A Platform For Taking Trade Shows to Exhibition 2.0

Event Tech Brief

A Platform For Taking Trade Shows to Exhibition 2.0



By Michelle Bruno

Exhibition organizers don’t know as much about attendees as they could. What they do know, they don’t leverage as well as they should. Tracking the attendee journey for most is usually an exercise in assumptions, rather than proof that engagement occurred. And although multiple technologies can digitize attendee behaviors and preferences, few organizations can combine the data into a single attendee record. Such incapacity leaves business, income streams, and massive potential for all stakeholders on the table. There’s a better way.

Having a record of attendee behaviors and preferences—sessions they attend, booths they visit, meetings they calendar, etc.—in addition to demographics and history is valuable for much more than audience segmentation or program improvement. When matched with exhibitor offerings, it becomes a goldmine of present and future potential. Organizations that take a more in-depth and comprehensive (beyond the three-day show) interest in what attendees want can not only provide exhibitors and sponsors with richer and more reliable data; they can build an entirely new business model around it.

Welcome to The Nexus

Nexus Data Group based in Newport Beach, California built The Nexus, which “connects and dynamically activates event data,” says founder and president Norm Gritsch. The desktop and mobile platform combines data from multiple sources—attendee databases, registration, housing, mobile app, event website, session attendance, exhibitor guide, lead retrieval, and others—to constitute an “actionable, real-time data system.” Organizers can use The Nexus’ automated email capabilities to activate the data—deliver automated, personalized emails to attendee segments based on specific behaviors, events or emerging data insights.  

Attention on the attendee

A key deliverable of The Nexus is the attendee record containing relevant data points collected from the source databases. For example, the record might include an attendee’s demographics, attendance history (by individual and company), product category interests, exhibitors visited, sessions attended, website areas visited, emails opened, social media actions, companies of interest and not of interest, and other exhibitors that have identified the attendee as a prospect. Having a rich attendee profile allows organizers to personalize the attendee journey (imagine Amazon being in control) throughout the event life cycle through emails, suggestions, invitations, and programming.

Curated insights

The Nexus also pays a lot of attention to exhibitor data. MyGuide is a robust list of exhibitor profiles (Nexus staffers fill in any missing information) curated for and by each attendee. An initial exhibitor list is compiled from registration and, if available, historical data. Attendees then review the list and indicate whether they are interested, “maybe” interested, or not interested in specific companies. Exhibitors that don’t make the cut are removed from the list. Those that remain are connected to a floor plan for easier navigation. MyGuide is a web app that can be linked in email and accessed from any connected device (no downloading required). At any time, The Nexus can also deliver a list of top prospects to exhibitors, including leads retrieved at their booths.

By narrowing down the MyGuide lists, attendees provide insight to organizers about which exhibitors are likely or unlikely to have sufficient traffic to their booths before the event. The platform also compares the number of exhibitors in every category with the number of attendees that have registered interest, possible interest or disinterest in that same category. When the numbers are disproportionate—a high number of exhibitors in a category, but a low number of interested attendees—exhibition organizers can send personalized, targeted booth invitations to drive more traffic to the potentially low-traffic booths.

Built-in email automation

The Nexus’ built-in email engine allows organizers to act on data as it surfaces, but it also allows them to engage in an exhibitor invitation program. For example, organizers can solicit confidential customer lists from exhibitors and without sharing the lists with the organizer or other exhibitors, The Nexus can engage in an attendee acquisition email campaign. Prospects within the automated campaign can receive different messages depending on whether or not they click through on the initial email. The emails link to the sessions and exhibitors of the event and the clickthrough paths are tracked providing more insight into attendee preferences.

Beyond the exhibition

The Nexus is an apparatus for “growing attendance, creating an interactive marketplace, increasing exhibitor ROI and driving booth renewals and sales,” Gritsch explains. However, there's even more potential in the platform than that. The cross-referencing of exhibitor offerings with attendee needs lets organizers actively participate in buyer-seller interactions beyond the event. Organizer’s “invest a lot of money to create this marketplace, yet it’s one and done in three days,” says Gritsch. Thus, the most significant growth area for The Nexus and exhibition organizers is as a persistent, year-round resource, a type of industry search engine and marketing automation platform that is enriched by the exhibition, but not dependent on it.

In a recent white paper, AMR International refers to the necessary evolution of trade shows as Exhibition 2.0. In this next iteration, the London-based strategic consulting firm imagines “a shift in the role of the organizer from sales channel purveyor to 365 industry value creator.” The Nexus can facilitate such a transformation. Attendees can go back into MyGuide after the show and look for exhibitors in another category that wasn’t relevant for them during the show. Organizers can offer to keep online exhibitor profiles active for a fee or for exhibitors that renew their booth space for the next show within thirty days. Show producers could also sell target-marketing services. “[Organizers can say], ‘we’ve got 17,000 people matching your list requirements. We’re not going to give you the list, but we can send an email out for you,’” Gritsch explains.

Blueprint for the future

A data system as sophisticated and capable as The Nexus represents where the state of the art of data based decision-making is and where it could be. It is source agnostic. For example, The Nexus can ingest data from any compatible source. It is capable of delivering insights as well as acting on them and provides organizers with a flexible framework for pursuing specific lines of inquiry. But The Nexus is one of the first to position the exhibition as one of many ways for organizations to serve and profit from a market. The future of exhibitions is not limited to four walls. The Nexus is a platform that accommodates the more ambitious and crucial value proposition the exhibition industry needs now.













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