  

F&D's Winter edition, includes: Q&A with Atlantic City Convention Center's new GM, Dean Dennis. F&D A-List: Woman CVB Executives. Planne...