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Ever gone to a business expo and been overwhelmed with the number of business cards you’ve collected or given, or the physical quantity of information you end up with the end of the day?

Well, a potential solution’s lurking in your pocket.

A mere eight months after the idea was first mooted, a Wellington company’s smart phone event application is being taken to the world.

ShowGizmo is currently a downloadable app for Apple’s i-Phone as well as the Blackberry, with an Android version due out soon for other smart phones.

The app enables show attendees, as well as exhibitors, to receive important data such as contact details and website information direct to their phones – allowing either party to follow up at a later date.

The data swap is based on a QR (quick response) code assigned to both the exhibitor and the attendee, and carried out when the phone is pointed at the QR tag itself. Follow up discussions can be carried out later in a less frenzied manner.

“You click on that code, and effectively you get their business card, and they capture your information as well,” says ShowGizmo business development manager, Reuben Metcalfe.

The app is aimed at show organisers, who in turn offer it to exhibitors and attendees – both of whom can sign up and sign in at the event’s website. It has been designed as a multi-event platform meaning producers can use it for one or many shows and there is the potential to create a ‘white label’ product for larger venues and international event producers.

As soon as registered attendees log-in to the system, they have access to full event information, the exhibitor list, including any documents they’ve uploaded, the presentation schedule and any other information – before they turn up to the event. This means they can plan their time effectively in advance, but use their phones for real time information and updates during the event itself,” says Metcalfe.

And while attendees and exhibitors can both easily exchange information about each other, the show organisers are also able to track performance and access statistics about their event in real time. This includes interactions that are taking place around the event, what people are looking at, what they’re not looking at and who they’re engaging with.

Metcalfe says the integrated reports provide valuable information from the organiser’s point of view to help them demonstrate why certain show locations justify a premium pricing.

The idea for the app grew out of the ShowGizmo founders’ experiences in producing virtual events using a US software platform . This enabled an ‘organiser’ to host a web-based exhibition, where viewers could ‘walk’ around a show.

Establishment directors Marie-Claire Andrews and Frances Manwaring understood the sophisticated analytics generated by virtual events could bring to real world events, particularly at a time when the international recession had been battering the industry around the world and even producers were crying out for technology solutions to demonstrate value to participants and offer them connected experiences more closely aligned with how people do business today.

Their company Virtual Expos NZ was possibly ahead of market readiness says Metcalfe, but the relatively recent introduction of smart phones has opened the opportunity for a new type of exhibition information sharing.

The rapid development of the ShowGizmo platform, which is variably priced depending on the itself event as well as number of attendees expected, has also been matched by its founders’ belief in its utility.

Marie-Claire Andrews recently made a telling phone call to the organizers of International Confex in London. Confex is an expo organisers’ expo, with over 140,000 delegates and 1000 exhibitors expected to attend at the beginning of March.

As a result of that call, ShowGizmo is now to power the whole thing, providing a perfect launch pad for its business-to-business sales pitch to event producers.

Following it’s appointment of a channel partner in the UK in October, Metcalfe says the company is in the process of signing up it’s first re-seller in the United States to launch ShowGizmo there later this month .

“This model enables us to partner with people already in the event business for whom there is a lot of logic in including ShowGizmo as part of their offer,” he says.

Metcalfe says there are a few similar, products to ShowGizmo currently on the market, but we don’t believe they quite hit the mark in terms of breadth of funtionality we do–”at the moment ShowGizmo’s in a league of it’s own,” he says.

Naturally, he would say that!

Whatever the truth, there certainly appears to be an intersection of an expo market need matched by a solution.

If ShowGizmo’s still around in a year, its fit for purposeness will have hit a sweet spot of uptake.
If not, it won’t be for want of trying.