A Smart(phone) Solution to Connecting With Attendees

Your attendees' time is valuable, and one association helped members manage their time during the annual tradeshow with a customized smartphone application.

What's the great idea? Create a mobile application for your tradeshow that provides real-time updates and exhibit floor maps.

Who's doing it? American Bus Association (ABA)

What's involved? Even though it's commonplace for conferences to offer paper-light options for attendees, many people still print dozens of pages before an event. And what if an exhibitor or presenter unexpectedly cancels after the pamphlets are published? Instead of leaving attendees with printing duties and in the dark about schedules, ABA realized it could constantly connect during its Capital Region Marketplace 2010 tradeshow through a smartphone application.

A simple-to-use application was created with the help of TripBuilder, Inc., through its EventMobile software. "They knew intuitively how best to customize their product for Marketplace based on the information we provided, and after we put our minds together to shape the final app, they were able to implement the program seamlessly," says Lynn Brewer, senior vice president of meetings, education, and member services at ABA.

The application offered a daily schedule of events, detailed descriptions of sessions, and links to presenter materials. Attendees could select the booths they wanted to visit, which were then organized by number for easy navigation on the exhibit floor. In addition, ABA was able to communicate to attendees throughout the conference through a password-protected interface. 

To promote the new application, ABA issued news releases several months in advance, which gained buzz in the trade press. "We then augmented that momentum by building on it via our website, www.buses.org, our Marketplace newsletter, and the ABA Insider, which has 9,000 readers," says Brewer. "As a result, we got people excited well before the show. We then followed through onsite by providing a premium booth spot on the event floor for TripBuilder, and the application grabbed people by the lapels!"

What are people saying? Attendees provided feedback on the application through an online survey, and many were "smitten with the product's user friendliness and real-time updates sent right on their smartphones," says Brewer. "Customization is critical for every different show. So what works for ABA might not at another show. It's about knowing your audience, their needs, their time constraints, and listening first. I'm too competitive to tell others to get TripBuilder EventMobile but confident that every show is unique in some way such that, if used correctly, any show has the chance to make it a great tool."