Forget “selfie” being the newest entry into the Oxford English Dictionary. In the world of event planning, decisions relating to the selection of an event app are more likely to be the focus of conversation—with both new and existing clients.
But what we’re noticing, sometimes even with our most tech savvy clients, is this need to “keep up with the Joneses,” regardless of their overall event goals. Sometimes they latch onto the latest shiny new app without a thorough analysis of what would be best for their event attendees or help them achieve their conference objectives. We get it. Every week there are fun new features promoted by the developers of conference apps—whether it’s live “beacons” to track and connect attendees in your event space (like a GPS), real-time activity “streams” reporting everything taking place on a second-by-second basis, or more functional conference needs like managing waitlists and room capacity for your most popular sessions. In addition, keep in mind the level of integration you’ll need with your event registration platform and possibly your CRM, along with the project management to coordinate these functions. Some companies are staffed to support these requirements, while others rely on customers to manage it all themselves—which is normally reflected in the price.
To keep our friends in the procurement, legal and IT departments content, it’s important to take into account data privacy laws (especially if you are operating in the European Union), connectivity and bandwidth in your event venue. While your U.S. attendees will probably power their smart phone from their local telecom provider, your international guests will expect a wireless signal—so will anyone using a tablet without independent internet access. Some event app providers reduce this risk by bringing servers on site to support the service, or you might consider boosting the bandwidth at the event venue after independent auditing (this can be a very wise investment.)
When talking tablets, it’s a smart idea when shortlisting conference apps to check their effectiveness yourself on all kinds of devices. Be sure the design is configured for screens both large and small, and compatible with all manufacturers. If you poll your attendees at registration, you can get a feel for their OS and offer some “loaner” units at the event for a minimal cost—for example, maybe you have a number of blackberry users who would have to rely on the web-based version of the app.
Regardless of the event app you select, there are certain best practices we suggest that are key to your success:
- Create the right kind of buzz in advance by stressing the benefits of the app through a dynamic communication campaign that is part of your event countdown
- Reward involvement with random draws for your most active users
- Make sure your employees are well-educated, savvy ambassadors through hands-on, in-person training prior to the event. Give them the confidence to assist your attendees and be your ambassadors in the field. In addition, have experts on hand to troubleshoot on demand. 85%+ adoption is achievable so reach for the digital stars!
While this might not initially sound logical, we recommend you start at the end of the process when making this big decision. Yes, budget and function are important, but think about your demographic—their needs and habits. Also think about the information you, as hosts, want to gather at the end of the event through polling, surveys and attendee session data. Is gamification going to resonate with your attendees? Will this result in sponsorship opportunities and increased engagement with your sponsors?
Maybe you have another big, audacious dream to enhance your event—something you haven’t even thought of asking for. Wait five minutes...there will be an app for that soon!