CONFERENCES AND EXHIBITIONS: ENHANCING EVENTS WITH NEW MEDIA - Forget dry ice and naff coloured lighting, live events of the future will impress their audiences with digital data, online research and cybercafes. Fiona Keating investigates

It’s a rare occurrence to visit an exhibition or conference which does not have the latest state-of-the-art technology. But to what extent do the Internet and multimedia enhance a live event?

It’s a rare occurrence to visit an exhibition or conference which

does not have the latest state-of-the-art technology. But to what extent

do the Internet and multimedia enhance a live event?



The use of new technology demonstrates that a company is progressively

minded, Adrian Caddy, the creative director at Imagination, believes.

’However, it’s not enough just to have the kit, as it can fall

spectacularly flat. It ain’t what you’ve got, it’s the way that you use

it.’ Imagination has been using CD-Roms in exhibitions for at least

three years and every project it is currently working on has a

multimedia element. ’For most clients,’ Caddy adds, ’having a Website

accessible on their



exhibition stand is almost a given.’



When Imagination helped to launch Ford’s Ka last year, a key component

was the Ka cafe, which was kitted out with Internet Web stations and

CD-Roms. ’The new media put a valuable interactive and progressive spin

on the whole experience,’ Caddy explains.



Using computer software to generate projections or whole environments to

walk through is a new style of display. As exhibition visitors move

through the area, computer animations are triggered by a

pressure-sensitive panel in the floor.



’Online market research has to be the most valuable aspect of the

multimedia potential,’ Richard Mellor, the creative director of

Hyperinteractive - which created the D&AD Website - says.



Since its launch last November, Mellor reveals that there have been more

than 19,000 visitors to the site. Not only that, but detailed

information about users is coming to light. The company can pinpoint

which country visits the site most, as well as what time of day is most

popular for hits. ’These figures can be used to tailor marketing

proposals on the Internet,’ Mellor explains.



A high proportion of visitors are registering for events via the

Internet. Many events have set up discussion forums and bulletin boards

on their Websites so that visitors can put questions to exhibitors or

arrange appointments. Response times are said to be fast, with

exhibition teams checking Websites on a daily basis.



The Internet offers a wider audience - potentially millions of customers

- which makes it a cost-effective option for promoting an event.

According to Robin Wood, the electronic publishing development director

at Miller Freeman, companies are prepared to spend more if they believe

it adds value for their customers. ’They want to get more value out of

the investment they have made,’ Wood says.



Paper-based publications limit the amount of information by the cost and

size of the catalogue. In theory, there is no limit to the size of an

event’s Website, as it is governed instead by the time that a visitor

wishes to spend online.



’The Internet is the most awesome tool the world has ever seen,’ Nick

Lamb, the managing director of Crown Business Communications,

enthuses.



It can be used as a means of attracting people to a live event in the

first place, as well as gathering information about exhibitors. Lamb

argues that the pace of technological advance is increasing - he

envisages creating a live event on the Internet in real time, which

could reach millions of users.



Lamb believes there is a movement away from large theatrical shows - the

dry-ice extravaganzas of the 80s - towards a greater investment in the

message. Less of the dancing girls and more of the digital data is what

is required today. Lamb points out that this means the increased use of

TV screens, video footage, visual aids and network laptops. At

Imagination’s Ericsson Mobile Communications exhibit at ceBIT ’96, music

CDs featuring songs played on the stand were offered as gifts to dealers

and VIPs.



Post-event activities are becoming more significant through Websites

that can be accessed in retrospect as well as CDs which hold a database

of exhibitors. This offers greater value for the client. As Lamb puts

it: ’His bucks go substantially further than they have ever done before

in a live event.’



But it’s a misconception that IT companies exclusively lead the way in

the digital revolution. ’Every business needs to be new-technology

savvy,’ Lamb says. ’You cannot afford to be left out.’ He points out

that the most technologically advanced of his clients are banks and

mobile phone companies.



The idea of the virtual exhibition is also receiving favourable reports,

although many in the industry believe it will never replace the real

thing. Research has shown that people regularly spend more than five

hours at an exhibition. The same is unlikely to be true of the virtual

exhibition.



There’s no sign of escaping the digital revolution, despite the fact

that fewer than half of the top 500 companies in the world are connected

to the Internet. That’s not to say the rest are lagging behind. The

remaining companies are investing heavily in research to discover

audience needs before going live.



Yet, however sophisticated technology becomes, sometimes you can’t beat

the good old-fashioned way. ’The importance of seeing someone face to

face will never be replaced,’ Lamb insists. ’The live event will

certainly survive in our lifetime.’



ERICSSON: CE BIT ’96



Imagination’s Ericsson Mobile Communications stand at ceBIT ’96

incorporated film, video and multimedia in its presentation. The prime

objectives were to raise brand awareness of Ericsson as a leading

manufacturer of mobile communications and to build relationships with

the trade as well as generating sales enquiries. The stand was enhanced

by films demonstrating how the products are de rigueur for modern life

plus images of the new Ericsson product range. A photo CD-Rom containing

product and lifestyle pictures was presented to journalists as a

giveaway.



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