Meetings tech expert Corbin Ball recently described iBeacons as having a major impact on events. But, why? (And what are iBeacons again?) iBeacons are another way for you to use mobile technology to engage your smartphone-attached attendees. This is especially important as global smartphone ownership continues to increase.
Beacons are small transmitters that broadcast Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) signals. This is good news for event-goers because BLE signals don’t drain your battery, and they work well indoors since they can pass through walls and other physical barriers. These are two big advantages for conferences, conventions, trade shows, meetings, and other types of events.
iBeacons are Apple’s implementation of this wireless technology for iPhones and iPads. iOS 7 devices look for these BLE signals, and prompt your event app to perform a specific action when attendees come within a certain range of the beacon. This works for Android users, too, but they need to have the event app running in the background.
So, how does your event app know to do this? Each beacon has a unique identifier. The app developer includes this identifier in the code so the app can recognize it and respond the way it’s supposed to. All you have to do is set up the beacons accordingly—specifically, in places where you want to trigger certain actions.
This is exciting for event planners because it gives them more control over what they want their attendees to experience. Let’s say you want to get more feedback about the sessions and speakers at your event. You can set up a beacon so when attendees pass by it on their way out from a session, it’ll prompt the event app to open that session’s survey.
If you need help with where the beacons should go, ask yourself these questions: Why is your attendee at this specific location? What do you think they’ll do here? For example, maybe they want to know more about one of the exhibitors. If your attendee is near that booth, the event app could open that exhibitor’s detail page with more information. Or let’s say an attendee stopped at your smartphone station to charge their device. You could set up a beacon that tells the event app to send a helpful message, like this one: “Battery low? Turn your device off for a faster charge!”
You always want to be thinking of what will improve your attendee’s experience, and how to deliver that to them. iBeacons don’t just focus on location, but on what will be relevant to your attendees. As a result, the experience will also feel more personalized.
When it comes to your event app, you want to look for this type of technology to be fully native within the app. This means you can use the developer’s content management system to choose the “triggers”—or the actions that you want the event app to perform. There’s also potential for internal way-finding, which means your attendees could use iBeacons to show them how to get to where they want to go during your event.
In the next five years, iBeacons will reach 60 billion devices. And according to CMO, 18% of mobile marketers are already using iBeacons (this number is expected to double in 2015). Now’s the time to think of how you can use this technology to transform how you communicate with and engage your attendees.
Written by Valerie Zogas