Mobile Apps for EventsWith so much focus on environmentally conscious event planning, the question often arises as to the type of collateral offered to attendees. I recently returned from an annual four day conference for which I was an organizer. In 2012, we debuted a mobile and web based app as our agenda, but were concerned about the adoption and chose to also offer a PDF version of the materials. I can tell you that it was quite a bit of work to put all of that material together!

This past year, we opted to go web/mobile only. This presented some challenges, but overall the successes outweighed those challenges by a large margin.

There were several things we needed to take into consideration prior to launching into a mobile platform.

  • Audience

    • The average age of our attendees is around 50 years old.

    • According to the Pew Internet Project’s research results, 89% of those between the age of 50 and 64 have a cell phone, but only 45% of them use a smart device.

  • Mobile Usage

    • Most of the people traveling for work use a work issued device (laptop, mobile phone). Understanding how they use their devices was key (emails and phone calls vs. apps and web surfing).

  • Will vs. Skill

    • Skill can be taught, but a willingness to use something new can make or break your program. Forethought, early marketing campaigns, how-to guides and live bodies to do onsite training are essential.

  • Convenience

    • If you are expecting attendees to learn and use something new, then you must make it convenient to do so.

  • Accessibility

    • The event location must have both wireless internet connectivity, as well as enough power stations or outlets to charge all of these devices. You can hardly ask your attendees to use their devices all day without a place to recharge them.

Prior to launching the program last year, we sent out a survey to find out as much information about our attendees as possible. We asked them about the devices they use at and away from work. We also asked them about their conference planning habits. Getting a good sense of the learning curve would help us in our advance training and marketing efforts.

In 2013, we moved into an app-only environment, eliminating the need to print and ship hoards of costly paper. Our decision was environmentally motivated, but ultimately driven by cost and visibility reasons. Let’s explore those reasons deeper from different perspectives.

  • Content

    • As an attendee, you collect paper and notes from sessions and exhibit halls. Getting home with all of that paper means you will need to revisit all of those documents, make notes, then make additional copies for other co workers that may need access to the information but were unable to attend. Having speaker notes, session slides, exhibitor brochures and my own real time notes in one device makes follow up (and travel) less cumbersome, less expensive and easier to organize my thoughts for follow ups and reporting.

    • As an exhibitor or speaker, it makes your content more readily available to additional people within an organization that may be more pertinent to your services and may not have been able to attend.

  • Marketing

    • When you hand someone a guide or sell sheet, you have no visibility as to whether it was read or passed along. Allowing PDF’s to be provided in the app allows you a deeper understanding of that document’s analytics. It also provides you an outlet to further promote yourself beyond the confines of the actual event’s four walls.

    • It also allows you to customize and update your messaging real time with interactive materials.

  • Availability

    • The larger the event, the harder it can be to find the people for which you’d like to connect. Add being the newbie at the event and you can really have a hard time networking and connecting.

    • Adding direct messaging within the attendees device allows for direct communication between those who want and need to get together. Afterall, isn’t that why we hold conferences anyway?

  • Follow Up

    • This is really important to me as both an organizer and an attendee. Having functionality like emailing all of those notes I took in the app right to my email inbox speaks to the convenience piece. As an organizer, I have full visibility on all of my event analytics and demographics from one Google Analytic account. As for the sponsors and exhibitors, it can work as a lead retrieval system without spending the extra money for one, as well as give me the capability beyond the event for my materials to be passed on to those of whom are my prospects’ decision makers.

To recap, whether you decide to move into a paperless environment will be determined by your event environment and your audience’s readiness. With plenty of preparation and a solid marketing strategy, you can make this a successful reality.