Proprietary tech stacks – the new trend?

RX VP Digital Americas, Carlos Rodriquez (pictured) tells Stephanie Selesnick all about the decision to develop the group’s own proprietary systems Link

Can a for-profit show organiser be both capitalistic and sustainable? The answer here is, yes. It was with great interest that I read about RX Global expanding into the event tech business. Their current tech stack seamlessly automates a variety of tools exhibitors may easily use to enhance and track their ROI in real time. (Of course, nothing we do can make exhibitors follow up on their leads, but RX does a great job in making the process easier and
more robust.)

Is this a trend with large show organisers – or a one off? In their 2017 book, The Face of Digital: How Digital Technologies Are Changing The $565 Billion Dollar Events Industry, Marco Gilberti, event tech angel investor (and more) and Jay Weintraub, serial entrepreneur and show organiser, wrote about the need for an investment fund for event tech start-ups. The fund never came to fruition, but the book has a lot of other viable ideas and is well worth the read.

We’ve heard about collaborations such as the recent one with Tarsus and Smartxpo on pricing and customer retention, and Web Summit leasing out its digital event platform to the United Nations and CES 2022 – but those collaborations are still few and far between. Mostly organisers rent/contract a variety of tech tools for their shows. Some work well together, others not so much, creating massive confusion for exhibitors and visitors.

I caught up with Carlos Rodriguez, RX vice-president of Digital Americas to talk about the decision to develop their own proprietary systems (view  at It started simply enough about six years ago. Their show web platform needed some work and updates. RX (then Reed) looked at what features were being utilised, those that weren’t (behavioural feedback), then asked clients directly what they wanted in a fully functioning show website platform.

Like everyone else when Covid hit, RX Global turned to a variety of technology companies for solutions. Rodriquez said: “Many of the tech providers were doing essentially the same thing: providing sophisticated video meetings during specific dates and times. We found our customers didn’t want to have set appointments on new platforms. If they wanted to meet digitally, they wanted to do it on their own time on platforms such as Zoom or Teams that they were already using.

“We realised our own platform, Atlas, did about 90% of the other things event tech vendors were providing – at no cost to us. Why pay $100,000 or more (per show or division) annually? It didn’t make fiscal sense.”

Enter Emperia, RX’s lead retrieval system provided to exhibitors free of charge. Invented by the Reed Australian team in 2015, it’s been a work in progress to simplify and make it work even better through the years. Rodriguez continued: “We focused on what digital does best. Don’t try to crowbar it into digital events. Instead, use tech and the data collected to enhance and simplify the experience for all stakeholders.”

According to CEIR, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, over 65% (or more) leads are never followed up on. RX thinks it’s found a way to help lower that horrid statistic.

Emperia emails out collected leads to exhibitors in a CSV format each show night and post-show. “It’s more important to deliver leads to exhibitors than focus on how many people downloaded an App,” said Rodriguez. Something I particularly like is that post-show it emails visitors a list of exhibitors they visited so that “attendees can follow up with companies they want do business with. Relationship building and sales are no longer only in the hands of exhibitors.”

Using in-house and external developers, RX now has a registration system, Mercury, which is being updated as more and more shows use it. “Registration is a beast to get your hands around. With hundreds of shows that all have different needs, it’s been an ongoing process to adapt and refine the system. It helps us tie all the data together to enhance our customers’ journeys. For example, using data and AI during the registration process, the system suggests exhibitors to visit based on products or equipment they are searching for, educational sessions to attend, as well as matchmaking,” Rodriguez noted. Timing is crucial in this process and RX has found (by looking at the data collected) that visitors are more invested in making those connections and decisions at the time of registration versus two weeks out before the exhibition.

The Exhibitor Dashboard provides real time information to exhibitors and comes in two versions – basic (free) and pro (extra fee). It pulls data from registration, matchmaking, show directory and lead retrieval in one clean and simple to use dashboard. It includes demographic information, i.e: What are the titles of visitors to the stand? What percentage are looking for a specific kind of product? How many leads have been collected in real time?

Rodriguez continued: “By knowing what is attracting visitors as well as their interest, exhibitors may then change their online directory profile to push those products of more interest with the click of a button. The system also tells exhibitors their profile completion vs. profile views vs. profile clicks. If exhibitors want to see how they are measuring up against competitors or all exhibitors on the number of collected leads, they can do that too.”

Other tech in the stack includes premium (paid) directory listings and a Digital Swag Bag, also paid – which allows visitors to see show specials, download white papers, etc.

Of course, as the second largest exhibition company in the world, RX has resources most organisers will never have. I asked Rodriguez for his advice to small and medium-sized organisers. He said: “Please, please, please listen to your customers. Use live feedback and behavioural feedback to determine the tasks, needs and wants of your clients. Remember they are always evolving, as are demographic profiles, with digital natives moving into new roles.”

Secondly, he advises prioritising what you can do with what you can afford. “Start with the top one or two identified areas that will have the most positive impact.”

Rodriguez summed up: “We want exhibitors and visitors to have the best possible experience to help them grow their businesses. If the technology we provide helps exhibitors be more successful at our events, they’ll see the ROI, keep coming back and next time maybe get a larger booth space and increase their sponsorships.”

Whether or not this is a trend, time will tell. However, exhibitors using the RX Global tech stack will compare their experiences with other shows going forward. Bottomline? Help your clients thrive, not just survive.