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networkNow: Exhibition Management and Attendee Matchmaking [Review]

By Becki Cross

networkNow is a trade show management and marketing tool. Here is our review.

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networkNow: What Is It?

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Networking is one of the primary reasons why people attend events, especially when it comes to B2B trade shows, where connections and meetings mean business. Finding the right people to meet can be challenging and time consuming but is important for ROI and the positive lasting impression left by the event. This part is often overlooked by organisers or not always facilitated well. networkNow aims to maximise networking opportunities to satisfy both attendees and exhibitors goals. The platform can even handle complex hosted buyer scheduling which is a vital and emerging model for many modern events.

The Main Categories of Features Are:

Exhibition and Floor Plan Management
Exhibition organisers can manage different elements of the show via one online portal including floor plan management tools. The exhibitors self-service portal allows them to populate their own data via the site.

Networking and Matchmaking
Exhibitors and event attendees can find matches based on precise criteria and network with them in a secure environment. They can set up appointments which are automatically synced with their personal schedule and can be exported to their preferred calendar.

Marketing
Exhibitors can add interactive content to their eBooth, including a product gallery, press releases, videos and show specials. There is also the option to purchase additional opportunities such as adding their logo to the interactive show plan.

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Review

The product is fully supported and a dedicated project manager is allocated to assist event organisers through the setup process. It isn’t a quick solution though, depending on the size of the event and on how much content you have to add it will take between 4 and 6 weeks to set up networkNow for your event and this needs to be done early in the life cycle of your event. The solution can be a bit overwhelming for some small and simple events and may also be beyond their budget. As a guide, in the US the site should typically be set up 9-11 months ahead of the show, whereas in Europe the cycles are much shorter and will generally be set up 4-9 months ahead, so bear this in mind when forward planning and considering using the platform.

The website is customisable and configurable to your event. It can be used as a standalone site or integrated as a microsite within your existing company website. It is responsive and works on any device for a consistent streamlined experience. networkNow can integrate with a2z powered event websites and mobile apps, as well as other partner systems via an API.

The solution offers a high touch and high tech experience for your exhibitors and attendees. It helps exhibitors to get the most out of their commitment to exhibit and for attendees to get the most out of attending the show. The floor plan is interactive and operated by pinch and zoom on touch screen devices. eBooths can be viewed directly from the interactive floor plan.

Exhibitors have the opportunity to add rich dynamic content and it puts your exhibitors in control as the main content producers. This does mean that the exhibitors have to commit to populating their own information, but of course it is in their own best interests to do so. It may however be good practice to assign a content moderator who can regulate and monitor the content being uploaded if needed, although assigning extra time for this may be difficult for some smaller event teams.

Different demographics consume data differently so having the options for text, pictures and video is a wise move. There is no limit to the amount of data that exhibitors can upload to their eBooth, dozens of products can be added from each exhibitor if they wish. As an event manager you need to make sure that all your exhibitors are aware of these features and know how to upload content. The platform offers support for exhibitors to do this also. It is also important to make sure the attendees know how to use it and that they set their accounts properly.

The Pinterest style product gallery displays all products and allows the attendee to search and drill down and contact the exhibitors selling the products they are interested in. This can even the playing field for smaller exhibitors at the show against the big players.

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The platform allows organisers to automate, expedite and increase exhibition sales with the potential to sell much sooner in the show cycle. It is possible to implement variable pricing options based on parameters specified by the organiser to improve the yield per square metre. There is the opportunity to secure additional revenue by selling additional sponsorship or visibility through the platform. Contracting can be handled through the platform with secure electronic legal contracts which can be accessed anywhere, eliminating error prone paper forms. Invoicing and e-commerce can be handled via the tool to accelerate cash flow and automate reminders. Financial reports and reconciliations can be prepared. These tools can help to save time for the busy event planner by keeping everything streamlined via a single system.

It is possible to determine access levels and share specific updates with contractors and other suppliers directly from the platform without exposing data you don’t want them to see. Configurable reports allow organisers to easily monitor and manage the inventory and process. It is possible and handy to be able to compare analytics across different shows and also from year to year.

The system recommends matches for exhibitors and attendees and allows them to search for new connections. The matches are triggered by the information entered during the registration process and a relevance score is given. It also looks at other behaviours such as sessions booked and exhibitors favourited. Exhibitors can view matched leads and view buyers that have favorited them or are looking for the products and services they are showcasing at the event to give more and better qualified leads pre-show. Attendees and exhibitors can then contact relevant matches via the system and build their own meeting schedule alongside their session itinerary. The calendar can be exported to Outlook or Gmail calendars. Time saved in manual hosted buyer scheduling and updating is estimated to be around 50-100 hours per event. Of course once again this does rely on the individual entering correct and detailed information to ensure the best matches.

Organisers select the privacy settings and opt-out levels. The organiser can decide whether to display the name and contact details or just to give the job title/role. Exhibitors can only send 20 emails unless they buy more to avoid spam and improper use. Attendees can however opt out completely of being contacted.

Features

Exhibition and Floor Plan Management

- Multi-event, multi-year system
- Full historical data across all events
- Manage contracts and invoicing via the portal
- Send confirmation and reminder emails in bulk or individually
- Show organisers can collect and confirm roles of multiple contacts from an exhibiting company
- Floor plan management to coordinate floor plan layout, booth assignments, pavilions and non-exhibit space.
- Manage exhibitor booth moves, upgrades, downgrades and cancellations
- Self service portal for exhibitors to populate their own data including online and print directory
- Exhibitors can access the exhibitor manual and other important information online
- Invoicing and e-commerce is possible via the tool.
- Prepare financial reports and reconciliations.
- Analytics
- Works on any device

Networking and Matchmaking

- Matchmaking based on precise matching criteria
- Unlimited search criteria
- Personal schedule/agenda
- Appointment requests - appointments sync with the personal calendar and will add successfully or advise that the other contact is busy at that time.
- Export schedule to Outlook or Gmail calendar
- Messaging feature via the system (no email addresses shared)
- Write notes

Marketing

- 100% customisable
- Fully responsive website
- Self-service platform for exhibitors to populate their online and print data
- Export of data for the show guide
- Search tools to help attendees find the exhibitors and products they are interested in
- Add rich content including video, pictures and documents
- Attendees can search galleries of products, press releases, videos, show specials, social media listings, contact details.
- Exhibitor upsell opportunities including sponsorship, enhanced eBooth listings, additional email credits and adding company logo to the interactive floor plan
- Media can search press releases and content for specific keywords
- Attendees can add exhibitors to their favourite list and create a personalized printable walking map
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Who Is It For?

networkNow is aimed at organisers of trade shows, exhibitions and expositions. Larger exhibitions, B2B trade shows and those with hosted buyer programmes are likely to get the most benefits from the platform, however the sliding pricing scale means that it should be considered for all sizes of exhibitions and can potentially grow with your trade show.

Pros and Cons

Pros
- Full support for the event organiser from a dedicated project manager. Support is also available to exhibitors and registered attendees.
- Interactive floorplan which can be updated in real time.
- Increased attendee engagement and ROI with attendee matchmaking and scheduling.
- Can be integrated with your current event website or be used as a standalone platform

Cons
- Allow 4-6 weeks to fully set up the platform for your event.
- May be too pricey for some small trade shows or exhibitions in the first year.
- If attendees don’t upload their information properly it can be difficult for exhibitors to find the right matches.
- As an exhibitor you can send only a limited number of emails as standard (20), but you can buy more.

Pricing and Plans

The pricing is determined by the size of the event and number of attendees. Typically the cost is between $3 - 20k USD.

In Conclusion

networkNow can help organisers, exhibitors and attendees to get more out of the trade show experience by boosting networking and business meetings, resulting in increased ROI and hopefully leaving a positive lasting impression which will encourage them to attend or exhibit again next year.

This is not a quick fix solution, taking 4-6 weeks to setup and it needs to be integrated early in the exhibition planning process, however having a dedicated project manager to help with the setup process is a big advantage.

While the platform may be a bit overwhelming and complex for some smaller events and require lots of time and human resources to set it up, it can deliver value to the event's stakeholders. The platform can help your event attendees to meet their networking and business goals, which is ultimately the organisers goal too.

Disclosure: Reviews are paid for placements. While Event Manager Blog receives a fee to extensively look at the tool and review it in detail, the content of the review is independent and by no means influenced by the company. If you have any question please use the contact us section.

about the author

Becki Cross
Becki Cross is Managing Director of Events Northern Ltd, a UK event and conference management company established in 2004. Becki set up the business in her early twenties and is particularly passionate about conferences, innovation, entrepreneurship and the legacy of events. Becki is also the Deputy Editor, Community Manager and Contributor to EventMB, her dream job alongside event planning! Follow Becki via @beckitrain.
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