Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wearable/Ultra-portable Computers for Events

This article comes from my friend Corbin Ball.

A new category of computers, wearable computers, are miniature electronic devices that are worn under, with or on top of clothing. …and they may be coming to an event near you!
Technology has developed in ten-year cycles: 1960s: mainframe computing, 1970s: mini-computing, 1980s: personal computing, 1990s: desktop internet computing, 2000s: mobile internet computing. This decade may turn out to be the decade of wearable/everywhere computing. Computers are popping up in our cars, our home appliances, and soon on our bodies. Most of us are already carrying around powerful computers in our pockets (smart phones), but this is just the first step.

Google Glass, smart watches, NFC rings, smart bracelets, and smart clothing are just some of the options becoming available. This will impact events and tradeshows in the next few years as attendees literally embody these devices to assist them at events.
Consider the possibilities as these technologies evolve:
Google Glass is a wearable computer with and optical head-mounted display. Light (about 1/10 of a pound) and sleek, it is worn like glasses and will become available to the public this coming year. The extremely small display, through very clever optics, appears like a 20 inch screen floating about 6 feet away. Sound is provided through bone conduction, so no ear phones are needed.  It is essentially a voice and touch activated multi-media computer, GPS system, still camera, video camera, and like much more as developers continue to evolve it.
Here are some of the future possibilities for GoogleGlass for events:
  • Step-by-step navigation throughout a meeting venue or an exhibit hall with visual and/or audio directions.
  • Real-time video conferencing.
  • Note taking (video with sound and still picture recording on voice or touch demand).
  • Displaying speaker presentation notes and slides.
  • Networking facilitation through taking a picture of who you meet or face recognition reminders the next time you meet them.
  • Gaming applications
  • Mini-teleprompters for speakers
  • Sight inspection facilitation to easily record meeting spaces
  • Social media interaction using video, geo-location and networking apps
For those that my think wearing a computer on your face is too geeky, no matter how sleek it may be, smart watches and bracelets also hold promise. Today, most smart watches are smart phone interfaces, and most smart bracelets/bands such as Jawbone or Fitbit are activity trackers. However, as computer processors continue to get smaller, cheaper and more powerful, these devices have the potential to have a big impact on events.
Some future options include:
  • Instant business contact exchange (just tap your watches, band or NFC ring together)
  • Continuing education tracking (just tap your watch, band or ring to a tag outside the room).
  • Information collection at exhibit booths.
  • Couse notes distribution
  • Navigational assistance (indoor GPS on your watch)
  • Networking (your watch or band will light up or vibrate when people of like interest come into range)
  • Appointment reminder notices
  • Photos, video and still of event activities and education
  • Note taking
Although still in its infancy, the rapid rate of development holds the promise to make wearable computers indispensable personal assistants in multiple was as people navigate and make the most of attending events.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site: Corbin Ball Associates – Meetings Technology Headquarters and followed at

Sunday, March 09, 2014

How to Boost Traffic at Your Trade Show Booth

Want to stand out? Plan ahead and skip the tchotchkes and gimmicks.

Clowns, costumes, caricaturists: they're staples of nearly every trade show, attempting to bring an audience to an otherwise lackluster booth. And don't forget the beguiling ladies, handing out fliers with a side of flirtation. Does any of the showiness of the showroom floor actually work to draw in attendees that become reliable leads?

"Don't get me started on booth babes," said Susan Friedmann, an industry consultant who goes by "The Tradeshow Coach." "People really have had to get more serious about exhibiting. When you're investing often several hundred thousand dollars going to a trade show, you have to get a return on your investment."

Whether your desired outcome is to fill a spreadsheet with sales leads, generate buzz for a new product, or just increase brand awareness, relying on random booth traffic isn't usually the wisest strategy, experts tell Inc. Plan early for not just creating an inventive and effective booth, but also for getting the right people to seek you out.

"A lot of show marketers leave it to the show organizer to drive traffic on the show floor," said Ruth P. Stevens, a consultant on business-to-business marketing and president of eMarketing Strategy. "You cannot cede responsibility to the show organizer to get all the traffic you want to get – you need to take aggressive action."

Drawing Traffic to Your Trade Show Booth: Plan Ahead

Trade show consultants and experts cite a statistic illustrative of the risk of leaving convention or show traffic to chance: Roughly 70 percent of show attendees plan a list of whom they're going to visit before ever entering the convention center doors. They say that number makes plain the power – and necessity – of pre-show outreach.

Stevens advocates taking a two-pronged approach. The first would be to contact your in-house file – that's your regular customers, local contacts, and solid prospects. The other? Registered attendees of the show. "Most organizers, if you are buying a booth, will give you access to this list," Stevens says. "You should conduct some outreach to them - or a segment of attendees that might be interested in you - either through direct mail, e-mail, or even phone."

While e-mailing a contact list is by far the most cost-effective way to spread information about an upcoming trade show or conference appearance, David Brull, the vice president of marketing and membership for the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, says snail mail not only still works, but might be the best means of communicating an upcoming event. "A postcard is pretty much the most effective – and odd sized is even better so that it doesn't just blend in and end up in the trash. I know one person that shaped theirs like a fish once, and that really brought people in."

While you're at it, make a substantial effort to contact and make appointments with your local clients, suppliers, or anyone you do business with in the geographic area of your show. It's a simple way to get face-time with folks you might not otherwise be able to sit down with – and a way to make sure you or your employees aren't wasting time standing around in an empty booth.

Drawing Traffic to Your Trade Show Booth: Offer an Incentive, But Be Selective

Getting a piece of mail into a potential client's hand isn't enough, though, Stevens says. They'll also need a solid reason to show up. If you have a new product launching – especially if there's at least an aspect of it that will be completely fresh to consumers – promote that.

"Or, if you don't have something new, you might want to make a special offer," Stevens says. "It might be a price promotion, or a show discount, or you might want to give them a special gift for coming by."

But, there's a big difference in having special gifts for the people you've contacted before the show and doing a random promotion to draw foot traffic into your booth, Friedmann says. "You have to give your target audience a reason to come and see you, based on your goals and objective," she says. "I'm not an advocate of just giving away an iPad or a camcorder, because you're not attracting someone in your target audience."

That's because the old put-your-business-card-in-a-fishbowl-and-win-a-prize ruse to generate leads has proven itself stale.

"Putting a bowl out and asking people to drop in a business card is a waste of energy," Stevens says. "The real way to generate good leads is to have a conversation and kick off a business relationship. You can rent cold names for 15 cents each, so why would you spend hundreds at a trade show to get cold names?"

And the value of pricey giveaways can be lost if your company doesn't get quality warm leads out of the very thing that's supposed to draw people to your booth.

"You have to know your attendees," Stevens says. "If there are going to be a lot of unqualified people, like students or spouses, know that. If it's going to be prowled by a lot of tchotchke grabbers, you might want to keep the gift under the table."

There are other ways to bond with your target audience at a trade show. Friedmann suggests hosting events away from the trade show floor, in more private conference rooms. Reserve space ahead of time, she suggests, and use it for special product demos that you might not want your competition to be privy to – but that you do want your best customers to see.

Another option is to speak on a panel. Talk early on with the conference or trade show's organizers about possible topics that you and your company are experts in – or even a niche of a current industry trend. Being in the middle of the debate or on the edge of innovation, explaining it as you go, is a great place to be. The bonus: You'll be sure to attract those most interested in your work. Offer them additional conversation, a free book, or something else useful, if they'll stop by your booth later.

Be sure to let your clients – and future customers – know where you are speaking and what special events your company is participating in over social media. Increasingly, conferences create their own Twitter hash-tag, so participants can communicate with one another from the showroom floor.

"Individual show exhibitors are using twitter too – saying, hey, I just sold my first widget, or I just attended a great talk," Stephens says. "A lot of them are gaining more attention for their booth by just tweeting around."

Drawing Traffic to Your Trade Show Booth: Be Aggressive, Not Abrasive

If you're debuting a product, and actually want a lot of general buzz and interest in your product and brand, the golden rule is: "If you have a product people can play with, make sure you can bring it," Brull says. "The whole point of face-to-face marketing is so people can touch and feel things."

For small companies with small booths, just remember that for every 10' by 10' booth you have, you have approximately four seconds to engage someone that's walking by. And distractions are aplenty: "The trade show environment is easy to get overwhelmed, it's easy to go into this zombified state and it's so easy to not be able to take anything in," Friedmann says.

Brull suggests to draw in people, create a clean, warm environment they can step into. "In some way, it's your retail store. You need to think of it as your home for a few days, and inviting people into your space should be pleasant," he says.

Having the right people in your booth can also make or break the quick impression your company makes on passers by. For the weekend, remember, the employees in your booth are your ambassadors. While Friedmann says they should never hawk to people from the aisles, they shouldn't be hidden behind a table. They should ask engaging questions off the bat to find out in a non-intrusive way whether the person stopping by is a potential customer or business partner – or just might be curious about your brand.

David Maskin makes a living drawing people into trade show booths. He creates personalized nameplates by bending aluminum wire as giveaways from the company who takes him on to sit in their booth. While Maskin – who goes by "The WireMan" – markets himself as a traffic magnet, he tries to go beyond collecting business cards and creating cold leads.

"The way I like to do things is to go beyond just drawing people into a booth. The big word free is one way to get people to come in. Others will come in just to see what I'm doing," Maskin says. "And when one person comes in, their colleagues come and stand around, which gives the booth staff time to come and mingle with the crowd."

Stevens says: "To me the most important thing to keep in mind is quality. It's really easy to waste a lot of money on a show – it's an expensive environment on a cost-per-contact basis. You want to make sure you're attracting and talking to people who are really likely to be buyers or influencers in your world."

Drawing Traffic to Your Trade Show Booth: Look Sharp

It's not just the shiny things inside your booth that can be a draw for attendees. The booth itself can attract visitors.

Aside from the open, warm, retail-style aesthetic Brull suggests, you'll want to make sure you don't box in too much of your space with tables or displays. "You don't want to block your door with a table," he says.

This year's Exhibitor magazine exhibit design awards hailed mostly booths that created a calm sanctuary in an otherwise chaotic exhibit atmosphere. And doing something that stands out doesn't have to be expensive. Autodesk Inc. won an exhibitor award for creating an 18-foot-high double archway or cardboard tubing that soared above its and custom-made walls and desks. The cost? Thirteen dollars per square foot.

"One of the most effective booths I've ever seen was a 10' by 20' booth with a back wall of boxes or all colors and shapes," Brull says. It was for a box-shipping company. "It was neat, and eye-catching, but it wasn't expensive."

That said, design options can be pretty restricted when you only have a 10' by 10' or 15' booth.

"The most important thing in booth design in a small booth – or any booth really – is the signage," Stevens says. "Assuming you've done your work in pre-show promotions, you want to attract the people who know you."

The way to attract them, Stevens says, is with a "benefit-oriented" sign. It should:

-       Be visible and legible from down an aisle on the showroom floor
-       Have words that give a potential client a good reason to stop.
-       Answer the question for a client: What's in it specifically for me?
-       Not use a lot of jargon, such as "exceptional interface."
-       Include a solution to a business problem.

Don't be afraid to be specific – turning off a segment of the trade show audience who isn't your target is just fine.

"If you're offering specific software for accountants, say so," Stevens says. "You do in fact want to repel unqualified prospects. The real value of show exhibiting is to develop valuable contacts with people you might do business with, and you only have x number of hours to do that."

Read the full article here on Inc.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

4 Tips for Training Event Staff

When guests walk through the door to your event, it’s your event staffers who will ensure that they experience the event as you’ve planned and envisioned it. Are they up to the task? Help them offer flawless service with these four training best practices.

1. Role-play your event as a guest.

The difference between a good event and a great event is attention to detail. How should arriving VIPs or speakers be greeted and managed? Should pre-registrants be processed in a different line from on-site registrants? You know how to handle these “simple” situations instinctively, but don’t assume that your volunteers or local staff share your hard-learned skills. Role-playing, where you take on the persona of different types of guests, gives you an opportunity to show your volunteers how to properly attend to all of them.

And if you can, literally walk the venue as different guests would. Knowing, in detail, how they will flow through an event can help you prepare volunteers and station them where you predict confusion.

2. Prepare your staff for FAQs.

You’re an event planner. You know that there is no amount of signage or advance information that will prevent guests from asking questions. Prepare your volunteers or staff with a list of responses to frequently asked questions. These might include queries about food allergies, coat check, restrooms, the business center, or other issues. If necessary, coach them about how to handle a registered guest who brings unregistered friends to a limited-seating event.

For cases that can’t be anticipated or otherwise need your attention, make sure your staff knows how to get in touch with you. They don’t need to have all the answers, but they should be able to quickly find them. Confident staff will ensure a positive experience for every guest, even those who require special consideration.

3. Allow enough time for training.

Training an hour before an event leaves little time for staff to internalize your instructions. Consider holding a training session at least a few hours—if not days—prior to the event. Make it more appealing by offering free food or organizing an outing after. The more excited staff are about the event, the more enthusiastic they will be when helping your guests.

If prior training is impractical, consider printing a “cheat sheet” that briefly explains what’s required and covers any frequently asked questions. E-mail the checklist to volunteers before the event so they can look it over on their own.

4. Thank them, and then thank them again.

Have you ever worked for a boss that didn’t appreciate your efforts? Don’t be that boss. If you make your volunteers feel like they are a crucial part of the team, they are way more likely to adopt your goal of event success.

They represent you during the execution of the event and will be most effective if they’re happy to be there. Besides, a positive experience will make them more likely to volunteer at an event in the future and could save you the trouble of recruiting and re-teaching inexperienced staff.

Recognize your staff as your greatest support in the execution of the event and acknowledge them with thanks before, during, and after an event. They’ll show their gratitude with their performance.

Drew D’Agostino is CTO and cofounder of Attendware, online software that simplifies and automates event management processes. The company is backed by .406 Ventures and is headquartered in Boston, Mass. Prior to founding Attendware, D’Agostino served as a contracted CTO for several startup companies, was a member of the product team at Gemvara, and was director of business development at Jola Venture, a funded startup that launched a sustainable food-preservation technology in Cameroon, Africa.

Full article can be found on

Friday, March 07, 2014

Splash, The Party Scientists Stealing Big Business From Eventbrite

People don’t want ads, they want memories. To shift from spammy marketing to providing experiences, companies like Anheuser-Busch, Spotify, NPR, and Wired promoted 80,000 events in 2013 with a little startup called Splash. In co-founder Ben Hindman’s first in-depth interview, he tells how Splash’s event platform is challenging bland incumbents with its beautifully designed party websites.

A hundred years ago, big events like the World’s Fair were announced with bold, artistic posters. That was the only way to catch someone’s eye on the street. Yet somehow, the Web 2.0 era sucked the life out of event promotion.  In the name of consistency, Eventbrite and Facebook caged events in uninspired templates. But if you’re throwing a big event, why would you want it to look like everyone else’s?

“I have been obsessed with the power of the live event since I can remember,” Hindman tells me. He believes the invitation website isn’t just an event’s first impression — it’s where the party starts and ends. It needs to be as unique and vibrant as the experience itself and should host memories of the moment afterwards.

As a founding member of invite-only getaway conference Summit Series and director of events at city guide site Thrillist, Hindman was charged with luring people out of their homes. Meanwhile, he noticed brands were having great success growing and delighting their customer bases through events. That’s when he had the idea for Splash, a way for anyone to build a gorgeous event website, manage attendees, and create a gallery of photos, videos, and other social media from the shindig.

It’s free to set up and host event sites on Splash. Users get full control of the background, fonts and color schemes, as well as where functional elements like talent bios, RSVP buttons, and ticket sales go. Attendees can check in on mobile when they arrive, and organizers can project a Splash-aggregated real-time stream of photos taken at the event and view analytics afterwards. Paid, à la carte Pro services include more customization, design assistance, email marketing, and on-demand support, because when it’s day-of-show, promoters need immediate help to save their sanity if something goes wrong. Splash’s “Hall Of Fame” of great event pages shows off what it can do.

In the two years since, Splash has stayed quiet refining its product despite explosive growth. The 80,000 event sites it hosted in 2013 drew 1.6 million attendees, and Splash processed $3.5 million in ticket sales. Through the 2% + $0.99 it charges for-profit companies to sell tickets processed through Braintree, it brought in $100,000 in revenue. That ticket fee is just a little lower than Eventbrite’s.

In 2014, Splash is expecting 5X that revenue. In fact it’s already booked $300,000 in revenue this year thanks to big enterprise deals with frequent event throwers like Anheuser-Busch, which is planning 60,000 events on Splash this year for its products like Budweiser beer. Facebook is even using Splash instead of its own events platform to promote parties at SXSW and developer meet-ups around the world. That’s a pretty solid endorsement.

On the back of this momentum, the 12-person startup  just closed a $1.5 million seed round from Maveron, Lerer Ventures, David Tisch’s BoxGroup, PROfounders, Red Sea Ventures, Great Oaks, and angels like Scott Belsky of Behance, former Facebook sales director Kevin Colleran, Hot Topic’s Eben Pagan, and Thrillist’s Jody Rones. That builds on the $240,000 convertible note it raised from BoxGroup in 2013.

Splash still has a long way to go before becoming a household name like Eventbrite, which is rocketing towards an IPO. It’s also competing in some ways with MailChimp on email marketing and NationBuilder for political events. But while Splash does sell tickets, its focus is more on free-to-attend branded events. That’s where the real opportunity is — companies with big budgets trying to make a big…splash. With great design, even something as low-key as a “public policy happy hour” can seem exciting.

Read the full article here: Techcrunch

Thursday, March 06, 2014

When Airlines Screw Up Your Flight, AirHelp Gets You Paid

Uh oh! Your flight was overbooked. You’ve been bumped off the flight, and they can’t get you another ride for hours.

Surely, the airline has to give you something, right? But what? A drink voucher? A few extra inches of leg room on a future flight?

Try a couple hundred bucks. AirHelp (part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 class) exists to help you figure out when the airlines legally owe you money — and they don’t get paid unless you do.

AirHelp launched in Europe last year, where the company’s co-founders tell me they’ve helped “tens of thousands” of passengers in the past 6 months. Today they’re expanding their service to U.S. domestic flights.

While the dollar amount varies and the laws differ from place to place, airlines in both Europe and the US are often legally obligated to compensate a passenger whose flight they’ve screwed up. What they aren’t obligated to do, however, is go out of their way to make sure you go through the process. They’ll give you a piece of paper explaining your rights — but if you don’t catch the small print, they’re not going to point it out.

[A quick, simplified breakdown: for flights ending in Europe, airlines must compensate passengers whose flights are delayed, canceled, or overbooked. For domestic U.S. flights, airlines are only responsible when they've overbooked your flight and have to "bump" you. ]

In Europe, required compensation can go as high as €600 (roughly ~$800). In the US, the compensation can be as much as $1,300. It all depends on how much your original fare was and how quickly the airline was able to get you to your destination, but the rates are set in stone by the European/U.S. transportation departments. (Here are the relevant U.S. regulations and their European equivalents.)

In many cases, getting paid is just a matter of knowing the right phone number to dial, or the right form to fill out… and then being persistent. Really, really persistent.

That’s where AirHelp comes in. You give them the details of your flight, and they’ll check whether or not you’re legally owed any compensation. And if you are? You sign a PDF that gives them power of attorney (with regards to dealing with the airline), and they go hunting for the cash. If you end up getting paid, they keep 25% of it. And if you don’t? You pay nothing.

The company tells me that they’ve gone so far as to take an airline to court when said airline wasn’t following the laws — but even when they have to do that, the cut they take doesn’t change. “We might lose money in some cases,” co-founder Nicolas Michaelsen tells me, “but it sets a precedent that will pave the way for other similar cases. The airlines need to know it’s not okay.”

Of course, there’s a reason that the airlines might try to put up a fight: most of them aren’t doing too hot, financially. While things seem to be looking up, well over a dozen airlines have filed for bankruptcy in the last decade alone — and that’s with most of them already throwing in crazy fees at every opportunity. If everyone starts bangin’ down their door for this money, it’s easy to imagine ticket prices going up overall.

But the laws in place are there for good reason: it may work for a while, but the solution to an airline’s woes isn’t to screw the customer.

Read the full article here: Techcrunch