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How to Promote Your Virtual Prize Wheel For Even More Booth Traffic

Promotional tips to get more trade show booth traffic with your Virtual Prize Wheel

When you include a SocialPoint Virtual Prize Wheel in your trade show booth, you’re going to get more booth traffic.  People will be attracted to the cool-looking, moving digital screens, and the chance to win prizes.

But hey, if you’re like most exhibitors, you want even more traffic! To get it, follow some or all of the following 7 steps, to more aggressively promote your prize wheel game:

1. Signage

Use bold, large text in your exhibit graphics above where the game is played (either on a flat screen monitor or on one or more iPads) to let passing attendees there’s prizes to be won! “Spin To Win” or “Play To Win” or “Win A Free ______,” if you are giving away a significant main prize. Consider using color in the graphics that makes these words stand out from the rest of your booth.

2. Large Flat Screen Monitor

It’s really attention-getting when a booth visitor hits the button to make that Virtual Prize Wheel spin, when the spinning prize wheel is seen on a large flat screen monitor.  It creates a bright, colorful, moving impression, which becomes even more impressive on a bigger monitor.

3. Multiple iPads

The more iPads you have lined up on a wider counter, the more it will be noticed by trade show attendees.  While some exhibitors may only have one iPad when in a 10 by 10 booth, in larger spaces we’ve seen as many as 5 iPads lined up on a counter, creating an intriguing visual that’s hard to pass by.

4. Crowd Gatherers

While you (and most of your booth staff) may feel uncomfortable reaching out to engage trade show attendees as they walk by your booth, there are professionals who gladly will do so.  You can hire Crowd Gatherers that have no problem starting a conversation with people in the aisles.  During a trade show they will ask hundreds of passing attendees “Would you like to spin to win our grand prize, a ______?” And a lot of them will say yes!

5. Location in Booth

Our trade show games have been used in many different booth sizes.  In the larger island exhibits, our games are only one part of their entire campaign, with other areas for presentations, meetings, and demos.  You’ll pull more people into your booth if the prize wheel is featured near the aisles with the most booth traffic, so attendees can see game, and especially other people excitedly playing and winning.

6. Pre-Show Email

Before the show ever happens, you can be promoting your Virtual Prize Wheel with arguably the best tool for bringing in more traffic: Email. You can send an email inviting people to come “Spin To Win” in your booth, and list all the great prizes they could win.  Use your own email prospect database, and if possible, rent the best segments of the show’s attendee list.

7. Pre-Show and At-Show Social Media

You can get people excited to come play your Virtual Prize Wheel game by promoting it on your company’s Social Media accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.  Tell them the prizes they can win before the show, and then publish messages with photos of prize winners (holding their prizes!) during the show.  Be sure your messages include the show’s hashtag, so more people at the show see your messages.

Try these promotional ideas out!  They’ll make it easier for attendees to discover that you’re hosting a fun activity in your booth that could award them prizes. The more of these tactics you do, the more traffic you’ll have in your booth.

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic with our interactive trade show games, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate excitement, crowds, and leads.

10 Questions Senior Leaders Should Ask Their Event Audiences But Are Afraid To

Senior executives can be afraid to ask questions of their event audience

We live in the participation economy. We have phones in our pockets that are one tap, click or voice request away from finding anything that we want to know on the Internet.

When I look around, I still see events struggling to integrate and use technology to tap into the power of their attendees to create content and conversations. So, why are we still stuffing people in chairs in rows quietly for hours on end in our events? Why are we still using the lecture model?

Today, senior leaders have a unique opportunity to use events as a transformative tool for their organizations. More specifically, they have the opportunity ask hard questions, tackle unsolved problems and use events as a tool for collaboration.

Here are 10 questions that leaders should be asking the audience in your events but are either afraid to ask or not sure how to handle logistically:

  1. What potential roadblocks do you see that will prevent our strategy from succeeding?
  2. Why do you think this strategy will succeed?
  3. Why do you think this strategy will fail?
  4. What in your department or organization needs to change to make this strategy succeed?
  5. What actions are you going to take next week to start implementing this strategy in your department?
  6. In your opinion, what success stories that make our company great are not being shared with management and the outside world?
  7. If you had a magic wand what would you change about our company?
  8. What is stopping us from being a great company?
  9. In your opinion, what are three things that would make your job better?
  10. What are three things we should do differently?

Consider the Impact

Think about the impact on your department, organization or company if you asked these questions to a room full of employees, customers or sales reps and received answers back in minutes. It would be awesome wouldn’t it?  Not only would it be a great boost for employee morale – you would have data that you could use to prioritize organizational next steps.

In our work, some of our clients have been reluctant to ask these questions – yet when they did – they received hundreds and thousands of constructive responses from their employees that could be used to direct future conversations.

What About The Hardest of the Hard Questions

Let’s face it – some of you have some hard issues to address that impact employee’s livelihoods. You are dealing with plant closings, mergers and acquisitions, opening new facilities, etc.  Naturally, employees questions usually surround the impact of these decisions on them personally. Are the rumors true? When will it happen? Will they still have a job? etc.

We have seen our customers use town hall session formats that are nearly all Q&A to handle these questions. Sometimes employees just want to be heard. Other times they want to know that you are taking care of their issue or concern.

How Would it Work?

There are several ways to approach dialogue with a large group. There are two common strategies that are very effective:

1. Interactive Q&A:  Using an audience response app, you can ask people to respond to these questions through the app. There are several ways to handle the questions and comments – you can make them public on a big screen or on the app – or you can keep the responses private and address them verbally. If you need help – read our article on how to manage interactive Q&A.

2. Brainstorming: Apps like ours can guide your audience through a structured brain-storming process. Attendees can submit ideas in different topic areas. Then attendees can review everyone’s ideas on their phone or a big screen. After some discussion on the ideas, you can ask attendees to vote for their favorites via their mobile device. You have probably done this brainstorming process a thousand times in small groups with dot stickers. What’s unique here is that our software allows you to scale up the process to a group of 600 or 1,000 people and do it in real time.

If you’d like to see how you can create more engaging and interactive content using the wide variety of choices within our SocialPoint Audience Engagement Platform, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate greater attendee engagement at your events.

Train Your Booth Staffers To Get More High Quality Leads Using The Virtual Prize Wheel

Train your booth staff to succeed with our Virtual Prize Wheel in your trade show booth

It’s simple: When you as an exhibitor use our Virtual Prize Wheel in your booth, you will get more booth traffic. The intent of this article is to help you prepare your booth staffers to better interact with those visitors, so you get more qualified leads and better overall trade show results.

Your booth staffers can qualify attendees drawn to your booth before, during, and after they play the Virtual Prize Wheel:

Qualify attendees before they play the game

If you have a line of people waiting to play the game (yes, it happens!), then your booth staffers can strike up a conversation with people in line, asking them qualifying questions before they even get a chance to spin the prize wheel.  Booth staffers can ask qualifying questions such as “What are you looking for at the show?”

Qualify attendees while they play the game

Even if you offer a big prize of some popular new consumer electronics, the Virtual Prize Wheel can offer multiple prizes at different value levels.  So make those second and third-tier prizes work to qualify attendees. When you prizes include a 20% discount on the next order, or a free sample, or an hour free consulting, your booth staffers can look for people’s reactions and what they say when they win those kinds of prizes.  If they say, “I can use that!” or get excited about winning product or job-related prizes, your staffers have a more qualified prospect, and can then focus on taking that particular prospect further.

Your booth staffers can also check out the badges while attendees are focused on playing the game.  It’s not a good idea to look at someone’s badge when you are talking to them – they will find it rude.  But when they look down to play, your staffers can look to see if anyone playing is from a company they know is a viable prospect, because of its reputation, size, or industry match with your best customers.

Qualify attendees after they play the game

Your booth staffers can also engage the attendees after they’ve spun the wheel, thanking them for playing the game, giving them any prize they did win, and then asking a simple, yet powerful qualifying question such as, “What business problems are you looking to solve while attending this show?” or, “Is there a product you are searching for at this show?” If you have too many game players to engage all of them in depth, your booth staffers can quickly decide which attendees are a good match for their offerings, and proceed further with the better ones.  Catch and release!

Find a qualified lead? Take that lead farther with our Lead Manager App

The Virtual Prize Wheel is set up to have attendees self-enter into the game screen their answers a few short qualifying questions to gauge their interest level, so your sales force has good qualifying info about the game players who visited your booth.

However, once your booth staffers find a more qualified lead while still in the booth, your booth staffers can use the SocialPoint Lead Manager app to futher qualify the lead.  They can rate the lead from 1 to 5 stars and answer qualifying questions you pre-set in the app. These qualifying questions can be more detailed questions such as buying time frame or buying responsibility level – things you may not have set up the game to ask, but your booth staffers can ask during a conversation. And, whatever info your visitors put into the game, will also be available to the booth staffer on their smart phones while they talk to them.  Plus, lead info captured via the game and the booth staffer will be merged together!

More Prep for Success

Besides being prepared to take more qualified leads, prep your booth staffers by explaining about the various prizes you are offering: how they should be displayed in the booth if necessary, where the prizes are stored, what to do when someone wins the grand prize, whether you will give them the prizes right there or ship them after the show, how you will handle non-tangible prizes (like a 20% discount) with coupons, and how to describe them to attendees.

Our Virtual Prize Wheel is tech at its best: It attracts more attendees to your booth, and is both great to look at and easy to use. With these booth staffing tips, you’ll be sure to get the maximum value out of using it in your trade show booths.

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic with our interactive trade show games, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate excitement, crowds, and leads.

New CEIR Research Says: Attract Attendees & Stand Out From Other Trade Show Exhibitors With Games

CEIR 2017 Attendee Engagement Study Part 1

If you are an exhibitor, you can stand out by hosting games in your booth. That’s because trade show attendees want to play games to learn about products, but not many exhibitors provide games.

That’s a key insight from the 2017 Attendee Floor Engagement Study, newly published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).  (The entire name of the report is The 2017 Attendee Floor Engagement Study Part One: Exhibitor In-booth Tactics – People, Product, Emotion and Other Tactics.)

Games are favored by most trade show attendees

Among many of the survey questions, attendees and exhibitors were asked about 10 different engagement tactics.  Attendees were asked if they used them when offered by exhibitors, and exhibitors were asked if they offered them. And that’s when opportunity revealed itself.

The second-most engagement tactic used by attendees is “Games that help educate attendees about products in a fun way,” used by 67% of attendees.  However, only 7% of exhibitors offer games that educate attendees about their products.  That means there is a whopping 60% gap between attendee interest and exhibitor use of games.

So if you are an exhibitor, using SocialPoint’s fun games such as our interactive Challenge Bar Trivia game will not only appeal to attendees better than almost any other activity, it also will be an activity that very few competing exhibitors will do.  So, you will stand out even further by comparison!

About the gap between attendee and exhibitor use of games, CEIR said in the report, “Gamification to educate and engage attendees is a minority activity though among exhibitors that use these tactics, attendee use is high.”

Digging deeper into several sub groups of the most active exhibitors, CEIR also found that, while on average, only 7% of exhibitors use games to educate attendees about their products in a fun way, 17% of exhibitors who do 25 or more exhibitions a year use games this way.  Which we’ve found as well – exhibitors who do lots of shows can spread the initial cost of the game over many shows.

There you have it — now there’s industry research that proves what we’ve been saying all along: Attendees love fun games to learn about exhibitor’s products!

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic with our interactive trade show games, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate excitement, crowds, and leads.

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18 Stats Supporting the Value of Events

Meetings and events support main business goals like sales, leads, and awareness.Meetings and events create significant value for the companies and organizations that host them.  Value such as leads, sales, and greater awareness – core business goals of the topmost importance.  That’s why meetings are here to stay.

But don’t just take my word for it, because there’s a ton of research that says so.  Here is a slew of strong statistics, culled from the even longer lists assembled by the folks at Event Farm and Certain:

Meetings help companies achieve their core sales and marketing goals:

  • Trade shows and events are the second most effective tactic in a marketer’s mix, after their company website. (Forrester)
  • 87% of consumers said they purchased the brand’s product or service after an event at a later date. (EMI & Mosaic)
  • 83% of marketers cited increasing sales as their top event marketing goal. (Center for Exhibition Industry Research)
  • 79% of US marketers generate sales using event marketing. (Statista)
  • 74% of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event. (EMI & Mosaic)
  • 67% of B2B marketers think that event marketing is their most effective strategy. (WebDAM)
  • 65% of brands say that their event and experiential programs are directly related to sales. (EMI & Mosaic)
  • 64% of marketers use trade shows and events to source new prospects and business opportunities (Marketing Charts)
  • 63% of marketers use trade shows as a form of lead generation (Marketing Charts)
  • 58% of marketers believe that events and conferences are important ways to improve customer experiences of their services or products (E-Strategy Trends)
  • 51% of marketers surveyed believe that events strengthen existing customer relationships (Marketing Charts)
  • 46% of event managers view lead generation as a top reason to attend events (Exhibitor ROI at Tradeshows)

Meetings also help companies achieve other marketing and business goals:

  • 77% of B2B marketers use in-person events as part of their content marketing strategies. (MarketingProfs & Content Marketing Institute)
  • 76% of marketers say their event and experiential marketing initiatives are integrated with their other marketing campaigns. (EventTrack)

Marketers show their faith in meetings by continuing to invest in them:

  • 83% of B2B marketers are heavily invested in events (Marketing Charts)
  • 69% of B2B marketers consider in-person events effective (Sensible Marketing)
  • The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the event industry will grow by 44% from 2010 to 2020, exceeding most growth predictions for other industries. (US Bureau of Labor)
  • Event marketing usually consumes 20-25% of a company’s marketing budget. (HubSpot)

Use these awesome statistics to help justify your meetings and events, and to provide a little lift to your day, knowing that you are involved in an essential activity for growing your business.

If you’d like to see how you can create more engaging and interactive content using the wide variety of choices within our SocialPoint Audience Engagement System, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate greater attendee engagement at your events.

Announcing the SocialPoint Lead Manager App – A Free Add-On to SocialPoint Interactive Games

Lead capture app for SocialPoint games

SocialPoint is proud to announce our newest product, the Lead Manager companion app for trade show lead capture.

This gives booth staffers the ability to record even more info about their booth visitors.  And it’s a free addition for SocialPoint clients, when they use our popular digital games like Challenge Bar Trivia and Virtual Prize Wheel.

We used the app ourselves in our booth at ExhibitorLive 2017, and it helped us gather detailed info about the many visitors we talked to.

9 Features That Help Booth Staffers Easily Gather More Valuable Lead Data

The Lead Manager App has many features that will improve your lead gathering at trade shows:

1. Simulated App Shortcut on Smartphone Home Screen: For ease of use, your booth staffers can have a shortcut to the Lead Manager app right on their smart phone home screen, set up with just a couple of steps, and without having to go to the app store.

2. Searchable List of Leads: Your booth staffers can quickly search through the list of visitors to your booth that have already played your booth games, and then select the specific lead they want to add to.  Icons let you know if the attendee has played the Trivia Game or spun the Virtual Prize wheel, or both. searchable list of trade show leads with the SocialPoint Lead Manager lead capture app

3. Full Contact Info: Your booth staffers can add more detailed info about a lead, including phone number, email, address, or whatever else you want your booth staffers to gather, but didn’t want to require game players to enter themselves. That way you get high participation on games, and also get more data on visitors you talked to at-length.

4. Quick Add: When your booth staffers are rushed with a flood of attendees, they can quickly start a lead with the Quick Add function, that gets them going with only the visitor’s name and email address.

5. Lead Rating: Your booth staffers can rate your leads from 1 to 5 stars, to quickly give your sales people a sense of lead quality, and to prioritize your trade show lead follow up.

6. Business Card Photos: You can take pictures of your visitor’s business card (or anything else) and include it in their lead info.  This is a time saver, so that you can later go back and enter in their contact info, when you may not have time to during the rushed exhibiting hours.

Lead Manager features for data entry and lead capture

7. Customizable Lead Forms: You can choose whatever questions you want your booth staffers to ask and enter, and even have different lead forms for distinct types of booth visitors.

8. Lead Count Reporting: You and your booth staffers can see how many total leads and game plays you have had during the show, to keep track of your success and see what’s hot.

9. Built-in Help: There is a built-in Help function to guide booth staffers how to use the Lead Manager, and it’s only a click away.

Lead-manager-features-for-lead-measurement-and-help

Staffers can also use Lead Manager to talk to booth visitors who have not yet played a SocialPoint game, or even take leads from people outside your booth at the show!  All leads will be synched up, no matter if they were started by a game or by the Lead Manager.  And, your booth staffers can edit any lead, in any field, whenever they want.

Best of all, the Lead Manager app ties into the SocialPoint Audience Engagement Platform, so you can leverage its already robust reporting and data export functions to follow up and measure your trade show leads.

To see more a demo of the new SocialPoint Lead Manager companion app, and how it ties into our popular interactive games and contests, that drive more booth traffic and capture more lead, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you create a more fun booth that increases your attendee engagement and boosts your trade show results.

How A SocialPoint Customer Used Twitter To Promote Their Interactive Trade Show Game

Trade show prizes for an interactive trade show game

One of the strengths of SocialPoint interactive trade show games is that they capture so much attention that they essentially promote themselves.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t throw some extra fuel on the fire.

Our client Syngenta PPM did a fantastic job using Twitter to promote their use of our Challenge Bar Trivia Game at the Pest World 2016 Show.  I’m sharing what they did to inspire you and reveal some of the smart things they did.

Let’s break it down, dividing their tweets between pre-show and at-show messages:

Pre-Show Promotional Tweets

Before the show, Syngenta sent four tweets.  The first tweet went out 11 days before the show started, announcing the Pest trivia game they would host in their booth, and a photo showing all the prizes attendees could win.  They also used the hashtag for the show, #PestWorld2016, as they did in all their pre-show and at-show tweets.

Pre-show promotional tweet by Syngenta

 

A week before the show Syngenta sent their second tweet.  This time, the image included a very gripping sample trivia question from their quiz that was sure to get people’s curiosity going! And, it’s a question that leads to people realizing they need Syngenta’s services even more than they thought.

Pre-show tweet featuring trivia game sample question

 

Five days before the show, they sent another pre-show tweet about their trivia game, this time with a big image saying “Pest Trivia! Think you’re a pest expert?  Test your skills at booth 517.” This is a time-honored strategy, pulling on people’s pride to get them to come try the game.

Pre-show message on Twitter challenging people to play their trivia game at show

 

The final pre-show tweet went out a day before the show started, with another gripping question, “How long can a cockroach survive w/o food?”  As with all their pre-show and at-show images, Syngenta uses their brand colors – with illustrations pre-show, and photos (with the booth and staffer shirts) at-show.

Pre-show tweet sent a day before the trade show starts

 

Notice that all four of these pre-show tweets include a link, ow.ly/7nab3059gxo that goes to a microsite promoting everything Syngenta PPM would be doing at Pest World 2016.  Included prominently on that page is this greater detail about the prizes attendees could win in their booth:

Game prizes and summary on pre-show microsite

At-Show Promotional Tweets

During the show, Syngenta sent out 5 tweets, with at least one every day of the show. These all showed activity in their booth, with happy attendees and proud staffers.  The first tweet on Day 1 shows two photos of an attendee playing the trivia game, and how other attendees can come win a treat.

Tweet sent the first day of the trade show from their booth with attendee playing the game

 

On Day 2 of the show, Syngenta’s tweet congratulates the first big prize winner, shows the winner and his prize, and reminds attendees to come play so they can win, too.

Big prize winner on the first day of the trade show

 

Syngenta does the same thing on Day 3, showing another prize winner.  They also keep including the show hashtag and their booth number.

Second day of the show prize winner from challenge bar trivia game in their booth

 

On the final day of the show, Syngenta sent out two tweets.  This first tweet shows two prize winners.

Two game prize winners on the final day of the trade show

 

For their final tweet – likely after the show closed, but on the final day, Syngenta showed 4 photos of happy and proud attendees interacting with the game and staffers in the booth.

Final tweet sent on the last day of the trade show with happy attendees in the booth

 

Syngenta did many things well with their Twitter promotional campaign about their SocialPoint Trivia Game.  Let’s summarize them – you can even use this as a checklist!

  • Repeated messaging before and during the show
  • Consistent use of company branding
  • Consistently used show hashtag and gave their booth number
  • Linked to more details about their Trivia game on a microsite
  • Asked intriguing questions that are in the Trivia game
  • Showed illustrations pre-show before they had attendee at-show photos
  • Showed lots of photos of happy attendees
  • Showed the prizes attendees could win and did win
  • Thanked by name the prize winners

Whether you use SocialPoint’s interactive trade show games or not, this is a great primer on how to promote via social media whatever activity you are doing to drive traffic in your trade show booth.  But it’s especially useful if you are using our games, as it leverages the use of human emotions (want to win the prize, want to show off knowledge) very well.

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic with our interactive trade show games (and thus achieve your sales and marketing goals!), feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate excitement, crowds, and leads.

Congrats! You’ve Got More Trade Show Booth Traffic! Now What Do You Do?

Get more trade show booth traffic with interactive games

It’s a universal experience that exhibitors who use any of our interactive trade show games get more booth traffic.  But which game, game set up, and exhibit strategy will be best for you?  Turns out, it depends most of all on what is your goal behind the goal.

1. More Awareness

Want everyone at the show to know about your company? Then offer up a big, valuable prize that everyone at the show will want, and promote it on a big flat screen monitor or big signage or both.  Host our interactive Game Show Trivia Game to create a buzz that attracts peoples’ attention and focuses it on whatever you want to build awareness of – be it your company, your entry into a new market, your new product, or your new brand.

2. More Leads

To get more leads, bring more iPads for more people to play simultaneously.  You can also get more people into your booth with our Timed Trivia Game, where attendees compete to answer correctly the most questions in 60 seconds – that way, they finish the game quicker and let more new people get into your booth to play.  And before they can play our games, your visitors can be required to answer one or more qualifying questions, so you can ask attendees the questions you know will help you separate viable leads from the tire-kickers.  You can also bring more booth staffers, so when you have more people in your booth (even if they just spun the Virtual Prize Wheel by smashing a big button and not giving any qualifying info), they can engage them in conversations and turn more of them into leads.

3. More Immediate Sales Revenue

While some exhibitors view trade shows as a long-term branding and lead generation tactic, others want to do whatever they can to drive as much immediate sales revenue soon after the show.  That means finding the booth visitors who are the most qualified leads so you can focus your efforts on them after the show.  You can find the more qualified leads by having our games “ask” them more survey questions that matter, and by having your live booth staffers do the same.  Find those more qualified leads by determining if their company matches the profile of your sweet spot customer. Are they shopping for a purchase that is already approved? Do they understand – and value – your company strengths? Have they already interacted with your company, and this face-to-face engagement has solidified your relationship? Then mark these leads as your hottest, get them to sales quickly, and then persistently follow up.

4. More Client Cross-Selling

Is this you?  Your company has a high market share, and attendees feel like they already know you – but you know you have lots of other products they could be buying.  Our clients with the goal of cross-selling customers adjust how they use our games.  When they use our Challenge Bar Trivia, they write most of the questions to be about all the various products they sell, to teach attendees about them.  When high market share exhibitors use our Virtual Prize Wheel, they include discounts on new or lesser known products among the prizes attendees can win.

Getting more trade show booth traffic is a nearly universal exhibiting goal, but usually it’s hiding a more important sales and marketing goal beyond that. Once you determine your company’s sales and marketing goals, consider employing the tactics discussed above that will help you achieve them.

If you’d like to see more about how you can drive more booth traffic with our interactive trade show games (and thus achieve your sales and marketing goals!), feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate excitement, crowds, and leads.

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Demystifying Internet Options at Events

It is no secret that having a reliable Internet connection can make or break an event.  Nothing brings life to a screeching halt quite like having a PowerPoint presentation freeze during a speech or a live video stream suddenly cut out for virtual attendees around the world.  The goal is simple:  Just make sure the Internet works without interruption and content is accessible to the people you want it to be.

If only there was a check box for that option.  There’s not.

When filling out the order form to get Internet in your booth or event space, all of the different options can be a bit confusing.  But, in the end, most of the Internet options really boil down to 4 key deciding factors:

  1. Public vs. Private
  2. Static vs. Dynamic
  3. Dedicated vs. Shared
  4. Bandwidth

Below is a simplified explanation of each option.  Armed with this basic knowledge, you should be able to navigate the Internet connection landscape at your next event and feel confident that “internet issues” will be a non-issue.

1) Public vs. Private Network Connections – Who do you want to share your content with?

Let us take a look at two different scenarios.  In the first scenario you are live streaming your event to people around the world.  You want the video that you are capturing to be available anywhere to anyone.  A public IP address is what you need in this scenario because the devices on the network are “visible” to devices outside the network (via the Internet or another network).

In the second scenario you have a social media display in a booth and you’ll be using a laptop to access the display through a web browser.  If your network is configured as “private,” devices outside the network cannot “see” or communicate directly to your devices.  With a private IP address you can access and surf the web, or read email, but you cannot distribute any content such as audio or video streams. Private IP addresses are typically less expensive than public IP addresses and, for the most part, are capable of doing anything that you would do on your own home computer.  This would be sufficient for this scenario.

2) Static vs. Dynamic IP Addresses – Does your IP address stay the same or change and does it matter?

In the live streaming scenario above you will likely need a static IP address so that your video stream can be found using a single, consistent address throughout the event.  If your address changed in the middle of the General Session you would have broken links and people staring at blank screens because they would be looking at the wrong address.

It’s like moving without telling anyone.  A lot of mail ends up “returned to sender.”

In the display scenario however, you don’t really care whether or not your address changes because you are the only one requesting information.  Every time you send a request to an address (i.e. to a URL), that request is sent with a return address so it always knows exactly where to return the response (i.e. to your laptop).  Dynamic IP addresses are typically less expensive than static IP addresses and are usually used by default on home networks.  A dynamic address is the best choice for the majority of event or booth purposes.

3) Dedicated vs. Shared – How many people are going to be sharing your connection and how important is speed?

In some respects, networks are like highways: more traffic leads to more congestion.  The same is true with the Internet: more people surfing leads to slower Internet speeds.

A dedicated line (or a dedicated IP address) is analogous to having the entire highway to yourself.  With a dedicated line you have access to the full amount of bandwidth allocated to that line.  No other users means no congestion and faster speeds.

A shared line is, as the name suggests, shared among all the users connected to that line.  If you have a 10 Mbps (megabits per second) shared line with 10 users, each user gets an average maximum speed of 1 Mbps.  That same 10 Mbps shared between 200 users reduces each user’s bandwidth to 51 kbps (yes, worse than 56k dialup).  Internet speeds on a shared line are unpredictable and tend to jump around quite a bit as users join and leave the network.

Dedicated lines are typically more expensive than shared lines.  However, if enough users are on that shared line, speed could drop to a crawl and could potentially cripple your event technology.  It is for this reason that dedicated lines are almost always preferred over shared lines at events.

4) Bandwidth – What kind of content are you sharing and how quickly do you want it to upload?

Ensuring that you have sufficient bandwidth to run your event technology is extremely important.  To give some sense of perspective, a standard definition Netflix video consumes 1.5 Mbps and a high definition video consumes 6.8 Mbps.  A good way to estimate the amount of bandwidth that you need is to use a free bandwidth estimator tool. Simply enter the number of users, devices and type of content you will be accessing to estimate how much bandwidth you will need to view content in a timely fashion.  My recommendation for a display of social photos and videos (using 1-5 devices) is 3 Mbps.  If you are using more than 10 devices you’re probably going to have somebody administering your network for you such as PSAV.

Key take-aways?

This isn’t exactly stimulating subject matter.  However, if you are in charge of planning or running an event, at some point these questions regarding Internet network options will come up.  Save these notes.  Put them on a cheat sheet.  Smile and hand in your event order form with confidence that your Internet connection will run smoothly, making you look like an IT genius.

At SocialPoint we specialize in helping clients of all sizes plan and execute events, trade shows, conferences and more.  For more information or to learn about our consulting services and event solutions contact us or visit socialpoint.io