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obile apps were a foreign concept in the exhibition industry 18 months ago. However, soaring smartphone uptake and iPhone app mania have seen these bite-sized platforms infiltrate a host of UK trade and consumer shows. "2010 and early 2011 were essentially about exhibition organisers getting to grips with the technology and starting to look around at potential suppliers," business director for apps provider Quickka Events Paul Lanzone told EN. "Exhibition organisers are now buyers."Quickka is one of several mobile app providers offering organisers apps for their exhibition. Marketing director for rival apps provider GenieMobile, Michael Douglas, agreed the majority of event organisers are either already planning to do something or in a position where they feel they should. His company now boasts Reed Exhibitions, Clarion Events and Imago Techmedia among its clients. So why are we falling for apps? Easy: Visitors. While the brands are different, exhibitions owners all see apps as a way of achieving better attendee buy-in to a show.Apps are available either as native, downloadable pieces of software, or as Web apps (HTML sites optimised to display on mobiles). Key features include an interactive floor plan with exhibitor profiles, seminar scheduling, tools to connect exhibitors and visitors, venue information, sponsor and organiser messages and news and social media for the show. The marketing potential of mobile apps, particularly in the three months lead-up to an exhibition, is a further plus. To top it off, potential sponsors see apps as a sexy new way get their message across, helping you get your return on investment. In the last 12 months, Black Pepper Software has taken its Companion apps product into shows such as BBC Good Food and Motorhome and Caravan. Head of solutions Adam Wright said active navigation and real-time rich content is key to an app's success. "We think of Companion as a digital extension of the physical space," Wright said. "Once attendees are engaged and using the technology on a variety of devices, it provides the platform for communication and analytics for the whole event."SO Visit's offering is based on apps technology developed by German-based Messe Munich and aimed at large-scale shows with multiple halls. Its key selling points are the ability to capture visitor data and integrate this with the show's registration systems, MD David Cunningham said. "If apps allow a visitor to get more out of their time spent in an event and engage with them to stay longer, then they're an asset," he said. According to Douglas, half the visitors at shows with apps are now downloading them. Usage can be even higher across a business audience. Often, visitors will log into an app 15-20 times while at a show. To gain maximise show benefits, GenieMobile advises organisers to launch apps at least a month before. Douglas said Reed's decision to launch three months out from its 100% Design show (bought by Media 10) was a great example of apps driving attendance. 21app-solutelyMthe proliferation of smartphones has opened up a new marketing and communications channel for show organisers. Nadia Cameron investigates the rise and rise of mobile apps"By offering valuable content and outlining what's on at the event first, Reed generated significant industry interest," he said. "With one month to go, the app was adapted to include utility information."While many organisers have bought into the apps proposition, Douglas admitted poor showfloor connectivity remains a hurdle by making it difficult to use or update Web-based apps effectively. Another thing organisers worry about is having to produce apps data separately or being unable to merge it with other platforms, Lanzone said. These issues are in no way insurmountable and over time, app providers expect both Wi-Fi and app functionality to become more integrated. The advent of indoor mapping solutions via Wi-Fi triangulation, along with the rollout of Near-Field Communication (NFC) will add another dimension in terms of visitor tracking, Douglas predicted."We'll also see organisers incorporating apps more into their normal operations, much like a website," he said. "This will bring further efficiencies for organisers."Rather than custom-build apps from scratch, Quickka provides clients with a content management system to control the features, look and feel of the app. Lanzone said the company planned to integrate 'Bump' technology into its platform so visitors could exchange details simply by hitting their phones together. Cunningham expected 4G Internet services to improve website functionality on mobiles. "We are investing in both apps and websites because in the end we have to ensure the services we provide are valuable," he said. Whatever features they promise, the ultimate goal of apps is to give organisers more insight into visitors' tastes, Wright said. And that can only be a good thing. "This is a very exciting time," he added. MiChael Douglas shares his top tips oN appsapp type: Apps are available in two types: Native apps downloaded to the phone; and Web-based apps, which are basically mobile websites. The type you choose can influence connectivity, upgradeability and usage. usability: Douglas advises organisers test out potential apps by switching their smartphones to 'airplane mode'. "By doing this, you'll get a good sense of how the app will work in an event with poor connectivity", he said. updates: Organisers also need to be mindful of how they will update the app leading up to, during or after a show. What you don't want is to republish or force users to have to re-download the app. "The other thing to remember is a 10- or 12-minute update is simply not practical," Douglas added. usage: Things To waTch ouT for

ick Orton has had a relatively low profile in the last couple of years after selling his trade show business to CloserStill Media. But don't think for a second it's because he's been idle. Following CloserStill's acquisition of Orton's Pioneer Global Media business in 2008, which included healthcare trade shows such as The Pharmacy show, the Dentistry Show, London Vet Show and International Custom Bike Show, then a two-year stint as his acquirer's MD, Orton returned to the drawing board to develop a new breed of exhibitions. Still under a non-compete on trade shows until mid-2012, this serial entrepreneur has chosen to spend the past 18 months building a series of consumer shows. The bedrock of Pioneer Shows' new portfolio is the successful BodyPower Expo (pictured) at The NEC. "We have three consumer shows: BodyPower Expo at The NEC which is all about 'power' sports; B-fit Expo at Excel, which is a more general fitness event; and a new event called SportEx Festival in Manchester, based on sporting competitions and tournaments," Orton told EN. "I'm also involved in a number of other business ventures formed from vertical market opportunities in the fitness industry."Keeping fitBodyPower, which next takes place from 18 to 20 May, reported a 92 per cent increase in visitors to The NEC in 2011. Orton attributes this success to the show's dedication to its consumer base."Enthusiasts have two things in common. Firstly, they like to learn about their interest and secondly, they have heroes who they respect for their achievements," he explained. "We have invested in bringing the top names from various power sports to the show and focused on giving the visitor quality learning from the leading authorities - happy visitors spread the word very effectively."BodyPower now occupies 25,000sqm gross and is expected to attract 30,000 visitors this year. The show will open for a third day for the first time in 2012 and due to the quality and quantity of content, demand for two and three-day passes is high, Orton said. In turn, this has lifted the visitor yield. "I'm confident BodyPower Expo will attract 50,000 visitors by 2015," Orton predicted. In the shorter term, Pioneer is rolling out a series of new initiatives this year including the WMKF British Championships, a prestigious martial arts tournament attracting 800-1,000 competitors, along with the 3Run Free running area. Other new content in this year's show is the BodyPower MMA championships, run by ex-European entrepreneurs22 a fantastic atmosphere, unique offerings, to be engaging and offer great entertainment."Moving forward, Orton didn't rule out acquisitions as a way for organisers to build strength and presence. Coming up with a new idea or niche for a show is difficult but making it work is harder, he pointed out."Developing a show is much like the world's strongest man pulling a lorry: Watching it on TV, most wouldn't realise how much work has gone into setting up the pull, then you have to get the wheels moving. But once they start rolling, it's just about keeping the momentum up, which is still a challenge but relatively easy," he said."Getting a show established correctly, with industry support, is the basis for long-term success, so acquiring once the majority of the hard work has been done is a smart move, assuming you get the deal right and stick to it." So what additional advice does Orton have for other exhibition organisers looking to go out on their own and launch a show or expand their portfolio?"If you have an idea that you think will work, keep it to yourself until you find someone experienced who you can trust," he advised. "Sadly the industry is littered with 'self-styled experts' who never actually come up with any good ideas, but talk a good story. So be careful."If you're an entrepreneur looking for a success story, I'd look at what you're doing at the moment and think laterally. There are plenty of tasty opportunities right under our noses, but the real entrepreneurs will be able to sniff out the richest ones and will have the courage and drive to make them work."muscling in on new opportunitiesnnick Orton talks to EN about his entrepreneurial roots, his latest consumer show ventures, plans for industry growth and how he expects to find ongoing success as an exhibition organiserand UK Champion Sol Gilbert; a large, evening event, primarily for bodybuilders with 3,000 seats called 'IFBB An Audience with the Pros'; a Male Grooming area, featuring the national competition 'Britain's Best Groomed Male'; and the BJJ National Championships with more than 1,000 competitors.While the consumer journey has proved fruitful, trade shows are in Orton's blood. As a result, Pioneer will look to establish a position in the B2B space later this year."I'm enjoying growing the consumer business and looking at vertical market opportunities, but my main focus for the second part of 2012 will be trade show launches once my non-compete expires in the summer," Orton said. "I love the challenge of launching new events and I'm going to be getting my hands very dirty selling space myself. "I used to love that part of the job and I can't wait to get back to it."ensuring the thrillUnlike many of his counterparts, Orton doesn't blame the exhibition industry's downturn to economic factors. He blames it on boredom. "Some shows are so boring and dull for the visitors, which is the result of complacency and laziness," he claimed. "All events should be approached like they are rock concerts: The visitor should look forward to attending and leave with a smile on their face, telling their pals how great it was. Anything less is a failure."Imagine the very best rock concert, with areas where you can find out about the band, learn about how you can become a rock star, shop for music. Exhibitions