Imagine you’re a new attendee at a large trade show in a giant convention center in a city you’ve never been to before. Unlike many of your fellow attendees, you don’t know your way around the event or the venue, and even though you’ve familiarized yourself with the show directory on the event’s mobile app, you’re still feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed.
But what if that trade show had provided an app that included a special feature that not only helped you understand the show’s scope and layout but also directed you to special showfloor sections, key exhibiting companies and important, not-to-miss features?
Enter Coverings 2017, which partnered with mobile app developer Core-apps to create curated, museum-quality audio tours designed to help improve the attendee experience at its most recent event, held April 4-7 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
“Trade shows are always looking for new ways to highlight important exhibitors or companies with new products, etc., so a few years ago we added this feature to help with that as well as to improve the experience of a first-year attendee,” explained Jesse Snipper, Core-apps chief product officer.
He continued, “The first time at a trade show or conference can be very overwhelming – you’re there with particular objectives in mind, you’re looking for something new, but if it’s your first time, you don’t know how the show is laid out, you don’t know where to find certain people or even where to find food. And if you’re a show like Coverings, you want to make sure your attendees are seeing certain features and exhibits, and an audio tour is a great way to do that.”
Core-apps worked with the show to develop four tours, including the Coverings 101 Tour that gave attendees an overview of the show in both English and Spanish, the Coverings Trends Tour, and The Tile Installation and Material Systems Tour.
Users simply tapped an icon on the app’s dashboard, chose a tour, donned a pair of provided earbuds (or held their smartphone to their ear) and listened to a brief welcome message that explained what the tour was about.
Attendees were then guided along a series of 3-5-minute pre-determined “stops” throughout the show that highlighted key exhibiting companies, special pavilions and important points of interest.
Each tour ran between 30-40 minutes and could be paused at any time.
“All show maps, booths and exhibitors are loaded into the app, and it knows where certain booths are, so you can use the routing feature to get you from place to place and listen on your way to what you’re going to be seeing next,” Snipper explained.
He added, “(An audio tour) can help you discover parts of the convention hall that you might not find or give you a layout of the land. It’s just a great way to help people to figure out where to go and what to do.”
According to Elena Grant, Coverings show manager and vice president of marketing at Taffy Event Strategies, attendees appreciated the key information they were able to access from the audio tours, which ended up being a popular new addition to the show’s mobile app.
“Feedback received from first-timers was very positive for the 101 tour,” Grant said.
She continued, “They really liked that they could select the specific stops that were pertinent to what they were interested in at Coverings, and it also helped them learn to get around the show more effectively and efficiently. They felt they were getting a comprehensive view of the show that they may have missed otherwise.”
Besides being a big value-add for first-time attendees, audio tours can also serve as great sponsorship opportunities, not to mention a creative way to help with audience retention, according to Snipper.
“For attendees, this is about making them feel comfortable, making sure they get their business needs met and helping that freshman attendee get around and find the stuff they need to find – the mobile app is a big tool in that,” Snipper explained.
He continued, “Trade shows are always looking for new revenue opportunities and a sponsored tour can be a really great way to highlight some exhibitors and any new offerings. Lastly, organizers want happy exhibitors and exhibitors want attendees who are interested in them to come to their booth. The people who are following a particular tour have already expressed an interest in that content. Just like how exhibitors sponsor sessions…they want that exposure because that audience is interested in their product. A tour is the same thing – relevant content and relevant exposure that gets somebody who’s interested in what they have to offer to their booth.”
So with all these win-win-wins to be had from adding curated audio tours to mobile show apps, why aren’t more events taking advantage of them?
One the biggest barriers is the time needed to create content for the tours, which can require about 5-6 months of pre-show planning, Snipper explained.
“You have to have enough warning and foresight to pull this off because you have to create a script, know what you’re going to highlight and what your message is,” he said.
Snipper added, “We can provide sample scripts and a bunch of resources to help, but the planning phase and making sure we have enough time to do it right can certainly be a barrier for some show organizers.”
Besides Coverings, Core-apps has produced audio tours for CES, NAB and the upcoming E3 Entertainment Expo.
After a successful first run, Coverings is considering integrating the tours into its show app again next year.
“More organizers should consider integrating an audio tour because audiences are increasingly expecting content when and how they want it,” Grant said.
She continued, “By providing audio tours through the show app, attendees can receive pertinent information based on their schedules and when they want to do so. It’s also a great way for first-time attendees to get acclimated with a larger show and not feel like they’re missing anything. This was a great value-add that I haven’t seen at a lot of shows. The content was useful and the free earbuds were a nice touch.”