Earlier this summer, I attended the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) annual gala lunch. The organization was celebrating its 40 year anniversary and several very fabulous accomplishments, too. The RSVP list was HUGE (I’ve never seen Washington, DC’s Hilton as crowded as it was that day), the menu was set (grilled chicken salad served on a bed of micro greens), and the speakers were confirmed (including First Lady Michelle Obama)! There was just one problem:
The First Lady’s presence required all guests to be screened through a metal detector which meant long lines of event goers waiting around with nothing to do.
Have no fear! In the weeks leading up to the event, the smart minds of the NPWF staff were hard at work with a plan to not only entertain guests while in line, BUT add value to their luncheon experience with the use of a little technology.
Here’s how it went down:
When I arrived at the event, I was presented with a ticket with my table number on it. There was a QR code printed on the ticket which, when scanned by my QR code reader on my smartphone, took me to a fabulous little site which included the seating plan for luncheon, the luncheon program, the video that was shown at the beginning of the lunch, and links to the NPWF twitter feed and Facebook profile.
I know what you’re thinking: I have no idea what a QR code is and that link to the Wikipedia article isn’t going to cut it. So, allow me to take a moment to explain what I’m talking about.
QR codes, short for “Quick Response” codes, are similar to barcodes, but with more web savvy pizzazz. When scanned using an app for your smartphone, they automatically take you to a website, image hosted on the web, calendar invite, series of text, or other types of content. They make copying and pasting URLs unnecessary and the Convio team is all about ‘em! In fact, my colleague Jonathan just posted something yesterday on this here blog about this fancy pants topic. Check it! I told you, we’re ALL about ‘em. And QR codes can be created really easily (and free of cost). There are a bunch of websites and mobile apps that’ll whip one up for you in seconds (check out this list for a few of the best).
So, back to my lunch date with the First Lady. The fun times I had on the NPWF mobile site kept me entertained while in line and enhanced my experience at the luncheon itself. I knew exactly how to find my table in the sea of the ballroom, previewed the video so I could turn my attention to live tweeting when it was shown to the whole luncheon crowd, and connected me with two great social media outlets so I could share the experience with my 2,500 Facebook friends (yes, that’s right, I love Facebook).
In addition to the QR code and mobile site, NPWF also had tons and tons of helpful and friendly volunteers greeting folks in line, answering questions, and keeping things moving while we waited. This was another very smart tactic since it added a little human connection and positive energy to a situation that would otherwise feature masses of cranky, hungry event participants.
I applaud the NPWF for their very savvy use of a QR code and a mobile site!
So now that you have a good feel for how much I enjoyed the NPWF luncheon QR code, I thought it would be useful to discuss a few other tips to make use of these funky black and white squares.
Direct Mail: Consider putting a QR code on a direct mail piece! USPS will even give you a 3% discount if you do so before August 31.
Membership Cards: Another great idea for QR codes is what Convio client WQED is doing — they’ve put a QR code on their membership card so members can scan the code and go directly to a smartphone enabled site that has a listing of all the member benefits. So when folks are out and about, they can quickly and easily access that information.
Mix It Up: Get creative with where you put QR codes! Here is an extensive list that was featured on the Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog earlier this year.
Beware: Before you plaster your office with QR codes directing folks to a mobile optimized donation form, check out this helpful article on QR codes gone bad. HINT: remember to test the code and link to sites that look good on smartphones.
To the Beltway, and Beyond: Advocacy friends, don’t think QR codes are just about the dollars. Epolitics has a whiole bunch of exciting ideas about ways you can incorporate QR code fun into political campaigns.
Form AND Function: Remember that QR codes can be stylish too! Here are 15 examples of well accessorized QRs.
And in the category of the most juicy Connection Café cliffhanger ever, consider this: we’ll be doing some very fancy things with QR codes at the Convio Summit in October. Join us there and experience the QR fun for yourself!
PS—One thing that is really important with QR codes is to make sure the place you’re sending people that use them is going to look good on a mobile device. If you’re using Convio CMS, don’t forget to check out the Summer 2011 release goodness all about mobile detection and sites that play well with smartphones. Just saying…