QR codes at trade shows and events

There is a lot of buzz about QR codes and what they can do for business.The unfortunate part of the QR code buzz is that few people are thinking about the application of such a tactical (and strategic) tool. (If you don’t know what a QR code is, check out this article “What is a QR code?”)

Before you run off and start printing QR codes on anything / everything, how about we ask our selves a few questions about how they fit into the bigger picture?

How many attendees use smart phones?

If your audience has wide acceptance of smart phones you are good to go. If not, you have to think about how your audience will engage with the presence of QR codes. You may cause yourself a customer experience nightmare or simply make some people feel left out.

How many sponsors and vendors currently use QR codes?

One of the most frustrating parts of QR codes is that they are QR codes. You really don’t know what you are clicking into until you are there. In many cases sponsors and vendors have QR codes being used for other purposes on existing materials. For the sanity of your audience, think about the process

Have you provided instructions?

Trade shows are like Christmas morning: you get exposed to dozens of new toys and the simplest one of them all is the most frustrating thing in the world because it lacked instructions.

Like most social media and new technology options, a good percentage of your audience may not know what a QR code is or how it functions. Create a simple one or two page guide that identifies the tools you are using at your event. Use straight-forward descriptions and offer links to additional 101 resources that attendees can read quickly.

Can you provide the human element?

The very nature of technology is inhuman. If you are collecting a real world group of attendees you can expect a good number of them are “people people” and may not have a natural aptitude for technology.

Learning from events we’ve worked on in the past, we found it highly beneficial to provide brief instructional meetings with select audience niches before an event was fully underway. For a larger events there is a critical need to follow the idea “help them help you.

Try to plan for a 15 to 60 minute hands-on training session with key audience segments (sponsors, vendors, press, speakers) either before your event or during the first hours of it. To help build an understanding ahead of time (which gives attendees time to strategize using new information) you can also hold webinars a few weeks ahead of time.

Do QR codes bring value?

You could print them everywhere…. but have you figure out an ROI statement yet?

Trade shows can add a lot of value, but they can also drain away time and budget.

Give some thought to your event strategy and how QR codes can holistically support the entire event experience. You may find that QR tags have hidden uses for your event in the form of:

  • streamlined ticket processing (adding a QR code to ticket stubs)
  • off-site engagement (local partners, maps,
  • audience activation (QR codes can link to “one-click” simplicity)
  • audience analytics (members who download or access a mobile app provide rich user data)
  • sponsor integration (banners, contests, etc)

Ending Thoughts

Like many other tools we can’t ignore the attendee experience. Tools should enhance the value of the event and support a holistic communication strategy around the event.

Have you seen good uses of QR codes at events?

What are your feelings about the way this technology is being integrated with events?