Building a 21st Century PCO

The Anatomy of a Modern Event

New technology is everywhere these days! How does an event organizer figure out what’s relevant and what’s a passing fad? This past May, International Conference and Exhibition Professionals (iCEP) completed the 18th Asia Oil and Gas Conference in Malaysia, and they experienced first-hand the role of new technology for their latest event.

The conference was hailed as a great success, due in no small part to the commitment of the iCEP team to utilize modern technology to streamline all aspects of the event. iCEP embraced a new platform that delivered tangible productivity gains and dramatically enhanced the attendee experience.

The iCEP team made a strategic decision to utilize a cutting-edge platform for their conference. The team implemented EventsAIR by Centium Software, which provided a complete event management solution that covered the full event lifecycle of the conference. By using just one system, the iCEP team had a fully integrated view of their event which included speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, VIPs and over 2000 attendees. Engagement of all participants was significantly enhanced through the use of several new technology features found in EventsAIR.

Responsive Online Registration Pages

It’s common knowledge that today’s event attendees are connected at all times with smart phones, tablets and wearable devices. The iCEP team knew that first impressions from a wide variety of devices was a critical step in marketing the Conference.

The best way to ensure full engagement with your marketing efforts is to employ responsive technology in delivering websites, registration sites, emails and more. They knew their websites and communications had to look great on any device, no matter the size or resolution.

The iCEP team were able to deliver fully responsive websites for all aspects of their marketing efforts. PCOs in today’s world who are not using responsive registration pages, optimized for mobile devices, are potentially missing opportunities.

Data Security

The protection of attendee data is a challenge that all event organizers face. With the recent example of hackers breaking into the Linux Conference and potential widespread exposure of sensitive attendee data, PCOs need to make sure that their event data is protected and secure. Data stored in the cloud has its own security challenges, and the team at iCEP wanted to make sure their technology platform could deliver. EventsAIR is built to the highest levels of security and takes advantage of the additional security layers found in the Microsoft Azure Cloud – the architecture to which EventsAIR is deployed.

EventsAIR is also PCI Level 1 compliant which involves audit by an external certified organization, regular penetration tests and ongoing vulnerability scans. Many software providers only extend this protection to credit card data. EventsAIR provides this protection to all event related data.

Rapid Onsite processing and badge printing

For such a large number of attendees, it was critical for the iCEP team to streamline the onsite experience. Many PCOs bring in third party vendors to manage this aspect of the conference. However, the iCEP team wanted to keep all conference data fully contained in one location, and they took advantage of the inclusive new apps found in EventsAIR.

Using the EventsAIR Onsite Portal App (provided at no additional cost), the iCEP team organized a Registration counter with 15 operators sharing 5 high speed color printers. Pre-registered attendees came up to an operator who typed their name into the portal. The attendee’s registration was rapidly retrieved, checked in and their name badge printed in one seamless operation. Outstanding payments were also highlighted and collected.

During peak periods, over 300 attendees were processed in 1 hour. The average time to process a fully paid attendee was 26 seconds. iCEP understood an efficient check-in and registration process is a key part of good customer service onsite at an event.

Security Access Control

Event security is a growing concern for PCOs, and there is a lot of technology available to help manage access and other security requirements.

With high profile business and political leaders attending the 18th Asia Oil and Gas Conference, the iCEP team utilized the integrated EventsAIR Access Control app to verify attendees’ access privileges.

The Access Control app runs on any tablet and downloads the latest attendee data before being deployed in the field. Local data storage on the device is used as Internet is not always available or maybe slow, and rapidly scanning and verifying attendees is critical.

Access Log files are regularly updated back to the cloud server so that a permanent record is kept. The Access Control app is simple to deploy and use and can provide added security for any event.

Automation in the Speaker Prep Room and real time integration with AV team

Managing speakers and ensuring the AV team has the latest version of each speaker’s presentation is critical to the smooth running of the event. At the 18th Asia Oil and Gas Conference the iCEP team used the EventsAIR Speaker Prep Room app and AV app to streamline distribution of speakers’ presentations and dissemination of information. The apps allowed ICEP staff to upload final PowerPoint slides, update speakers’ bios, photos and AV requirements and make these available real-time to the AV technicians via the AV app at the conference halls.

Attendee Mobile App

Today’s events almost always offer an attendee app – it’s a powerful tool to engage your attendees and present important information. The challenges PCOs face are always focused on cost and data integration. You want to make sure your attendee apps have the latest information at all times and housing your data in multiple locations is always problematic.

The iCEP team wanted to ensure they had complete real-time control of the app and did not want their data in multiple locations. Being able to deploy a powerful attendee app at no additional cost was an added bonus.

The EventsAIR Attendee app was completely built by the iCEP team and included attendee, exhibitor, speaker and sponsor searches, event alerts, private messaging and useful information for all. The information was coming real-time from EventsAIR and remained fully integrated in the conference database at all times.

For PCOs, a reliable, integrated attendee app is a very public demonstration of their technical capabilities. Many events have had disastrous experiences with unusable attendee apps. Others have paid significant amounts for external apps that are custom built and their first use is at the actual event. The Attendee App in EventsAIR has been engineered from the ground up to provide easy installation, intuitive content that the PCO can control, live data and a unique caching technology that shares the peak event-time load amongst hundreds of servers, ensuring attendees get an excellent experience. It is also designed to run offline for attendees without data or poor connectivity.

Cloud Power Boost

To be able to process attendees quickly onsite, as well as quickly generating reports, supporting the attendee app, live access control and all the other processes of running an event onsite, iCEP needed a powerful computing platform for all three days of the event. A unique feature of EventsAIR is the ability to scale the private cloud for an event up and down to accommodate peaks in usage.

During the event, iCEP’s cloud platform performance was quadrupled. This provided extremely fast processing, even during the peak of onsite registration. This is possible due to the unique integration between EventsAIR and the Microsoft Azure datacentres, where the scaling of the infrastructure can easily be increased at peak times.

For the iCEP team, knowing they could instantly scale up their cloud infrastructure was an important part of their risk mitigation in running a significant event.

Onsite Data Redundancy

Every event manager’s worst nightmare is to lose Internet connectivity onsite at an event. The bigger the event, the bigger the risk. While the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has excellent Internet connectivity, the iCEP team wanted a backup plan in case Internet access was lost. A laptop (Dell i7) was setup in the registration office as a backup. This laptop had a local installation of EventsAIR and the EventSync tool in EventsAIR constantly running. Every change made in the cloud was replicated within seconds down to the venue.

When the registration desk network was set up, it was connected to the venue’s Internet connection. There was also a cable from this network to the registration office where the backup laptop server was located. If the Internet went down, the registration network could be simply plugged into the backup laptop and the registration staff could continue to function as normal. When the Internet was restored, the data created on the backup server would automatically sync to the cloud and the registration network would be plugged back into the Internet.

Fortunately, this was never needed during the 18th Asia Oil and Gas Conference, but the fact it was available provided excellent insurance.

A 21st Century PCO never stops learning about and adopting new technologies that drive productivity. At ICEP’s next major event, two additional technologies will be introduced:

Online Exhibition Stand Sales

Actively engaging your exhibitors is a great way to make sure all required details are submitted in a timely manner. With exhibitors participating from all over the world, PCOs can ensure exhibition stands can be sold online 24/7 with real-time availability. Using the EventsAIR Exhibition Sales Portal, the ICEP team will be able to publish the live exhibition floor plan and allow new exhibitors to book their stands as well as upload their logos, product brochures and company profiles.

Self-Serve Check-in Kiosk

To further streamline onsite event check-in, the iCEP team can utilize the EventsAIR Self-Serve Check-in app in the registration area. Attendees can be pre-emailed their confirmation with a barcode on it. When they arrive at the event, the simply scan the barcode or type in their name at the self-serve kiosk (probably a regular laptop) and their name badge is instantly printed. If they owe money, they are directed to the payments counter and any messages waiting for them are displayed.

In Summary

PCOs all over the world strive for productivity gains from technology. The iCEP team have maximized their use of technology in a fully integrated way. By choosing EventsAIR as the solution to manage the event, the iCEP team could utilize the powerful tools native to the system instead of outsourcing different aspects to third parties. Data integrity was never an issue as there was only one source that needed to be maintained.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s