Why You Need to Know About Beacon Technology for Your Event

Deployed by Apple in 2013 as iBeacon, beacon technology was adopted first in retail marketing and soon after in the events industry. For events, beacons are a dual-purpose technology, with the ability to both track attendee activity and improve the attendee experience.

What is it? Beacon technology is a form of proximity marketing in which marketing messages can be sent to people based on their location. In retail marketing, many big brands use this technology to send customers personalized offers when they shop in-store. At live events, beacons have a wide range of potential uses. They can:

How Does Beacon Technology Work?

Beacons are typically powered via Bluetooth or near-field communications (NFC). Both methods work independently of wi-fi, but in different ways, and with different applications. Most Android and Apple phones ship with both Bluetooth and NFC support. Events can use either or both types of beacon and reach most attendees.

1. Bluetooth Beacons

Bluetooth beacons work by relaying a signal that can be picked up by Bluetooth-enabled devices. Signals are typically received as push notifications on a guest’s phone or mobile device. They can be integrated into an event app but don’t have to be associated with an app in order to work.

Because it works via Bluetooth, this form of beacon technology does contribute to power usage on a mobile device. However, it uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which consumes much less power than Bluetooth Classic. The tradeoff is that BLE has a lower range of operation than Bluetooth Classic and transmits data at a slower rate. Still, beacon technology requires only small amounts of data exchange and has a 30- to 50-meter range indoors. So even with those limitations, it’s a useful form of proximity marketing.

The main disadvantage is that your guests must have Bluetooth-enabled devices. In addition, their devices must be turned on, and BLE must be enabled. These days, most smartphones, mobile devices, and computers are Bluetooth-ready and support BLE, but the default Bluetooth mode is typically the classic version. If you use BLE beacons, it’s important to remind attendees to enable BLE on their mobile devices.

The advantage of this system is that once it’s enabled, the user doesn’t need to perform any other actions. Provided their mobile device has plenty of battery life, their BLE will remain active for the duration of the event.

2. Near-Field Communication

Rather than using Bluetooth technology, near-field communication (NFC) relies on inductive coupling to exchange information. When two complementary NFC devices are within range, they create an electromagnetic field. This produces enough energy to power a brief exchange of data between the two devices. NFC-enabled items can be loaded with software that lets them perform tasks such as relaying location, exchanging information, or making payments.

The main drawback of NFC in comparison to Bluetooth for beacon technology is range. The maximum range of NFC is around 8 inches, but the optimal range is about 1.5 inches. This means the user has to hold their NFC-enabled card or wearable near another NFC item for a few seconds to complete a transaction. However, given that this technology can be used to power contactless payments, the lack of range is also a feature that can be considered a security enhancement, as it prevents accidental transactions.

Most mobile devices are NFC-enabled. Credit cards and debit cards can also have this functionality. And it’s possible to issue event attendees with NFC-enabled tickets or wearable items they can use throughout an event.

How to Use Beacon Technology to Enhance the Event Experience

Beacon technology isn’t something you should use just because it’s there. Don’t make the mistake of sending out notifications without regard to location and context. Incorrectly used, beacons are an annoyance because those notifications take people’s attention without providing anything in return. If attendees get notifications that aren’t directly related to where they are, those notifications are pointless. And if they get too many pointless pop-ups, they’ll stop paying attention.

Instead, each beacon needs to be carefully considered, both in terms of location and context. When people pass by a particular beacon, what are they likely to be doing? And what would they most want to hear about?

Consider sponsorship booths, for instance. If one of your key objectives for an event is to drive traffic to a sponsor booth, beacons can definitely help. But it’s not helpful to send out event-wide messages to “Visit our sponsors!” People who are nowhere near the sponsorship booth can’t act on that notification right away, so it would be most useful to attendees who are near the booth.

If you approach beacons in this way, you create a network of location-appropriate messages that are useful because they’re location-appropriate. This helps you ensure that the messages people receive are relevant and actionable.

Beacons for Navigation

One of the most basic uses of beacons is for indoor navigation. GPS isn’t reliable indoors, but beacons are perfect for the role. They’re especially useful for navigation within an event app, as attendees can see their exact location within an event space. They can use the app to find their way to a specific location or just figure out where in the venue they currently are.

Contactless Ticketing and Payments

By employing NFC, an event can go completely cashless and make all ticket-based transactions contactless too. One way to do this is with a ticket that also functions as an NFC device—either a card or a wearable item such as a wristband. Attendees can check in via the event app to trigger a specialized printer to print their NFC wearable or card. They can use their NFC ticket in a variety of ways, depending on if and how the NFC is integrated within your event app.

Some options include:

  • NFC readers can be deployed at check-in points for sessions and speakers. Attendees check in by holding their badge to the reader for a few seconds.
  • Using NFC check-in also provides a real-time headcount for each session, making it easy to see when rooms are full.
  • Items can be loaded with the attendee’s contact details. Instead of exchanging business cards, they can use the NFC device to exchange information with others. They can retrieve the stored information later via the event app.
  • The NFC can have an additional function as an event wallet. Attendees can load their event wallet with money and use it to make contactless purchases from event vendors. This means there’s no need to handle money or enter a PIN into a card reader.

Push Notifications to Provide Valuable Information

Bluetooth beacons can be used to send event attendees location-specific information. Some options for using beacons in this way include:

  • Greeting attendees when they arrive at your event with an invitation to check in
  • Sending a welcome message after check-in, reminding attendees to enable the event app
  • Sending menu or food-vendor information when an attendee enters the dining area
  • Inviting attendees to visit sponsorship booths when they’re in proximity
  • Placing a beacon at the entrance to each session room for contactless check-in
  • Using beacons to remind attendees to complete post-session surveys after each session
  • Launching a product demo video or sales information for exhibitors when attendees enter their booths

Beacons to Personalize the Event Experience

Beacons can be personalized too. One way to do this is to ask attendees to fill out a quick survey, during registration or in the event app. This should be tailored to provide some insight into specific areas of interest.

With this information, you can then tailor beacons to trigger based on each person’s profile. For instance, attendees might get invitations to visit booths as they walk by, depending on their interest profile.

Another option is to create “matchmaking” opportunities by matching attendees with others based on complementary profile information. Attendees then receive a notification when they walk by an exhibitor or sponsor booth that might be of interest to them.

Attendees can also receive content suggestions based on their own tracked activity. For instance, people who attend a particular session may be invited to other sessions or booths that offer related content.

Gamification to Enhance Attendee Engagement

Beacons are the perfect technology to pair with an event app or use as a standalone option for driving gamification. Some ways to use beacons with gamification elements include:

  • Beacons can trigger an automatic check-in for a location-based scavenger hunt that encourages attendees to explore the event space.
  • Prompt attendees to take a selfie or photo for an item-based scavenger hunt.
  • Send survey or quiz questions at targeted locations.

Beacon Technology Helps Event Organizers

Using beacons at an event can vastly improve the event experience for attendees. But it can improve the event for organizers too. While beacons are quietly improving the event for attendees, every push notification, check-in, and transaction also provides data on how people behave at the event. Beacon technology provides you with hard data on how attendee traffic ebbs and flows as the event progresses. It tells you what the most popular sessions are, for how long people attended those sessions, and whether they left early. It can help you determine the most successful sponsor booth and exhibit locations. In short, it can provide you with a wealth of information that you can use to make future events even better.

Beacon Technology Can Take Your Event to the Next Level

Beacon technology has huge potential to improve the event experience, and not just for attendees. This tech can also improve traffic for sponsors and exhibitors and can even provide valuable data for event organizers. But remember: Beacon technology should add real value for attendees. With this strategy, you’ll enhance your event, increase app usage, and improve attendee engagement all at the same time.

Jack Connolly

Executive Creative Director

As an experiential creative director, Jack prefers to draw outside the lines. He tells stories with original content and impactful design to ignite meaningful conversation.


Jack brings 20 years of event industry knowledge to ProGlobalEvents. He specializes in building live & virtual platforms for audiences to connect, engage and immerse themselves in the power of a shared experience. His skills range from ideation and concept development to defining an attendee journey through storytelling and design.

Jack understands the creative process is not linear, but a collaborative process between agency and client. He manages teams of designers and technology developers to pioneer impactful brand experiences. His diverse skillset and leadership ensure for award-winning results and memorable impressions.


In 2019, BizBash named Jack one of the top event designers in North America. SXSW awarded his work the “People’s Choice in Innovation” in 2021.

Jerome Nadel

Chief Marketing Officer

Jerome Nadel is Internationally experienced design-led marketing executive (CMO and GM) with a track record of improved market position, revenue growth, and M&A. He is an advance degreed psychologist and user experience product/service design expert, board member and advisor.


Prior to joining ProGlobalEvents |ProExhibits |XtendLive, he has had a variety of chief marketing officer and chief user experience officer roles at companies including Rambus, BrainChip, Human Factors International, SLP InfoWare, Gemplus, and Sagem. He started his career in the IBM Human Factors Labs.


He is also an avid cyclist with National and multiple California State Champion titles.

Ivan Fujihara

Chief Financial Officer

Ivan brings 25+ years in senior level management experience from a variety of technology industries.  His background includes accounting management, analytics and audit management for technology companies.  He has worked with companies such as THX, Ltd, Recruitology , Double Click, Creative Labs and more.  Ivan has also served on the board of Lincoln Families, a non-profit that supports East Bay children with the objective of disrupting the cycle of trauma and poverty.

Matt Rulis

Vice President of Sales

Matt is a marketing professional and has been managing marketing strategies, campaigns and environments for a diverse client base for over 15 years. From a service perspective, Matt and his team of Account Executives focus on fostering relationships to uphold a greater than 99% customer satisfaction rating year-over-year. Additionally, with extensive experience on the client-side of the industry, he understands that alignment between expectation and budget is paramount to a successful project. As a result, ProGlobalEvents' clients can expect a competitive advantage paired with top quality products and services. Matt is an avid fly-fisherman, enjoys most outdoor activities and is a true college football fanatic.

Tom Foley

VP of Operations

Heading the fabrication side of ProGlobalEvents is exhibit and event industry veteran, Tom Foley. For over 35 years he has been responsible for building amazing exhibits and environments for clients. Tom started out in the production area and has broad experience in project and operations management. He currently oversees production, warehouse, graphics and project management departments. Tom studied machine tool technology and welding before entering the industry. As a true "builder" he also enjoys restoring and modifying classic American cars.

Dick Wheeler


Dick serves as President of ProGlobalEvents and President of ProExhibits and is a board member of CEMA (Corporate Event Marketing Association). At ProExhibits he has been nationally recognized as an innovator and driving force in the fast-growing trade show exhibit and event industry. Under his leadership in 1997, the firm received INC magazine’s INC 500 award as one of America’s fastest-growing companies. His informative articles on developments and innovations in the trade show exhibit and event industry have appeared in national trade publications. Dick has a B.S. degree from Wittemore School of Business & Economics at the University of New Hampshire and has completed the Entrepreneurial Executive Leadership Program sponsored by MIT, YEO and INC. He is actively involved in Vistage, an interactive group of over 20,000 CEO’s and presidents worldwide and is a member of CEMA and EDPA.

Jody Tatro

Chief Executive Officer

In addition to being CEO of ProGlobalEvents, Jody is also the CEO of ProExhibits. With Jody at the helm, the company has been recognized repeatedly as one of the Top 50 Women Owned Businesses in Silicon Valley. She has set the outstanding client service standards for which the firm’s account management team is noted. Jody is a recipient of the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Award, the Junior League Community Volunteer Award and is listed in Who’s Who of Women in Business. Following her graduation from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Jody held various sales positions in several technology companies.