Oliver Richardson


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How to give your content more impact at events

As digital content specialists for events, we’re often asked what can be done with data-heavy content to make it more engaging and interesting for visitors at events.

Events and exhibitions are an assault on all the senses. They’re noisy, busy, colourful, lively environments in which text or data heavy content simply isn’t going to get attention.  It might be ground-breaking.  It might be revolutionary.  It might transform healthcare but unless it stands out in some way, unless it looks interesting and piques curiosity, your visitors will simply overlook it entirely.  So, here’s our top tips for giving your content more impact at events:

Bring content to life

All too often we install video walls and plasma screens which clients load up with detailed data which is utterly uninviting.  Save the paragraphs of texts and endless graphs that demonstrate your products’ brilliance for later.  Pick out the key elements of your research, or product data/benefits and look for a novel way to tell its story, to bring it to life in a way which will entice visitors to know more.  For example, as a frontispiece use a quote, a single graph, something a little cryptic or a question – something that is short and can therefore be big, gets right to the heart of the matter and will get people interested.  Or think about creating a short animation to introduce the key benefits of your solution. Animations are a great way to summarise complicated information succinctly and pictorially and we can make them really cost-effectively these days.

Get interactive

Ideally, your frontispiece will be interactive as that’s what will pull your visitors in.  If your question or graph or visual sets up the initial interest, the interactivity enables the visitor to be in control of discovering more.  Increasingly, we’ve been using gesture and motion control technology to make our interactive content solutions even snazzier.  For example, we’ve used leap motion control to enable visitors to control a 3D beating heart.  By moving their hands mid-air they could zoom in on a particular section, rotate the heart to change perspective and play animations which showed the movement of blood through the heart’s chambers.  Seeing visitors, “conducting” the movement of a giant 3D hologram heart, draws in further visitors interested to know more and get involved, and transforms your stand from  being research-heavy and data-centric to being entertaining and lively.

Engage your audience

Interactive content gets visitors delving deeper into your products at their own pace, but it’s still a relatively passive approach.  Draw the visitor deeper into your content by getting them directly engaged with the product.  For example, instead of just displaying the graphical results of a piece of research for a pharma client, we asked visitors, via a 3m by 2m video wall, what they thought the results would look like.  A graph appeared on the wall which they could then adjust – using gesture control technology and moving their arm up and down until it represented their expected results.  This got them thinking about your solution rather than just passively receiving information about it – and it looks interesting to passersby to see someone interacting with and controlling data.  The screen then juxtaposed the real results alongside their guesswork and gave them a score in terms of accuracy.  You could even create a bit of competition here and introduce a leaderboard.

Super-size me

There’s a presumption that you can’t have interactive and large-screen at the same time.  Not true.  Just because you want to make your content interactive, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on screen size – in fact, it’s vital you don’t if you want to retain impact.  Recently, we’ve been using large-scale video walls or LEDs alongside a bank of 6 ipads which each control a portion of the screen – we call this our socketing system.  When not in use, the screen shows one large-scale image or presentation, but each ipad can be used to control a particular portion of the screen so sales teams can use their ipad to fling content onto a portion of the screen to demonstrate to visitors, with multiple demos happening simultaneously.  You don’t have to use ipads for this – you could have one large screen which is multi-touch, so can be used by several different users simultaneously to provide the content they’re looking for.  Visitors are more in the driving seat with this approach but the whole screen does have to be reachable which limits its size, particularly the height – although we can get around this by installing the screen as a touchtable, so it’s all accessible.

Less is more and big is better

Size really does matter when it comes to screens at events.  The average householder has a 40inch screen at home in their living room, so are pretty much immunised against seeing small screens – in a busy environment it just doesn’t grab their attention.  The screen size obviously needs to be compatible with the stand size, but a large scale image definitely has more impact than a small one.  That said, just because a screen is large, doesn’t mean it should be filled corner to corner with information.  On big screens, keep wording succinct, use imagery over words and video over imagery and think of clever ways to make a quick impact, before the visitors eyes have moved to the next shiny thing.

Post event blues

With Christmas well and truly over, the only remaining task – which continues to hang over our heads even now in mid January – is to get the kids to write their thank you cards.  It struck me yesterday after trying to excite my 6 year old daughter with the prospect of some glitter and fancy pens for the job that writing thankyous after the whirl and excitement and frenzy of Christmas and birthdays is a bit like following up post event and responding to leads and following up introductions.  Post event, and post Christmas, the glitz and glamour and excitement has all worn off.  The job is done.  Follow-up feels nothing short of tedious.  The threat that if you don’t get your thankyous off you might never get another present from Granny is pretty weak – everyone knows granny loves giving presents.

No harm done then if you neglect your thankyous, but half-hearted follow up to an event remains by all accounts incredibly common and is such a dreadful shame and waste.  Scribbled notes, half-remembered conversations, lightpen data that’s been downloaded but not incorporated into your CRM, follow-up notes that you’ve inherited from someone else and don’t make a jot of sense.  There’s no end of reasons why follow-up might not be as slick as it ought to be, but surely there’s no excuse for it anymore?   From registration-led offerings which enable you to scan badges, to the bespoke RFID systems we offer, there’s no shortage of solutions to help streamline this process.  I reckon if my daughter could take a photo of the label of each present as she opened it, on an ipad, and have it automatically create a thank you email tailored to that person and present to be sent out at the touch of a button, she’d bite my hand off!    With the pressure to prove Return on Investment greater than ever, it really surprises me that many of our clients are still using the 6- year olds approach of hoping they can remember which present was from who or digging paper from the bin to find the label.  Maybe 2015 will be the year all that changes?

Creating lasting impressions with technology

Last month I touched on the importance of attracting and engaging visitors at a live event or experience, and the use of technology as both an attractor – piquing visitors interest – and as an engager – for example providing ways to contribute to or share an experience.  I wanted to delve a little deeper into this as it’s a topic that really fascinates me.

We’re really seeing brands raise their game in terms of the experience they want to deliver to their visitors and potential customers – they’re looking to use the live environment to full effect, to really make an impression on all the senses, and using technology to do so.  For example, the Aerospace clients we work with don’t just want to show a video of their newest product in action – they could do that on the web or through a newsletter – they want to dazzle with a showcase that not only provides a learning journey but is memorable and impactful.

For one Aerospace client, we installed a transparent touchscreen (minority report style) infront of a life-size engine which enabled visitors to interact and “virtually” strip down the engine to understand its component parts. We combined this with a “rumbling floor”, jet-engine sound effects and superimposed video content so that when they started the engine, they really started the engine!  Likewise, our Pharmacy clients are looking for something more inspirational than simply displaying some pills and bottles and handing out brochures containing their product range.  One pharma client asked us to create a 3D virtual-reality walk-through of a human heart.  We used Oculus Rift’s virtual headsets and added noise-cancelling headphone and the sounds of a heart beating in time with the animation to make it truly immersive.  We also used our paperless literature solution, which really streamlines and declutters a demonstration area and enables visitors to simply swipe an RFID tag against specific demo-points to be emailed a copy of the relevant material. It’s incredible what a difference it makes to the look of a product demo area or exhibition stand when you remove the space for displaying and storing brochures, it really opens things up.

Technology is a real enabler in these instances.  There’s simply no other way to create these kind of experiences, but it’s important that the technology adds value and makes sense of a product or demonstration rather than being “flash” for the sake of it.  Next month, I’ll start the year with some predictions for technology trends relevant to the events industry in 2015.

Capturing data without a goldfish

The ubiquitous goldfish bowl for business cards remains a staple ingredient of many events, from conferences and meetings to exhibitions and brand experiences.  Despite being accompanied by an incentive to win a bottle of champagne or an ipad, I am always surprised that anyone would add their card to the bowl knowing that they will be automatically subscribed to generalised marketing messages.  Increasingly, we protect ourselves from unwanted marketing messages by being cautious about what we exchange our details for and, more often than not, the “maybe” of a raffle isn’t going to cut it.  Marketing tactics have evolved from “push” to “pull” in recent years and I think there are lots more interesting and meaningful ways in a live environment to hook interest.

Increasingly, our clients are asking us to help them develop ways not only of attracting event visitors to them in the first place, but involving and engaging them to the point they willingly and happily share their contact details and get a memorable experience to boot which makes any post-event follow-up much easier.

For example, Oculus Rift, the innovative virtual reality headset recently purchased by Facebook, is a great way to get visitors truly engaged in an experience.  We’ve used standard games or rides as a stand-attractor – watching somebody’s reactions piques curiosity – but we’ve also created custom content that reflects a brands products or services – for example a 3D journey inside a huge beating heart combined with sound-cancelling headphones for a pharma company.  We’ve also created virtual planes to walk around and custom built games that use the brand’s characters and themes.  We can combine games with gesture-control technology so the wearer controls the game using their movements and we add a giant leaderboard screen which makes sharing contact details a given.  We’ve also created multi-user games on large-scale touch-tables to create a real buzz too – adding a leaderboard fulfils that very basic human need to perform well at something, and is also a good conversation starter.

Live opinion polls are also a really useful way of getting engagement started.  A large touchscreen shows a poll question and invites visitors to answer in order to see the collated results of the poll – we can make the results flash up quickly, to attract interest but the visitor has to answer the question to see it properly.  They can then email this to themselves, or browse through a digital collection of the brands’ white papers, educational materials and brochures , seamlessly emailing themselves any they are interested in, using our digital literature solution, ecoXpress.  More recently we have seen a huge rise in interest in our Brand Wallet solution, which uses RFID wristbands which store specific demographic data about each visitor and are then used throughout a brands stand or product launch area to trigger functionality or content that is specific to that person’s likely interests. Being able to welcome someone to your stand and immediately and automatically tailor your content to their needs – and automatically record which presentations they viewed, whether they emailed any information to themselves, how long they spent in a particular area etc oozes slickness and sophistication that a goldfish bowl just can’t quite match!

Bandwidth consumption at events on the rise

Having recently installed and then pulled-out the Connectivity Infrastructure at Farnborough International Airshow, which at over 1000 acres is, we believe, Europe’s largest temporary network, I was struck by how quickly Connectivity technology has developed to become a business critical component of events.

Only a generation ago, most offices had only a few computers and it wasn’t uncommon for staff to hand-write emails and give to a secretary to send! At that time, connectivity was through a dial-up connection which frequently cut out and had an upload speed of around 56k.  Today, most 3G connections have an upload speed of approximately 26 times that fast and we think nothing of downloading or streaming entire movies.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for an individual user to clock up 40GB of bandwidth each month by streaming movies and games and downloading content.

Similarly, we’ve seen bandwidth consumption increase tremendously at events including Farnborough International Airshow as the role of connectivity extends way beyond simply checking emails or the weather.  This year’s event saw consumption double compared to the previous event, or quadruple compared to 2010.  The number of secure connections we installed also increased, as exhibitors looked to create their own networks to manage their communications and operations securely while at the airshow.

Exhibitors, visitors, press, registration, security, emergency services, contingency planning  – all now make use of the bandwidth we provide to run their day and manage their operations in a multitude of ways.  Exhibitors wrote orders of $200 billion at the show and a secure connection was vital not just for them to confirm the orders but also for the press and media to be able to publish news of the deals taking place at the event.  Most event visitors wouldn’t even consider spending a day out of the office – let alone several – without the means to connect to their email, and keep on top of things back in the office.  And, with most mobile comms knocked out by the sheer volume of visitors to the event, the wifi – through email and social media – became the de facto means of arranging and changing meetings at the event, for everyone.

With the trend of increasing data usage on a daily basis the need for companies to be connected to high speed internet will be more and more crucial, the need for faster and faster internet speeds both download and upload is going to require a continuous upgrading of infrastructure and technology to meet their demands.  If we moved this far and this fast in two decades, imagine what things might look like in the next two decades.  We’re looking forward to the challenge!

Oculus Rift: the ultimate immersive experience (or “Bambi on ice” if you’re standing up)


We had a real blast in the office earlier this year, getting our staff to try out the new virtual reality head-set, Oculus Rift.  Check out what happened here.    The OR headset is ripe for live events at the moment.  Not only has its recent facebook acquisition propelled it into mainstream recognition, but it’s still new enough and difficult enough to get hold of that it has a novelty factor.  Add to this the involuntary gasps, staggering, swaying and gawping of a user and you can see why, when it’s used in a live event environment it attracts a lot of interest.

Some of our clients have used the OR just for the pure novelty and entertainment factor, to have something cutting-edge and different on their stand.  Others have used it to give their customers a totally immersive 360 environment which reflects their brand values or core business.  For example, it can be used for medical training simulations, a high-octane test-drive of a car, courtside seats at a game, video conferencing, virtual tours of destinations or of new architectural spaces – the list goes on.  We can also combine it with motion control technology to enable the wearer to interact physically with their environment and touch virtual buttons which actually respond.  Facebook will undoubtedly bring something new to the technology and it will be interesting to see what we’ll be able to do with it over the next few years.

In the meantime, we can create custom content for the headset and so far we’ve completed some really interesting projects including a 3D journey inside a huge beating heart  – which we combined with sound-cancelling headphones making the sound and imagery really quite spooky!  We also created a virtual aircraft hanger allowing visitors to walk around the outside and inside of a plane.  We combined it with gesture-control technology which meant users could remove the “bonnet” – or whatever the technical aerospace word for this is – to look at the electronics and engines etc.  If you’re looking to create a bespoke, immersive environment for your next event, get in touch!

As if by magic: introducting advanced motion-controlled technology to the events industry

Looking to the future

Todays’ generation take for granted the ability to navigate and control their computers with a mouse, but it’s not so long ago that computers were in monochrome, filled an entire desk and were controlled only by a keyboard and combinations of F keys.  With the rapid rise in mobile working, touchscreen technology, motion-control, voice-control and innovations like google glass, tomorrows’ generation may soon unshackle themselves from their computer desk enslavement and become truly mobile workers, the desktop consigned to the history books.

Leap Motion

At DB Systems we keep a close eye on technology developments and make sure that we are ahead of the curve in finding ways to implement new technologies that in turn makes our customers look amazing.  One such exciting new innovation that I wanted to share with you today is called Leap Motion and it has the potential to transform the way that people interact with their computers – or at the very least to be the fire-starter of drastic change.  It’s a little bit of magic, that enables control of a computer or screen through gesture alone.

Leap Motion is a USB sized device that uses infra-red motion sensing to enable computers and screens to be controlled by mid-air hand and finger gestures.  It brings the futuristic computing seen in Minority Report and Iron Man to the present day.  Tracking movements in 3D, it is accurate to 1/100th of a millimetre – and this is the key difference to existing technologies that are available; never before has a system been released with this level of accuracy.  We have used motion control for years on client projects – to control responsive video floors and video walls for example, but until now the technology has been restricted to large gestures like people walking past a sensor.  With Leap Motion, we can use this technology to allow clients and their customers to control and manipulate what they see on screen through hand and finger movements mid-air.

Leap for events

In the event environment, this technology has the ability to create a real sense of intrigue and mystery – magic even, since waving your hand, or a wand if you prefer, at a screen and having it respond is rather magical.   It can be used for sheer entertainment and attraction – for example, imagine having an air-guitar play-off on a stand where the visitor’s air-guitar impressions generate real sounds, since it identifies the finger-picking actions and movements and transforms them to music; sure to draw a crowd.  Or imagine using it to create interest in your stand with Gaming or for painting or sculpting, or perhaps a live game of Pictionary.   The novelty factor alone makes it incredibly compelling in these early days, and the use of gesture and movement makes it a natural live event bedfellow.

It can also be used really effectively to add some extra pazazz to a presentation or product demonstration.  We are using it alongside our existing product reveal solutions like our transparent screens for example, which means we can replicate the interactive Minority Report style screens and visitors can delve into a brands product image, rotate it, zoom in and explode it apart to see individual components, just by using their hands.  The space-age feel of mid-air computer control is very seductive and naturally draws a crowd of people keen to “have a go”, but it also means the visitor is able to control and delve into a product in the way they want to, to understand it, rather than watching a linear presentation which doesn’t get to the heart of their key questions.

To find out how motion-control could be used to add some magic to your next event, give us a call at DB Systems on +44 (0) 845 226 3083 or visit www.dbsystems.co.uk

5 ways that technology can help make your events more interactive

Interactive technologies

Across the spectrum, events are becoming increasingly interactive – the Olympics saw some top brands delivering experiential events which really got the public involved.  The advent of social media has turned us all into active participants, sharing our experiences and thoughts throughout the day, which raises the bar to create memorable events which give reason for visitors to talk about and share what they’ve seen.  At DB Systems Group, we spend a lot of time helping clients devise ways to ensure their presence at an event generates interest and intrigue, by providing creative ways to make their content more compelling.  For my first blog, I thought I’d share with you my top 5 ways that technology can help make your events more participative.

 1.      Mobile Augmented reality

We’ve used AR on a number of projects to help bring a particular technology or product to life with informative animations and graphics which interact with the product and user.  Mobile AR is great for delivering extra info to visitor’s palms in an innovative way – it basically enables the user to see a particular product with additional animation and information overlaid on their screen as they point their mobile at it -totally transforming real-life static displays into fun experiences.  The bonus is if you create something memorable and funny enough visitors will want to share their interactions, helping to further spread the word about your event.  Check out this very clever example at a TED event: http://youtu.be/frrZbq2LpwI

 2.      Triggered technologies

You can have a lot of fun with this technology and it’s easy to implement, we’ve used it on exhibition stands and have had people queuing to come on the stand and “have a go”.  Triggers might include pressure sensors, movement, or the completion of a specific action.  For example, on an aerospace event standing in a specific spot triggered a “rumbling floor” along with a video to mimic the start of a jet engine – we could have added wind for even more authenticity!  Another example is responsive floors which changes scene as someone walks through it – for example walking across a winter wonderland, and the lighting and image change so that it becomes summer as you walk.

3.      Minority-report style touchscreens and holoscreens

Move over Minority Report, eat your heart out Tony Stark (Iron Man) – the interactive touchscreens that were until now confined to the movies are increasingly becoming possible and have a sexy slickness which will set your event apart.  Semi-transparent holoscreens have a particularly sci-fi feel to them, tapping into the uber-cool high tech world of comic book heroes.  They can be used to jazz up presentations and encourage visitors to interact and get involved – for example, you might project the schematic of a building onto a holoscreen which users can then delve into and pan-around, getting additional information by zooming in, swiping across, double-clicking.

4.      Interactive product reveals

The recent arrival on the market of the first truly see-through screens has provided a wealth of new opportunities for us to help clients sex-up their product reveals at events.  At one event, visitors were sent a USB stick and invited to bring it along and plug it in to see the latest launch of a new  technology product– plugging in the USB triggered a video animation sequence which culminated in a stunning product reveal in which the product suddenly appears in what had looked like a black box.  Data, animation or additional info can sit on the screens that encapsulate the product, but the product can still be totally visible behind.

5.      Interactive Projection mapping

Cars, buildings, lorries – palaces! – with clever projection mapping techniques you can create stunning visual effects.  The brilliant projection mapping of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Jubilee closely followed by an awesome execution as part of the Olympics Opening Ceremony has truly put this technology centre-stage.

It’s an incredibly powerful way of creating a real wow-factor for any event.  What you may not know is that this technology can be combined with infra-red sensors to make it interactive and responsive.  We’ve created some amazing projections which are, in part, triggered and controlled by a visitor’s movements – the speed and direction they walk past the projection controls the speed and direction of the video: so stunning acrobatic displays can be suspended mid-air as the visitor pauses, sped up or played backwards depending on their movements which visitors love to play with.

Oliver Richardson is Sales and Marketing Director at leading AV and IT Hire company DB Systems Group. For further information please visit www.dbsystems.co.uk or call + 44 (0)845 226 3083