Imagine a registration area that looks more like an Apple store, with staff equipped with iPods checking people in on the spot instead of the usual long lines leading up to a registration desk. Or a bookstore area where attendees could get an association’s books, DVDs, and other products without having to lug them around all day or run back up to their rooms to stash them away before dashing back to attend a session.

If you were at Catholic Health Association of the United States’s 2012 Catholic Health Assembly, held last June in Philadelphia, you wouldn’t have to use your imagination, because that’s exactly what you would have seen. CHA’s IT department developed a special QR code configuration for its annual conference last year that not only saved time and money and made life easier for attendees, but also won an innovation award at the Aptify Users Conference.

CHA, which uses the Aptify association management system, configured a QR code function that worked with the AMS to streamline registration and the on-site store. CHA pre-printed the badges with the QR codes that, when scanned, would link back to each attendee’s information in the database, and sent them to attendees ahead of time. All attendees had to do to check in was have their QR codes scanned, grab a badge holder, and be on their way.

And, instead of having to ship several hundred of various items to stock the resource area, CHA was able to put unique QR codes on demo products, which then could be scanned along with an attendee’s QR code to automatically generate orders through the association’s database. The products then were shipped directly from the warehouse to the attendee so it would be waiting for them at home, not taking up suitcase space. It also gave CHA more insight into which type of attendee was selecting the different types of products, and enabled the association to better track who should be informed when a product update is available.

“It benefitted the attendee and the association,” says Janey Brummett, CHA’s senior director of technology. “It saved us time and money because we didn’t have to ship so many products and inventory on site and re-inventory them when they got back to the warehouse. But what was most important is attendees didn’t have to carry these things around with them, and that it made checking in easier and more efficient for attendees.”

CHA also did a “proof of concept” run on a couple of other functionalities of its QR code configuration. In the exhibit hall, exhibitors could use an iPod or iPhone to scan the codes as a different type of lead-retrieval system (they would receive information similar to what would be on a business card) for special offers and contests. And they tested the idea of scanning the codes as people entered selected session rooms to help track attendance for those who wanted to receive continuing education credits.

“We absolutely are going to use it again this year,” says Brummett, and the lead-retrieval piece will likely be in full swing, along with the registration and resource-purchasing functions. It’s still to be determined whether the session room check-in via QR code will be more useful than the manual method used now, however.

As to winning the award, Brummett says, “We were very pleased and excited that we won the 2012 Aptify Innovation award that was announced at Aptify’s User Conference in Nashville this year. We have extremely talented developers on our team that built it from the ground up, and it worked well!”