Stop Wandering, Start Connecting

Obviously, when we attend conferences, the goal is to gather information and make connections. But so many things are working against us—like huge crowds and vast aisles of booths—that sometimes we end up wandering past the items we came to the show to see.

iBeacons like Bleu Station turn that on its head, making large conferences a huge win for everyone involved: event organizers, vendors, and attendees.

It starts with your online registration. After you pay the conference fee, you’re prompted to download a beacon-enable app and state your interests. When you arrive at the show, the phone recognizes the beacon and facilitates check-in. Then, as you walk the show floor, messages appear on your lock screen whenever you’re near a booth or event of interest.

iBeacons also solve those awkward information exchanges at vendor booths. Rather than asking for a business card to scan or renting a badge scanner, vendors just ask you to touch your phone to their beacon.

The device lets the app on your phone know what vendor is associated with the beacon and can then send your contact information as a vCard to the vendor, and the exchange can include a link download (to the vendor’s website or an app) to your phone. Vendors can configure the system to create a post-show report with contact information for every attendee they interacted with; show organizers can get data to quantify the number of overall vendor-attendee interactions.

iBeacons are the best way to make sure you see everything that falls within your areas of interest and find the booths you want to visit. No need for a map of the show floor—just use the show app to search for a booth location and get directions from where you’re standing.

For event organizers, iBeacons are a way to combat attendees’ tendency to become overwhelmed and disengage. It starts with that streamlined check-in, which ensures fast, pleasant entry into the show. It continues with improved wayfinding and messages about areas of interest. Gamification takes things a step further, with iBeacon-enabled scavenger hunts and other events designed to make sure attendees go home feeling good about the quality of information they gathered.

The iBeacons at March Macworld/iWorld in March and the most recent SXSW conference were enthusiastically received, but I think we’ve only scratched the surface. In the next few months, I expect conference centers to jump on board to beacon-enable their facilities as attendees start to expect proximity capabilities to pump up their show experience.