With the demand for more personalization at events, wouldn’t it be great if exhibitors met only with their target attendees? On the flip side, rather than coming to the show floor for hours listening to sales pitches from vendors they are never to going to buy from, attendees want to meet with exhibitors that can help solve their business problems.
Getting mutually beneficial parties together is easy to say but often difficult to accomplish. Show managers can be pressured to drive traffic to all booths, which can lead to frustration on both sides of the aisle.
If you attend trade shows or plan them, you want to read on about how reverse trade shows work, the four solutions that make a difference, and the critical benefits of appointment apps.
What is a Reverse Trade Show?
It is an event that allows suppliers and attendees the opportunity to meet one-on-one at a single location. It enables attendees and exhibitors to select the individuals they’d like to meet with and set up pre-scheduled appointments based on specific search criteria.
Meetings may occur in place of traditional trade show floor traffic or outside of regularly scheduled trade show time.
The concept has not caught on in the past because it has put a tremendous burden on the show manager to organize, schedule, and communicate appointments, which they have managed through paper or an Excel spreadsheet. Unfortunately, many mistakes were made along the way with this process due to the juggling of more pressing obligations.
Therefore, with the implementation of a more automated, foolproof process, reverse trade shows have a chance of making their comeback!
When is the Best Time of Year for this Event?
Ideally, unless you are in warmer climates, stay away from the first quarter of the year. It’s best to give yourself much lead time, especially if this is your first event.
If it’s a success, establish the same format, next year. If it’s a failure, find out what needs to change. Be sure to survey attendees while the event is fresh on their mind, ideally before they leave for home.
What about Budget for the Apps?
As you will read below, the four apps have different functions and features for appointment scheduling. Before settling on one vendor, it’s vital that you know the following:
- What are the business expectations of the vendors and attendees?
For example, will the vendor be happy if they have three qualified appointments or do they need thirty? The same analysis needs to happen from the attendees’ perspective.
- What functionalities are “must haves” and which ones are “nice to have”? Putting these functions in a matrix will help you pair down customization efforts based on what is required and hopefully keep your budget intact.
- Have you had a detailed demonstration of the product?
Be sure to have your entire team, including the sign-off manager, at the demo. They need to see and understand the functionality and benefits, too.
- How many sponsors can the app support, and how will each be presented?
Having multiple sponsors at different buying levels will help defray the total cost.
- What is the total cost for the app, including programming?
The Four Appointment Apps
Option #1: ERMatch
This reverse trade show appointment software by EventRebels can be coupled with their online registration and trade show floor map, making it easy for attendees to browse exhibitors and select which ones they want to meet.
ERMatch offers the following features:
- An attendee portal page with a search feature, pending and confirmed meetings, and the ability to self-update their profile
- Targeted search based on filters with specific search criteria
- Integrated meeting scheduler
- Sharing of exhibitor documents with their appointments
Bottom line: If you are already an EventRebels fan, this solution may be an easy fix to your scheduling nightmare. However, if you are not, it’s difficult to ascertain how much this option will cost and the true benefit of the app.
Option #2: Pathable
It’s an event app that makes booking appointments easy by providing flexible matchmaking tools for participants. It also provides the following features:
- Views of free time
- The ability to reserve tables, chairs, and space
- Rules to control who may meet with whom, when, and for how long
- Works on all platforms, including smartphones, tablets, and desktops
- Appointments can be scheduled several days in advance of the show
Bottom line: If you are juggling multiple exhibitors with hundreds or thousands of attendees (especially sophisticated ones), this app may be for you. Pricing is not transparent as they want to show you a demo and discuss your event needs before delivering costs.
Option #3: Ezappt
Attendees are sent a link to schedule appointments. It shows each exhibitor’s availability and is visible only to those with the link. Here are its features:
- The show manager sends an email to attendees with the scheduling URL
- After the attendee makes the booking, an Outlook confirmation is sent to them
- Ezappt is cloud-based scheduling software that’s capable of making concurrent appointments
- It’s a customizable software solution that works on any device
Bottom line: If you have time on your side and the desire to customize your offering, this app may be for your trade show. There is no set pricing structure.
Option #4: Cvent Appointments
A mobile app that allows pre-booking of appointments, it helps increase engagement between attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. It has the following features:
- Pre-booking of meetings before the show
- Sophisticated software that prevents double-booking of attendees or exhibitors
- Exhibitors can decide about staffing based on pre-set appointments and prepare appropriately
- Data stored in an easily reportable format