For almost 40 years, International Confex has been the largest single gathering of UK event organisers.
Undaunted by multiple pandemic-enforced postponements, organisers Mash Media were determined to get the 2021 edition staged. And when the doors at ExCeL London did finally open on 1 September, International Confex became the first large scale expo in the UK post-Covid-19.
The flagship event has also long been established as a showcase for the latest event technology. But the show’s management team recognised that in 2021, more than any other year, they needed to break new boundaries in their own use of technology.
Specifically, given the unwelcome enforced hiatus, the focus was on elevating the experience for visitors and exhibitors alike, by incorporating new data-driven solutions into the fabric of the live show.
Central to this approach was the show’s mobile app, for the second successive year provided by leading vendor Swapcard. The app provided a best-in-class range of functionality making it a must-have digital companion to the physical show.
Mia Masson, Swapcard’s head of content, commented: “We’re proud of our ongoing partnership with one of the industry’s most notable events.
“Our platform enables visitors to plan their individual show experience at their own convenience, network with other attendees, arrange appointments and bookmark content sessions. There was an interactive floor plan where visitors could search over 300 exhibitors, as well as badge scanning and lead retrieval for exhibitors.”
But the mobile app for International Confex 2021 was even more distinctive, as for the first time it was location aware. Swapcard incorporated Crowd Connected’s code into the app, which enabled valuable data on visitor traffic flow to be gathered.
Crowd Connected’s commercial director Mark Maydon explained: “We map visitor footfall across the whole show environment, in real time. That data can be used in a number of ways.
“For starters, it underpins the delivery of a more personalised experience for visitors. By understanding not only where someone is currently located but also where they have and have not been, organisers can deliver tailored, timely alerts based on an individual’s journey around the show.”
For example, at International Confex app users were prompted via a location-based message to have their COVID QR code ready as they approached the entrance, reducing queue times.
Footfall analytics is seen as being particularly valuable to exhibition organisers. Show management teams typically lack insight into audience behaviour once visitors have been scanned in. But insight into how footfall is distributed can be transformative, particularly for commercial teams. Especially when the reporting is delivered during the show, not simply post-event.
This proved the case at International Confex, where the show’s rebook team had access to Crowd Connected’s ground-breaking Bluebird platform.
Maydon continued: “Bluebird delivers instant insight into how every stand is performing during the course of the show, based on the footfall data we gather.”
International Confex engaged Benchmark Collective, the exhibitor rebook specialists, to deliver the exhibitor rebook operation for the 2021 edition.
Helen Patching, founder director at Benchmark Collective, led the rebook team at the show. She commented: “Exhibition sales teams have typically lacked exhibitor performance metrics, despite it being central to demonstrating exhibitor ROI. Having this insight at our fingertips is hugely valuable – especially during a live rebook.
“Bluebird provides exactly the sort of instant data-driven insight we’d want every organiser to have. At International Confex, we saw why: it meant the team could engage with exhibitors on a new level. By seeing individual levels of exhibitor exposure and engagement during the live event, we could easily determine the strongest locations on the floor plan. That drove better sales conversations, and ultimately meant we closed more contracts.”
Liz Agostini, portfolio director, International Confex, said: “When it comes to ensuring a show’s commercial success, the importance of an effective rebook cannot be underestimated. That was particularly the case with the show in September, given that the lead time to the 2022 edition – scheduled for March 2022 – was only a matter of six months.
“The combination of Benchmark’s people and the exhibitor performance insight delivered by Crowd Connected’s Bluebird, revolutionised our rebook operation. And because the data is available post-show as well, we can use it throughout the sale cycle.”
One of the positive outcomes from the pandemic has been the willingness of event industry suppliers to form powerful partnerships. The successful combination of Swapcard, Crowd Connected and Benchmark Collective at International Confex 2021 demonstrated just how valuable a new technology-centric, data-driven approach can be for exhibition organisers.
International Confex returns to ExCeL London in its traditional March slot (8-9) next year.
Photos by Jonathan ‘JT’ Taylor, Aniseed Photo.