Monday, March 21, 2011

Six Reasons Why You Should Use QR Codes for Your Next Event

It’s really amazing what a person can accomplish when they have the right tools or resources for the task at hand.  Such is the case with mobile devices.  I recently abandoned my Blackberry (thankfully) , and entered the realm of Android phones.  With that transition has come a whole new world of awesome possibilities.

I made a pact with myself that every day I would learn about at least one new feature to use with my new phone.  Thus far I have done a pretty good job of living up to that commitment.  I spent some time this past week investigating QR (Quick Response) codes and other similar barcode based tools.  I am absolutely fascinated by what I learned.

For context a QR code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The information encoded can be text, URL (web address) or other data.

For a simple explanation of how the technology works please watch the following video created by my great friend Midori Connolly.  Midori also wrote a terrific blog post regarding the subject of QR Codes which is a great read.

I am surprised (pleasantly) at how simple it is to create and interpret these bar codes and there are a slew of free online tools available to do so.  Click on this link to access a website which will assist you in finding the best application for your mobile device.

Six Reasons Why You Should Use QR Codes for Your Next Event

I have been thinking about how I could weave the use of QR codes into an event strategy and realized the possibilities are endless.  So, here is my first stab at a list of functional reasons why you should use QR codes for your next event:

Reason #1:  An electronic conference brochure — On a press release, event poster, marketing video, email blast, promotional products, or even a Twitter/Facebook post include a QR Code with a link to a downloadable PDF brochure.

Reason #2:  Create a Link to Conference Website Use any of the channels identified above to distribute your link to prospective attendees.  If your event registration and/or housing process is online you can post links to these locations as well.

Reason #3:  Conference Handouts  — Post a QR code on the screen in the meeting room and participants can scan whatever the session handout into their smartphone.

Reason #4:  Post Event Survey/Evaluation — Once again, post the QR code for link to the evaluation form on the session screen, and attendees can immediately provide feedback regarding the session they have just attended.

Reason #5:  Media Access — provide access to links for event music, video archives or pictures via a QR code.

Reason #6:  Share Contact Information — speakers, or exhibitors can post a QR code with their electronic contact information and attendees can scan it into their smartphone’s contacts database, or email it to a friend/colleague.  Attendees can exchange contact information with one another by scanning QR codes embedded on their phones.

These are just a few examples of how you can use barcode technology to enhance the event experience for your attendees.  Also, I should mention that QR codes are just one of several barcode based tools available.  Another tool you should take a serious look at is Microsoft Tag.

Question:  As you think about your own event design, how do you see incorporating QR codes and other similar technologies into your business strategy?  What would you add to the list I started above?

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hurt March 21, 2011 at 7:32 am


Good points. Let me present the opposite side of this…

I recently presented to a group of people that were furious with their conference planner because she had implemented QR Codes for all conference materials.

The challenge? She made several false assumptions. She assumed everyone attending the event had a smart phone and could download apps. She assumed that their members all had the QR Code reader on their smart phones. She assumed that everyone was familiar with the technology and using it. She assumed that she didn’t need to provide any education on how to use it or why she was using it. She assumed that she didn’t need to provide any other options for electronic information.

The result? She no longer works for that organization. This conference planner had good intentions and forgot a to implement a change management plan before the event.

I am all for educating people on new conference tech tools…when we provide the proper pre-event WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and a roll-out plan.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

Hey Jeff,

Well your point is certainly valid. Implementing new technology without a roll-out plan is pure foolishness. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Using QR codes for events is definitely a step outside the box for most organization. It might even make a good blog article to outline the steps to make a change of this type happen.

Hmmm … I think I see a blog post coming.

Thanks Jeff for contributing to the discussion.



charlie March 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

At Signatures Embroidery and Printing ( we’re excited about the future of QR (2D) Barcodes. We embroider and print them on shirts, caps/hats, towels, beanies, bags, etc. We’ve found our customers like the idea of making their logo’d items interactive.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for sharing your use of QR codes. I will have to check your site out.

I am excited to see where this technology goes in the event biz.

Appreciate your contribution to the conversation.



Midori Connolly March 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Charlie, I LOVE this idea!! I’ll definitely get in touch with you offline.


Drew Hannush August 16, 2011 at 7:18 am

I do agree that we must remember, only 1 in 3 people owns a smartphone and only 10% of those have a barcode reader on their phone. However, by providing this option, I have found people have been very willing to download the barcode reader, but always ask which one to get. Having a ready-made list is very important for each of the 4 major phones. Good to see Charlie making use of them…he is building awareness for them. We saw great potential in them as well and created software to give those multiple options you discuss (download links, social media links, videos) all on one mobile landing page. I think its the creative use at events, and the convenience that will make these win in the long run. Giving people value when they scan is what will make them grow.


Kari Rippetoe March 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for a very helpful post, Michael! We try to implement QR codes where we can with our event clients, but we’re careful to consider the audience first. Some events are more conducive to QR codes because the attendees are more technology-driven/focused, early adopters, etc. Jeff makes an excellent point about not making assumptions about your attendees when it comes to QR codes.

Here’s another way to use QR codes for events: if your event has a mobile app, create a QR code that goes directly to the download site. No typing in a URL on your mobile browser!


Michael M McCurry CMP March 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hello Kari,

Love your idea about creating a code for downloading an application. I could see many uses for that in the context of events.

Thanks for stopping by McCurry’s Corner!



Emily Breder March 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

There are a lot of great suggestions here! QR codes are a great way to take a 2D surface and make it into a performative. People love action items!

QR codes are still in the adaptation stage, but that’s no reason not to experiment with them. I wrote about some interesting ways people are using QR codes for charity a while back on the eEvent blog. But still, there is a learning curve.

A good way to get people thinking about them in a fun way is to do a QR code treasure hunt. I’ve interviewed several people that did fun games with trivia, treasure hunts and other games to help people start using QR codes creatively. They take a picture of the code and it takes them to a web page or provides a photo that gives a hint as to the next location, or poses a question to lead them there. If you do it in teams, all you need is one smart phone per group.

The app I work for has used all of the suggestions people have made here- from virtual ticketing, t-shirts and business cards, and of course there’s one to download our app too (still in beta testing). It will be interesting to see what develops from this once it passes the tipping point!


Michael M McCurry CMP March 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm


I am very intrigued by your treasure hunt. Do you by chance have any documentation outlining the steps that you took to set this up and explaining more about the actual treasure Hunt program?

Would love it if you could share that information with me, or if you would be interested in doing a guest blog article, I would be receptive to that.

Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation.



Emily Breder March 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Sure! I messaged you on Twitter, but you can probably see my email here too.

Looking forward to it!

Midori Connolly March 21, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Hey Buddy!
Thanks for checking out my post Mike, I’m glad you found it useful!

Lately when I see a phone number or website that I want to remember, I wish I could just scan a QR Code really quickly to store for later. Like when you hear a radio commercial and can’t remember the number? Well, a QR Code solves that annoying challenge.

I was at the Philly car show and a few of the cars had QR Codes on them. Thought that was a great idea.

@Kari – LOVE your idea! So much easier than typing in the URL.

@Jeff – It’s shocking that the planner didn’t provide *any* alternatives to QR Codes! This should always be an either/or (not a substitute) to satisfy all of the different preferences/abilities. What a shame.



Michael M McCurry CMP March 22, 2011 at 8:19 am

Hi Midori,

Loved your blog post and your video rocked.

That was a great point about offering alternatives along with a QR code.

We will hopefully soon see wider adoption of the use of them in all aspects of business.

Thanks for adding to the discussion.



Karen Brown March 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Excellent article, Mike (and Midori!).

I’ve been toying with a QR Code scavenger hunt for so long I had blinders on to all the other great ways we could be using them to enhance our attendees’ experience. Now trying to figure out how to fit at least some of this in before our big event starts in six days!


Michael M McCurry CMP March 22, 2011 at 8:14 am


How bout a “know before you go” article with a QR code to access it. You could embed it in an email.

I am really excited about using these for lots of things.

Thanks for stopping by and for your contribution to the conversation. Would love to hear more about your scavenger hunt.



Myles Nye March 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for this great article. We were early adopters of QR codes in the US and have discovered a couple terrific management sites. Specifically, we love BeeTagg ( and Microsoft Tag reader ( Along with all the advantages of QR codes, they are fully customizable – you can put your logo in them – and Microsoft Tags come standard with info on how to download the app onto your phone. Try one and see! You’ll find that these slightly less well-known QR code managers can serve your needs even better, and are prettier, than the traditional black-and-white blocky model.

And we have a QR code scavenger hunt! We think we might be the only team building company that offers this service:


Michael M McCurry CMP March 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Hi Myles,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback with us.

I will have to check out BeeTagg .. I am familiar with Microsoft Tag.

I will also watch the video.

Appreciate your adding to the conversation!



Emily Breder March 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

By the way- I just made the switch from Blackberry to Android myself. So worth it! Better than a tricorder.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm


I couldn’t agree with you more. My days as a blackberry user are just but a distant memory thank God. Which model of android did you end up purchasing?

Thanks for stopping by,



Emily Breder March 30, 2011 at 8:39 am

I chose a Galaxy S Vibrant. I wanted the larger screen, 4G and a decently sized touch keyboard. I wish there was a better program for typing on the keypad than Swype, but other than that I’m very happy with it. It’s light and thin and takes great pictures.

I might not have chosen so well if I didn’t work for an Android app developer, truth be told. They vetted me thoroughly on the pros and cons of each model and gave me lots of great tips.

The best part of the transition was the ease of it. I never migrated anything from my Blackberry at all- just signed into all my Google accounts and various web applications and it populated my phone with all my content (contacts, calendars) and connections to documents. It was totally painless.

Which model did you get?


Seth Shoultes April 4, 2011 at 12:35 am

We are using customizable tickets with QR codes that can be scanned by iPhone and Android phones. Our system is an event registration and management plugin for WordPress, so anyone with a self hosted WordPress blog can use or ticketing system.


Michael M McCurry CMP April 6, 2011 at 9:25 pm


Thanks for sharing the information regarding use of QR codes with ticketing.

Its really exciting to watch all the ideas unfold regarding ways to apply them to events.

I appreciate your added comments to the conversation.



Linh Tran December 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Great article. Many people overlook or simple doesn’t understand the concept of QR code. This article surely will help QR code get some recognition and help the general population be more aware of its value. An online tool where you can put some of these great ideas to practice is


Vlad February 7, 2012 at 7:51 am

QR code is a great invention people made. I’m making mobile apps currently and find it really cool to implement QR codes into them. I’m amazed at QR code coupons app builder allows to create. They are really helpful for small businesses.


Sayer Martin March 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

QRs may be ugly, but they are sure useful. For post-event feedback, check out — one is automatically generated when each feedback form is created, linking directly to it. Thanks for the post, Mike.

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