Crystal Interactive partnered with smart wearables company Klik in 2018. In this interview, MD Chris Elmitt expands on the benefits of the new partnership and discusses the tech best suited to exhibitions.
Do you find that event organisers are generally weary of new technology?
I think so, particularly if they if they’re the ones who’ve got responsibility for having to get it to work and deploying it on site. I think they are a little bit overwhelmed; new technology used to come out every six years in the early 2000s whereas now it comes out every six weeks. The question is ‘Where do I start and what do I need?’
It’s very hard when you’ve got that mass of people who are only really turning their attention to an event on the day, or possibly the day before, to really do much with them in terms of technology. If it’s too complicated they’re just not going to learn it or they’re not going to bother to download it and engage with it. It’s quite a particular challenge that exhibition organisers have got, putting technology in the hands of visitors and participants.
There’s been an ongoing debate about how to get people interacting with event apps
We do a lot of event apps but very rarely for exhibitions, because they’ve got to be significantly more useful than whatever function they provide being done another way. And if you take an example of a show floor map, the truth is that a great big thing plastered on a wall is an awful lot more user-friendly than something absolutely microscopic on a screen. The technology has to do something that no other means can do in order to provide a benefit for the visitor.
We haven’t pursued the exhibition world very intensely for event apps simply because we think event apps add more value in other situations. And it is a tough one in exhibitions because the fact is that you’re never going to get even a majority to download the app, so it’s never going to be the way that everyone communicates because less than half the people will have it.
Are event apps more suited to the conference model, where you’ve got a captive audience?
Yes, because they’re having a more similar experience. Even if they’re in concurrent sessions they’re all there for the day. The benefits for the participants are bigger because it means they could interact in new ways with people that they otherwise couldn’t reach. They’re having an experience that is at least over the same time span, whereas with exhibitions lots of people who download the app could be gone by midday and so someone might download the app at one o’clock in the afternoon and half the people are no longer there to interact with. Getting people to use this technology requires a little bit of a nudge, whether you’re using people’s own devices or you’re providing some devices for them.
Where do you see tech having the most value for exhibitions?
For us the big area of opportunity is around the data that’s harvested at events. We know we know who signed up, we know who actually came and we could probably work out how long they stayed in the exhibition. The exhibitors know who came to their stand and if they’re diligent they’ll have scanned badges and remember what the follow-up cycle was that they agreed with the visitor.
What we’re seeing with the advent of wearables like the Klik technology we launched in July 2018 we can actually get an awful lot more insight from the participants into the exhibition, for a number of reasons. First of all, because the technology is wearable and it’s just issued to everyone, there’s no issue with uptake.
There’s no decision about whether to download an app onto my phone, that kind of goes away because you’ve just given a badge and it does stuff. In an exhibition setting our smart wearable badge effectively replaces the conference bag of goodies, because you just do all that digitally. Most importantly it also provides a really easy way for participants to network with each other. When they meet their peers on the show floor it enables them to exchange contact details.
Although you say, ‘well wouldn’t people do that with business cards?’ in my experience it just happens a lot more because it’s so convenient and it’s an established norm of the event. If you can provide a technology that’s simple to use and is useful to the participants then you solve the issue with event apps, which is one of adoption and engagement. And once the participant has adopted this technology the insights it can give you are absolutely huge.
An experienced exhibition professional can walk around and say, ‘that they’ve got that wrong on that stand’. It’s a hunch and it’s a feeling. Now what we can do is provide the data to back it up. What we tend to find is that when they’re facing the data people tend to take more action than if they just given a little bit of friendly advice by an exhibition organiser.
What exactly is the technology?
There are a number of technologies that that do various aspects of this. The way that Klik works is, rather than having beacons stationed around the venue and expecting participants’ devices to interact with those beacons, Bluetooth is built into the Klik badge so that all the clever stuff is done by the badge. It makes it amazingly easy for people to use. What it gives you over RFID is that it more simply allows you to passively track the badges around the space. You can set up ways of passively tracking RFID tags but it’s very expensive – you tend to do one entrance and one exit – whereas with Bluetooth the tracking is passive and you can do it all over the place.
Do you see this is the future of exhibitions?
This level of data and insight is useful for exhibition organisers because I think it enables them to have a much more focused conversation with their exhibitors and to demonstrate much more clearly the impact of their show. Also, for exhibitors it gives them a much clearer way of how to improve.
Do you help organisers interpret the data and find useful insights?
Yes absolutely. That’s all part of what we do very well. There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, with all the data we collect we have to make sure that we’re only using data that we’ve agreed to use with the participants. Making the sure it’s clear what’s collected and how we’re using it is really important. But then when it comes to packaging up those insights so that they’re useful for an exhibition organiser to be able to talk with their exhibitors in particular, that’s very much what we help them with.