Barcodes, Badges, and Scanners at Conventions: Are You Taking the Wrong Approach?
Last Wednesday, I attended the ASI Show in Chicago with several of my colleagues. The convention was well organized and the booth variety was impressive; more than 700 exhibitors showed up to promote their goods and services! However, despite the fact that I enjoyed my time at the convention, there was one issue I felt particularly inclined to write about: the use of handheld scanners.
My scannable badge from the ASI trade show.
Each of us received a shiny badge upon our arrival at the show, complete with a lanyard and a scannable barcode. The vendors all seemed to have portable scanners attached to their hands in order to garner attendees’ contact information, and some of them weren’t coy about obtaining that information by any means necessary.
From what I could tell, there were three distinguishable scanning techniques at the ASI Show (and only two of them would be considered polite or tactful):
- The Whole Package: Vendors who chose this option were friendly and thorough. They introduced themselves, took the time to explain their products and answer questions, and spent quality face time with me before politely asking to scan my badge. Note—If you use this technique at a trade show, then you’re doing everything by the book.
- The Introduce-and-Scan: This is the condensed version of the previous approach; vendors who used this option were less thorough but still took the time to network for a minute or so BEFORE they picked up their scanners. Note–-You’re on the right track if you use this technique, but you may want to build up to the scan a little bit better so it doesn’t seem forced.
- The Stealthy Scan: Vendors who chose this method should be ashamed! These exhibitors stood at the edge of their booth areas and reached out to scan unsuspecting attendees—without any prior warning. They didn’t say anything more than “hello” (if that) and it was clear that they were only interested in meeting some sort of scanning quota (one of them even admitted this by shouting: “Help me meet my quota!” as we walked by). Note—If you use this strategy, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate your trade show etiquette! Barcodes aren’t everything.
I expected vendors to approach me and eventually ask to scan my barcode, but I certainly wasn’t expecting any scan-and-runs! It was disappointing to see so many exhibitors using stealthy scanning methods to obtain personal information. Would you think kindly of a staff member (or of a company, for that matter) who abruptly reached out toward your chest as you walked down a crowded aisle? Not likely.
Being scanned without my permission was a bit freaky and it made me feel like a faceless, nameless entity (Minority Report, anyone?). Besides, even if there is a customer scan quota to meet and you’re only interested in the numbers, there’s no reason to point that out to attendees. The sympathy vote doesn’t count for much if people don’t care about what you’re selling in the first place! And as Jana mentioned in another blog post: “The ultimate goal for your presence at a trade show or convention is not to get more contact information. It’s to get more customers.” Keep that in mind when you have your barcode scanner poised for attack!
Codes may be everywhere, but you don’t have to go scan-crazy!
However, I’m happy to report that the vast majority of vendors at the ASI Show got it right. The people who spent those extra minutes or seconds to inform me about their products prior to jabbing me with a scanner are not only the most memorable but also the most likely to receive a call back. Furthermore, exhibitors who exchanged business cards with me and had their catalogs readily available (in addition to politely asking to scan my badge) are the ones who demonstrated that they actually wanted my business. Don’t rely solely on your scanner to network for you!
General trade show takeaways from the aforementioned scanning techniques:
- You won’t get any new business from conventions if you piss off the attendees. It’s okay to come up with irresistible bait to get people into your booth, but it’s not okay to violate their personal space by trying to snag their information via barcode as they pass.
- Your time is money, but quality face time is priceless. Take the initiative to engage interested customers and you’ll go far.
- It’s an unwise decision to replace all networking with a quick barcode scan. Expand your efforts to include both traditional (business cards, conversation) and modern networking strategies.
What do you think of handheld scanners and barcode badges? Have you used any of the scanning techniques I mentioned? Don’t forget to check out Amy’s post if you’d like to see the giveaways we received at the show!