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Indoor Navigation Systems for Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Sep 14, 2021

9 min read

By: Cara Hueston

Today's the day. Hundreds of exhibitors to see, seemingly endless rows of booths, and only so many hours in a day. How can you make the most of your next trade show or exhibition event? Indoor navigation is a great place to start. 

Guide to Implementing an Indoor Navigation System for Trade Shows and Exhibitions 

Why Indoor Navigation Systems are Important for Exhibitions 

Indoor navigation technologies greatly enhance the visitor experience at trade shows and exhibitions. Attendees and booth staff alike can access up-to-date interactive maps of your venue, see their precise location, search for various exhibitors, and follow turn-by-turn directions to their destination. Along with engaging visitors, trade show maps reduce stress and confusion and allow conference visitors to make the most of their day. 

Advantages for trade show organizers

Providing a digital, easy-to-use map of your trade show floor can make all the difference in creating a positive visitor experience and a lasting impression. Not only does indoor navigation benefit visitors, but it offers trade show organizers a more efficient platform for event management, provides sponsorship opportunities to increase revenue, and unlocks valuable data and analysis of visitor flow throughout the venue.

Due to the accuracy of indoor positioning technology, indoor maps also help trade show organizers improve the overall operations of your venue or event. Space planning, asset tracking, and efficient facility usage are just some of the ways that maps can be used to create a cross-channel trade fair solution. 

Advantages for exhibitors

Trade show navigation solutions give exhibitors an additional touchpoint to drive traffic to their booth. The most successful indoor mapping solutions don't merely show where a booth is located within the context of the building, but they also include important location details. Exhibitors can submit their company name, its description, their website and social handles, photos of their booth or products, and so much more. Digital indoor maps also make it easy to send the location of your booth to prospects ahead of any meetings, making their arrival simple and straightforward. 

Advantages for trade fair visitors

It is easy to get lost or confused in a complex exhibition hall. Arguably the biggest advantage of navigation technologies for trade shows is that they provide accurate and intuitive wayfinding for event attendees. Maps are updated in real-time and can be deployed across a number of different devices - from large touchscreen kiosks, to websites, to an application for mobile devices - making them accessible for all convention center visitors. Users can browse the map, view category listings, search for a specific exhibitor, and more. 

When an indoor navigation app is combined with indoor positioning technologies, additional location-based services are made possible. Conference visitors can view their current location on the map, helping to provide additional context about the venue and their surroundings. Users can receive turn-by-turn directions that guide them from their parking space, through the exhibition center, to the exhibitor of their choosing.  

According to Krukar and Dalton (2020) Kirchberg and Tröndle (2012),

Exhibition information affects visitors' cognition and experience.

 Creating an Indoor Navigation System for Trade Shows and Exhibitions

 1. Define the goals and objectives of your indoor map

In order to create an effective navigation solution for your event, you should first consider the goals and objectives of your map. Do you simply want to provide visitors with a way to locate various exhibitor booths? Do you want to integrate indoor positioning technologies to enable turn-by-turn wayfinding and proximity messaging capabilities? How will your teams manage the map? Where do you want the map to be available - online, on-site, within a trade show event app, or all three? 

Defining clear objectives for your map early on helps to ensure the success of your indoor navigation app. 

2. Research available indoor navigation system providers

The next step in creating an indoor navigation system is to decide on an indoor mapping solution that best suits your needs. When choosing an indoor mapping provider, there are several things to consider.

Experience & Credibility: It is important to consider the amount of experience each provider has, including years in operation, number of venues, square footage mapped, and their customer testimonials. You want to ensure that the provider creating your indoor map understands the unique challenges that come with trade shows and that they are dedicated to working with you and your team on creating a map that enhances the overall event experience. 

Flexible Mapping Editing Platform: Due to the nature of events that are hosted on exhibition grounds, it is advantageous to work with an indoor mapping provider that has a flexible and dynamic mapping platform. A powerful Map Editor such as Mappedin's allows event teams to create multiple versions of the venue map. This way, the structural elements of the building (e.g. walls, washrooms, staircases) can be applied to each map but the floor plan may look entirely different depending on the event. Indoor mapping tools allow an event planner to change the location or description of a booth in real-time. 

Out of the Box vs. Custom Mapping Solutions: Tying back to your goals for the trade show map, you should consider if you want a pre-built mapping application that is faster to implement or if you want to create more customizable navigation experience using a Mapping SDK. This will help narrow down the providers to choose from. 

Integrations & Add-Ons: Integrations can be an important element to consider when creating an indoor navigation map. What other technology or services do you want to work alongside the map? Do you want to integrate indoor positioning or indoor location tracking with your navigation app? If so, you should consider working with a provider that has experience with and recommendations for other providers in the space.  

3. Gather the blueprint and 2D maps of the exhibition

In order to create an accurate indoor map, you will need to locate the most up-to-date version of your venue's blueprint and share this with your indoor mapping provider. Mappedin creates digital maps at scale within our Map Editor by leveraging automation and our professional mapping team. The 2D maps, which can come in CAD, PDF, or even PNG formats, are converted into digital, interactive, and 3D maps. 

4. Determine key points of interests 

What are the key points of interest that visitors will be interested in? Amenities such as washrooms, guest services, and nearby food options should be clearly marked on the map and easy for visitors to locate. Indoor navigation app features that make this possible include icon markers and Top Locations, which highlights popular destinations under the search bar. 

5. Collect exhibitor details

Providing a map of your indoor environments is helpful, but on its own is still a basic service to visitors and attendees. One way to enhance this offering is by including exhibitor details. For most trade shows, this data is already being collected - everything from exhibitor name, description, and website, to key product images or promotional offerings. An effective trade show map can import this data so that it is accessible through the map for visitors who want to learn more. 

6. Categorize exhibitors and plan their location

Now that all of the map data has been collected, it is time to get organized. Category listings are another feature of indoor mapping solutions that make it simple to navigate attendees to booths. Event producers can customize which categories are available and change them depending on the trade show. If this information is included in the exhibitor details, the event manager can import category listings to have them displayed on the map. 

7. Geo-reference your data

The most important aspect of an indoor map is accuracy. By geo-referencing the map data to real-world coordinates, you can ensure that locations, the building, and the internal wayfinding paths are all accurate for visitors. You will want to ensure that the mapping provider you have selected is able to geo-reference your data. 

8. Integrate CMS data

Using APIs and data syncs, you can sync an existing Content Management System (CMS) with Mappedin's platform. This allows event organizers to have one source of truth for your mapping data, without duplicating efforts in an effort to keep trade show data up-to-date. 

9. Customize and incorporate branding

Once the foundation of the map is in place, you can incorporate your venue or event-specific branding within the indoor map for a consistent feel across platforms. Customize the indoor map by adding your company logo, your brand colours, and more.  

10. Maintain map accuracy and personalize messaging

After publishing your trade fair map to help direct visitors, it is up to you and your team to maintain the map accuracy over time. As event exhibitors change, use Mappedin's simple tools to update booth information, add additional booths to the map, or block off certain areas of the map for smaller events. Map updates are reflected in real-time, meaning event organizers can even make changes during the event, ensuring visitors have the most accurate map at their fingertips. 

11. Analyze data and improve navigation based on visitor flow

Through use of a digital map platform, a fair organizer can review detailed location analytics. Export the raw data or share pre-built reports and dashboards with your team right from the Map Editor to better understand how visitors flow through your venue. Reports include device usage, top location and category selections, Missed Searches, languages, and so much more. These insights can help you make more informed decisions around the layout of your next event. 

Trade fair maps are useful for event attendees, exhibitors, and organizers. They provide a visual way to better understand the layout of your event and save users valuable time as they navigate the exhibition grounds. To learn more about creating indoor navigation maps for different industries, read our blog or contact us for a demo today.