The three-day ShowUp event took place from 1-3 February 2021. It featured a virtual expo hall filled with exhibitors, speed networking events, roundtable discussions and main stage talks.
The virtual show emphasised both networking and education. Speed networking sessions randomly paired attendees with each other, allowing everyone to meet each other virtually.
With over 40 educational sessions, the event provided attendees with a range of insights from experts within the FEC industry. Each day focused on a different topic. Day one looked at new markets and revenue streams for FECS. The second day focused on Esports and emerging technology. Finally, day three finished by looking into transformational experiences for the consumer.
Over 50 innovative companies exhibited at ShowUp, including Creative Works, Hologate, Semnox, SPREE Interactive, Valo Motion and Embed.
Creative Works held three educational events at its booth in the expo hall over the three days. During these sessions, Russ Van Natta and Danny Gruening spoke about a variety of topics for the FEC industry.
At a session on escape rooms, for example, attendees learnt that having both shorter and longer length escape room options is a good idea. This allows FECs to tailor the experience for different guests, such as children or corporate team building. If your escape room is attached to an existing FEC location it is useful to have package deals to encourage people to visit both locations.
Then, during an esports discussion, Van Natta and Gruening talked about the growth of esports and explored how to create a program that generates revenue. They then spoke about the buying trends and habits of Millennials and how experiences can engage this audience in a meaningful way.
SPREE Interactive announced a new licensing partnership with VR Nerds at the show. TowerTag is SPREE’s latest, immersive esports game. This allows up to eight people to play against each other in the SPREE Arena. It currently has more than 1 million plays to date.
SPREE Interactive sponsored several educational session on the main stage, including ‘Transformations: Urban Air’s New After School Program’. Bob Cooney and Michael Browning had a fireside chat about Urban Air and how it has grown to become the fastest-growing chain of FECs in the US. Browning explained that during the pandemic it pivoted to become the largest provider of after-school programs in the US.
SPREE also sponsored ‘Gaining STEAM’. This session explored the global edutainment market and how FECs have added educational offerings during COVID as a means of survival.
VR Trends with Hologate
The second day of ShowUp started with a reception at the Hologate booth. Bob Cooney joined Dave Blank and Leif Petersen from Hologate to discuss VR trends within the industry. Attendees were encouraged to chat together in the chatbox and come on screen to join in the debate.
Petersen explained that Hologate took the past year as an opportunity to refocus, but they also installed another 55 systems around the world. A question from the audience asked about the importance of audio with VR systems.
Petersen answered by saying that many VR headsets don’t have good audio, and it’s very important because it brings emotion to the experience. He is hopeful that the technology will continue to improve for audio in VR headsets.
Later in the day, Briq Booking discussed how mobiles have changed customer’s booking and buying behaviour in the past 24 months. This session explained that it is vital for FECs to have a mobile-friendly website, because 80% of all revenue is online, compared to 70% in 2019.
The pandemic has changed the habits of visitors. They want to be able to book a time slot in advance, and so your online booking system needs to be able to do that. Briq Bookings also emphasised that mobile ordering must be quick. Customers spend 130 seconds on mobile booking compared to 155 seconds on a desktop.
Main Stage Discussions
The main stage discussion at ShowUp, ‘Profit from Teaching Kids to Drive and Fly’, saw Philippe Onillon from Drone Interactive, Scott Buell, Pierre Maalouf and Bob Cooney discuss how you can attract a new audience with drones and smart cars.
The panel agreed that drones can create a new business model and revenue stream for LBE. Philippe Onillon explained that Arcadrone costs 5-10 euros per player for a 5-minute drone game. Operators need to remain open-minded about the cost of this experience. This is because it is a unique experience and so visitors will pay a premium.
The Future of LBE VR
Jan Goetgelux from Virtuix and Tabor Carlton from LAI Games also took part in a roundtable discussion on ‘The Future of Location-Based VR in 2021 and Beyond’.
When asked what impact the pandemic has had on LBE VR, Goetgelux explained that the Omni arena already used a queuing app. This has helped FECs greatly, as Omni players are already used to using an app to queue. He also explained that “we’re turning a corner” and he is seeing gameplay stats on the rise for the Omni arena.
Carlton then spoke about the cleaning package that LAI Games provided to their operators at the beginning of the pandemic. They allow visitors to clean the VR headset themselves, so they feel more comfortable.
Brian Duke from Semnox and John Keys from Embed finished the second day. In a discussion about the future of payments, they explained that the pandemic has meant that cash is less popular now. More than 40% of Americans used cashless payment technology “frequently” in 2020.
On the final day, John Keys from Embed spoke about ‘Hygiene as Performance Art – Keeping Guests Safe and Confident’. He explained that cleaning used to be done behind the scenes. Now, it is important that operators make cleaning more visible and performative to earn the confidence of visitors.
Joe Pine, the author of the Experience Economy, ended the ShowUp event with a discussion titled ‘Transform your guests, transform your business’.