Technology Overview: DoubleDutch Brings Social Media to Conferences & Tradeshows
As apps become as ubiquitous to large-scale events as cheese and crackers are to receptions, a planner could have a difficult time choosing the right product. International Meetings Review will be spotlighting several different apps over the coming weeks, looking at what makes each one unique.
This week, we spoke with Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch, a customizable mobile event app that has been used by companies like Cisco and Wells Fargo.
DoubleDutch did not originally start out as an app, but as a platform for global social networks. As social media made sharing both personal and professional information easier, Coburn and his team saw a similarity to sharing information in business events. “We built the app on a social foundation instead of adding social features on an event app foundation,” he explained in a phone interview. When event attendees go to hear a speaker or sit in on a session, they can “check in” and post public comments about what they’re doing, sharing their personal experiences and getting tips on what else to see and do.
“The other side of the coin is that we put an emphasis on data,” Coburn continued. As attendees check in and rate speakers, the event administrators can get valuable data in real time. While attendees check in at sessions and share their schedules, organizers have access to a real-time dashboard showing the data as it comes in. “They can see trending sessions, trending speakers,” Coburn said. “They can see survey results as they come in, or ratings for speakers.”
And that information, he continued, is invaluable for creating an effective conference or tradeshow. “A lot can be done in terms of illuminating the event analytics in terms of data,” he said. “Those two things are two sides of the same coin. The more people use the app, the more data they generate, and the more data they generate, the more event organizers can create better events.” He compared an event to a professional website, which would be nearly impossible to run effectively without an analytics package. “You wouldn’t know how to manage the pages or see what people are visiting,” he said. And as with website analytics, information gathered at events can help organizers understand what attendees like, want and need.
Ultimately, the real-time data gives both organizations and organizers the ability to react on the fly to how people are engaging with the event. And after the event is over, DoubleDutch has a data scientist on staff who goes through the data set to find what content “resonated” the most. The client can use the data to determine what speakers they want to ask back for the following year, or see what exhibitors didn’t get enough traction on the trade show floor.
DoubleDutch’s newest development is software-based lead scanning that lets exhibitors use the app to scan badges as people come up to their booth, getting all of the attendee’s vital information...as well as information on what sessions they attended and comments they made. “It gives you context for how to speak to the person at your booth,” Coburn said.
While scanning badges has been a practice for events and trade shows for years, suppliers would generally get only one scanner that could not leave the event space. “When a booth has five people and only one scanner, only one person can use it at a time …Then you have to keep it charged, and if you go to networking party, you wouldn’t have it with you.” By turning an ordinary smartphone into the scanner, Coburn hopes to see the meetings expand beyond the walls of the booth, hotel or convention center.
“There are a lot of leads in an event environment that an exhibitor never finds out about,” he continued. “If I have a booth, I go home with the leads I scan. What about the people who are too busy or are in meetings or couldn’t find the booth? How do we connect them with buyers?” To that end, users can enable a virtual “Scan My Badge” feature in the app that lets attendees exchange contact information with the tap of a button.
So will contactless exchanges like “Scan My Badge” become the norm? Coburn thinks that they will become more relevant at conferences and trade shows, but they will never replace real face-to-face meetings. “Digital is great—I mean, we’re betting the farm on it—but it won’t replace face-to-face. What we may see is more hybrid events.”
Coburn is also betting heavily on the staying power of social media and people’s willingness to share their insights with peers. “Social gestures generate a lot of data,” he said. “We use data to help our customers, but we want to extend that power to the exhibitors on floor. What we announced today—the lead scanner and the virtual scanner--lets people use data to connect in a way that will generate more ROI, so they’ll come back next year. It’s a better experience for attendees, and we will keep going down that path.”
Of course, with so much information being shared so quickly, privacy becomes a significant issue, which Coburn acknowledges. “The only info we share with the exhibitor is public from the event app,” he says. “When people use it, they set up their profile…The only information we give is already in the public domain.”