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Using Tablet PCs in Your Trade Show Booth

How can you up your game to take advantage of new technology in improving your data flow to support your show marketing ROI?  Here’s one way that is starting to appear on show floors currently.

Using Tablet PCs In Your Tradeshow BoothTablet computer data input processes are going to become a great new tool for trade show exhibitors.  They will combine lead qualification, presentation, and lead capture into a single, simple mobile package that can be carried anywhere on a show floor.  Because the need for paper data recording is eliminated, they will also offer a ‘green’ alternative to having to carry printed collateral material to and from the show floor.  They will tie right in with current trends toward more electronically based messaging in exhibit environments and other cutting edge technological developments.  And, being more cost effective, they will provide a great way to help stabilize the cost gaps created by uncontrollable expenses like shipping and drayage.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  And it is!  But, it can still offer daunting challenges when the technology is not quite ready.

(Almost) Flawless Data Entry Directly From The Trade Show Floor Into CRM

One of my good customers recently altered their in-booth information capture process to allow them to input lead data in real time directly into their database as they gathered it.  They intended to shorten the lead management process to allow them to fulfill their lead requests even as their visitors were walking the show floor.

Each staffer had a tablet computer (in this case, an iPad) that they carried with them as they initiated contact with a visitor to their booth.  They would qualify the visitor and show them a brief presentation about their information systems on the tablet.  They would input the visitor’s key facts and interests as they spoke to them, using the tablets as a virtual lead card and as a guide for further conversation.  Staffers would also provide their own feedback on the contact without having to resort to hastily written notes with illegible handwriting, making the contact more cost effective (fewer lost leads due to incomplete data).

The plan was to send the data directly to their CRM, eliminating the need for additional handling of the data.   However, they hit an unexpected snag with the input process, impeding their effectiveness in achieving this goal the first time they took it out on the road.

Their iPad tablets had used an ‘app’ that would allow them to transfer the data easily.  Unfortunately, they found out as they were working the system on the show floor that the ‘app’ was for an iPhone and didn’t work well on the iPad units.  Also, the ‘app’ would not interface correctly with their CRM program and the data would not transfer.

They created a ‘band aid’ that got them through this show, by using the tablets to input the contact data directly into their website information request page and notating the source of the data for future reference in the additional information block.  It still had to be manually imported to their database after the fact, but was at least a quick, workable fix for that show.

The upshot was that, while the method was valid, the data transfer process was not.  They are now acquiring an ‘app’ that will act with their CRM program and which will allow better transfer of captured information.  The process was still very effective overall and, they feel, will be even more workable, once they have the correct programs in place.

You can definitely impact your show floor data management process by going this route, but be aware that there are still issues typical to the introduction of any new technology that you may, in the short term, need to contend with.  Make sure you have an alternative method in place, just in case.

Evolving Role of Exhibit Marketers: free white paperTrading in your lead cards for tablet PCs is only one of the many changes to trade show marketing for the future.  To find out more, read The Evolving Role of Exhibit Marketers white paper.  Click here to request your free 36 page copy. 

About the Author

Pete Davis was an exhibiting consultant and seminar presenter for Skyline Northeast in Arlington, Massachusetts, before his retirement.

12 responses to “Using Tablet PCs in Your Trade Show Booth

  1. What apps for iPad can you recommend that:

    1. Work OFFLINE (no WiFi or internet),

    2. Can export the collected form data as a spreadsheet (.xls or tab delineated) when connected to a computer, and

    3. Hopefully can also show a page or 2 of company information (photo gallery, product info, etc)

    1. Nicholas, working off-line with no WiFi or internet is a conundrum. Your request is out there, I am sure, however it would only be a partial solution (unless you wish to key in the leads manually). There are dozens of trade show badge types out there and many are encrypted, thereby making the reading of them into iPads inconsistent, at best. Technologies like Bluetooth, RFID and encrypted bar codes are not readable with iPads. Even simple bar codes can be a problem, since very vendor uses a different technology to lay out the data. Mag stripe (still out there) would seem to be easier, but third party iPad suppliers provide credit card readers, and trade show badges do not read in those swipers. At NewLeads, we had to employ a wireless in-booth solution to solve these problems, albeit mostly implemented for larger booths where at least four scanning stations and 10 ipads are used. If your booth is small and your lead count is not too great, consider directly connecting to your CRM. You can look up customers and input the data directly. Many of our customers ask us for a 10 x 10 booth solution and it currently is in-booth WiFi and not inexpensive. A future offering will be internet connected and less expensive. Competition and technology are driving this very quickly, all to the benefit of the end-user. Best wishes in your search.

    2. Nicholas,

      Alliance Tech provides an iPad solution that meets your requirements (as I understand them). It does NOT require WiFi or Internet (badges are scanned directly to the iPad), 2. Can export the collected data when connected back up and 3. Can show company info. You can also do event-to-event metrics and provide a customized qualification survey with branching logic. Feel free to send me an email to discuss your needs more.

      Roger Lewis

  2. Pete, that’s a great lesson for all to read about the need to fully test any new solution for a trade show leads system. The idea of directly connecting to CRM (such as or Siebel) is a bit of a misnomer. There are many problems to consider. First, the matching of existing customers in the CRM is problematic: are they listed by company or by their name? Spelling issues (Bill or William) and home addresses can also muddy the waters. Most CRM databases have only 50% collected email addresses, so that match is also unreliable. Second, new leads that are not customers must be put into the database differently. Third, the question and answer set for the device used in the booth must be matched to the CRM so that the output is exact. Anything but exact will reject an entire record. Fourth, the process of daily CRM input is a bad idea: what about the prospect that comes back to the booth on the next day and the record is updated with more information? Will you know if you should overwrite or append the CRM? The best practice is to upload to the CRM at the end of the show when all the leads are complete. The way we approach this entire process at NewLeads is to collect leads on iPads (or any wireless tablet or browser enabled device) with a private wireless cloud server where all leads are on one web server, similar to a concept. With a business intelligence module, we enable the booth staff to view possible CRM customer matches from badge scans so they can identify them on the spot. This makes CRM importing much better since the match in the booth will add the CRM customer ID to the lead and thereby eliminate the match-up nightmare. We scrub the final file before sending it along to the CRM administrator at the end of the show.

    BUT DON’T FORGET THE COLLATERAL! Once you have the data part ready, load the iPads or other tablets with collateral, so that every booth staffer is is walking, talking information and lead taking kiosk. The increases conversation time and depth of understanding with the prospect, which means more A leads. Multiply that idea by the increase in lead systems (every rep has an iPad)and you will triple your A leads.

  3. Check out QuickTapSurvey! It is the perfect software for capturing leads on your iPad! You don’t need an Internet connection and it is the fastest way to qualify and capture leads! The best part is that it is FREE!

    Check it out!

  4. Great article! For long businesses have been hunting for a fast and accurate method to collect lead information. Tablet PCs at trade shows can be used as a superior medium by exhibitors as collecting information digitally is easy and then some apps like GoSurvey provide awesome features that are best suited for trade shows.

  5. Great article! For long businesses have been hunting for a fast and accurate method to collect lead information. Tablet PCs at trade shows can be used as a superior medium by exhibitors as collecting information digitally is easy and then some apps like GoSurvey provide awesome features like offline capability and more that are best suited for trade shows.

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