Tech tools on the showfloor


Tech correspondent Joe Gallop hears from exhibition organisers about their use of digital tools on the trade show floor, how the sector is evolving, and the challenges and results they have seen

The past 12 months have seen the exhibition sector develop at a rapid pace in terms of digital tools used on the show floor.
Among recent innovations is RX’s Colleqt QR, where visitors can now capture information about RX exhibitors, sponsors, and their products by scanning QR codes at stands and at product feature zones with their mobile phones. They now get immediate access to information via their phones and receive a personalised email at the end of each day, listing all the exhibitors and products they scanned, with clickable links to contacts for follow-up. 

RX has also developed a lead manager app, Emperia, which enables exhibitors to scan attendees’ badges to collect ‘smarter and richer’ data and qualify leads on the go.

Gaby Appleton, RX’s chief digital product officer, says: “As consumers, we are all getting used to near-constant connectivity, being able to do most things on our mobile phones, and having convenient and seamless user experiences when we use a new piece of software.

“Trade shows should be no different. We also all get frustrated by having to download yet another app onto our phones. So, our focus has been on how to harness recent advances in technology to solve what have been quite longstanding pain points in the digital trade show experience.”

Improving the exhibitor experience has also been a focus at RX, explains Appleton: “How do we help exhibitors know which of the thousands of visitors to a show scanned their QR codes? Can we do a better job in tracking new potential leads than their own websites, or their own people handing out brochures?

“Because we run on a connected ecosystem of applications, and because we know who all the visitors to our shows are, we can identify visitors who scanned a particular exhibitor and provide that information in real time back to the exhibitor team, alongside all the other leads they collected from the show. This can be a huge improvement on exhibitors’ own marketing websites which often don’t successfully identify all the traffic.”

“Colleqt has helped increase the number of leads captured for each exhibitor, particularly when a stand has been really busy and there haven’t been salespeople available to talk with every interested visitor,” says Appleton.

“We are also able to offer visitors choice as to which of the exhibitor materials they want to take home on their phones – it doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all brochure and tote bag,” she adds.

Digital transformation 

Global exhibition organiser CloserStill head of digital and CRM Rakim Asher says the business has gone through a “huge data and digital transformation” over the past 18 months. One of the key areas it has focused on is its physical on-site digital tech stack.

“We’ve significantly evaluated both our on-site environmental impact and costs. This has resulted in many of our events reducing paper usage and improving the visitor experience with personalisation,” says Asher.

Around 80% of CloserStill’s events now use event apps. The organiser works with two main suppliers – Swapcard, which Asher says has “significantly improved” its on-site engagement – and Sector Global – a web app which facilitates one-to-one meetings at a high VIP level.

CloserStill is working closely with some of its tech providers to integrate them into some of its day-to-day business and has also significantly invested in HubSpot, which is becoming a primary marketing CRM system across the business.

Says Asher: “We’re working on building machine learning tools in the background to understand our data, various business processes and be able to deliver AI recommendations through some of our event apps. We build all our own custom functionalities."

Asher says the main challenge for CloserStill has been around change management: “Like many companies we’ve significantly invested in a centralised data and digital team, but that comes with its own challenges. That team is very technically minded and has a responsibility to understand every single show across the business. We have the responsibilities of training the teams to best use their data and to understand the benefit of all these new tools and new initiatives that we’re rolling out. Given we have over 700 employees, it’s not an easy task but we do not shy away from the challenge.”


According to Informa US chief operating officer Christine Flanagan, the organiser is focused on enhanced systems that allow for seamless registration onsite, product discovery tools and matchmaking solutions.

Flanagan says educating its customers on the value of these digital tools is crucial, so it provides ‘tips and tricks’ ahead of the show.

“We collaborate closely with our exhibitors to enrich their digital profiles,” she says. “We ensure they are familiar with our in-app messaging for pre-show and onsite connections, as well as in-app wayfinding and product discovery features. During the pandemic, we initially looked at digital tools as a replacement for the live event experience. We quickly realised, like many organisers, that there is nothing like the power of face-to-face connection, but that digital tools could help us make our events more effective platforms for customers.

“We shifted our focus from digital marketplaces, webinars, and whitepapers to advanced show apps, streamlined registration systems, innovative product discovery tools, and matchmaking solutions.”

Now Informa is leveraging AI more effectively and utilising data more efficiently. “Through advanced data solutions, we can deliver highly customised experiences, making the show experience more personal and relevant to our customers’ needs,” says Flanagan.

She cites time constraints as the main challenge when introducing the new tools: “We operate at such a fast pace with so many shows, and each show requires different event tech solutions tailored to the specific customer community. We have to move quickly on ideas and be extremely adaptable.

“Our ultimate goal is to focus on the complete customer journey rather than individual pieces of technology.”

Flanagan says Informa has seen increased app downloads and usage for scheduling meetings, planning agendas and making new contacts. This has also led to higher NPS scores overall.

“At MRO Americas a few weeks ago, over 400 meetings were scheduled onsite through our app,” she says. “We have very high standards and sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for how far we have come from business cards in a goldfish bowl.”

As for using other digital tools in the future, Flanagan says Informa aims to better understand traffic, dwell times and customer sentiment.

“We are piloting new ways of doing that now and hope to roll that out more fully this year,” says Flanagan.