James Morgan, founder of Event Tech Lab, takes a look at some effective examples of interactive technology on the show floor.
Feature areas at shows play an important part in adding value. One of the growing feature areas is the technology zone. Organisers are increasingly keen to add in technology zones, as show-floor attractors that provide education as well as the ‘feel and touch’ of technology to engage visitors.
But there are challenges to organising the area and curating the content. The Fresh Montgomery portfolio organises the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Show at Olympia every March.
Sam Chance, marketing manager at Fresh Montgomery says: “Now, more than ever, there is a huge demand for technology from our visitors and an expectation that our shows are the place to find what’s innovative and more importantly, how technology will benefit their business.
“With that demand the business has incorporated a technology zone into its value proposition. As an event organiser, start-ups are normally our biggest challenge due to them having smaller marketing budgets and many not having exhibited at an exhibition before. To overcome this, we have installed ‘incubator areas’ or ‘discovery zones’ which we sell at a reduced rate if you are in your first two years of business,” Chance continues. “To make sure that visitors ‘buy-in’ to the technology experiences Fresh Montgomery has created ‘Tech Trails’ that highlight the exhibitors with new innovations and features, which aim to educate the audience on what type of technology is right for their business. Further education is then provided at a technology content stage.
“But content planning and curation is not every organisers strong point.
We know there are amazing, sales, marketing operations and logistics operatives in the exhibitions sector but often ‘content engineers’ have to be brought in.”
One well known ‘content engineer’ is Boston-based Dahlia El Gazzar from Dahlia Agency. She advocates that every show should incorporate a technology zone. She cites a well know example: “Consider Apple and the retail customer experience they orchestrate. It’s far more than selling iPhones and iPads. The stores have Genius Bars that help you with all things tech and digital”.
Dahlia’s experience is that visitors are hungry to have the same or a similar technology experience, with an area offering knowledge, practical advice, how to create new habits using apps, and to push them to be smarter about digital, thus improving their digital literacy.
“Tech areas should be a blend of education (huddles sessions work the best); peer-to-peer learning or brain dates where visitors are teaching each other; tech showcases or self-driven demo stations on apps and tech solutions they can learn from but facilitated by by experts; and fun interactive experiences,” she says. “But the challenges are that organisers try to staff technology zones with their own staff and usually the experience falls flat.”
“A successful technology zone can be transformed in a whole new business” comments Richard Gayle, events manager Travel Forward, Reed Exhibitions.
In 2018 Gayle ‘lifted’ the technology area from World Travel Market and morphed it into a successful co-located show.
Travel Forward, a three-day exhibition and two-day conference, with paid conference delegates, includes 150 to 200 exhibitors with the latest technologies.
They consist of ‘off-the-shelf’ enterprise solutions through to B2B and B2C travel platforms. There is also an innovation zone with start-ups, and a variety of educational sessions where delegates learn through real-life case studies of technology implementation and innovation and the future of technology for the travel industry. The show has generated a whole new revenue stream, borne out of a successful feature area. Way to go!