January 2014

Geofencing corrals meeting attendees

by Ruth A. Hill

Consider the Advantages
Geofencing offers multiple advantages for both event sponsors and attendees (see sidebar). Apps interact with social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and other social networks, enabling users to connect easily with people with whom they have shared history, from schools and workplaces to personal interests and current employers.

“These apps can change the course of a conference,” says Brandon Klein, vice president of collaboration for United Health Group Optum, “because they have all the ancillary benefits to promote networking and collaboration. For example, organizers can preload the app with biographical information on each attendee, or leave that up to attendees to authenticate themselves. When we are both logged in to search for commonalities, I can look at your whole social network. You can have a private conversation with another attendee through the app, or a small group.”

Klein, who used geofencing for 18 conferences in the last six months of 2013, says geofencing software keeps on giving long after the conference ends because people continue to interact with those they met at a “fenced” event.

“When someone you met through these exchanges at an event comes up to you two months afterwards to interact, that is valuable networking that keeps you linked to people with similar interests,” he says.

Meetings industry technology consultant Corbin Ball says geofencing apps such as Topi and Quick Mobile offer even more opportunities for events.

“Exhibitors might send out targeted messages to different categories of participants. CEU credits could be tracked automatically,” he says. “Local area merchants could send discount coupons to convention attendees and AV companies or venues could be notified if unauthorized equipment with an RFID tag linked to a geofence is removed from the premises.”

The wealth of data collected can be important for analyzing just about any audience interaction.

“Geofencing data collection is very meaningful for event sponsors,” adds Eric Francois, chief operating officer of Topi. “They know when someone goes in and out of the fenced area, and this can help a speaker know what attendance is when certain content is being presented. It can also inform exhibitors about how long people stay in their booths. Topi is working now on improved lead retrieval capabilities. Exhibitors make significant investments in their marketing, and the right tools can bring them better ROI.”

Kristi Casey Sanders, vice president creative at Plan Your Meetings, uses Topi to enable networking for global events she organizes. She also believes the software genre benefits both sponsors and attendees.

“Most conference apps are calendar-based and just bring up your agenda/schedule,” she says. “They don’t bring people together to help them network. With Topi, it’s about where you are, who’s around you and what you have in common. Chat rooms are based on what you have in common with others in that room.”

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