Biggest Mistake Associations Will Make in 2013: Postponing Mobile Strategy Development

The adoption rate of smartphones and tablets is not slowing down. In fact, nearly half of American adults own a smartphone, and the number of tablet owners has doubled since summer of 2011, to 18% of American adults
(Pew Research).

Yet, even with the overwhelming evidence that smartphones and tablets are not going away, many associations are still hesitant to implement mobile event apps.

.Why Associations are Putting Off their Mobile Strategies

Some of the greatest challenges we hear associations facing, and why they are hesitant to move forward with mobile event apps for their annual meetings and conferences are as follows:

  • The introduction of wide-ranging technologies. It seems like there is a new technology developing every day, expanding the number of ways you can reach your members at your annual meetings. But how do you determine the best way to reach your unique membership base? Is it through social media websites like LinkedIn and Twitter? Should you develop a mobile event app? Or, maybe you should create an online content library for your members and attendees, which you can also use to attract new members? Moreover, which technology will still be relevant tomorrow?
  • Your membership base is as diverse as it has ever been before (and so is the generational gap). Generations X and Y are tech-savvy, have a short attention span and not only want, but expect information and content when they want it and how they want it. At your annual meeting, they want to be able to access all of your conference content via their smartphones and tablets. And since, undoubtedly, the Internet connectivity is going to be limited at your conference venue, offline access via a mobile app better be available. BUT, if you get rid of your printed conference proceedings and session handouts, you better believe you’re going to receive phone calls from your Baby Boomer members about how they don’t want to download your mobile app to get the annual meeting proceedings; they’d very much prefer them in print. (If only your association budget was endless, right?)

These challenges have left many association professionals at a standstill, sticking to the technologies they know and are comfortable with and ignoring the fact that advancing technologies like mobile are not going away.

Jump Start Your Association’s Mobile Strategy

It is time to stop postponing the inevitable, and start implementing your association’s mobile strategy. Start small by testing out a mobile app for your annual conference. If your members adapt well, you can consider a mobile app for your association later.

Need Help Getting Started?

Check Out Our Latest White Paper

Implementing a Mobile Event App: 7 Steps to Choosing the Right Mobile App For Your Conference
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5 Resources to Prepare for the Mobile Technology Takeover

tips for mobile appsAccording to Morgan Stanley Research, by 2014 Mobile Internet usage will surpass desktop Internet usage.

Is your association ready for the mobile takeover?

Don’t worry; there’s still time to prepare.

5 Must Read Resources on Mobile Technology

  1. [Infographic] Mobile Content: Usage and Expectations
    Get the facts on mobile content: What’s happening now and what’s going to happen in the future.
  2. Mobile Technology and Associations – Still Confused?
    Does your association want to embrace mobile technology, but just not sure how? You’re not alone; many associations are still scratching their chins. Here are four things we DO know about mobile technology.
  3. Going Mobile: Websites and Apps
    Did you know more people own a mobile phone than own a toothbrush? Despite the disturbing nature of this fact, we cannot question the importance of making sure the content on your association website or in your digital publishing platform is mobile-friendly.
  4. 5 Reasons to Build a Mobile App
    Need a reason to justify building a mobile app? We’ll give you five.
  5. The Attendee Addiction to Smartphones and Mobile Apps
    Are your annual meeting attendees more focused on their smartphones than your keynote speaker? Learn how to turn this problem into a solution!

Do you know of more helpful mobile resources? Please share in our comments section below!

The Attendee Addiction to Smartphones and Mobile Apps

Are your attendees constantly checking their iPhones during conference sessions?

Don’t worry. They aren’t bored or trying to be disrespectful to your speakers. It simply an uncontrollable impulse!

A 2011 study featured in the journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing shows the average person checks their phone 34 times a day. These checks are not out of necessity, but because they’ve developed “checking habits” where they need to repetitively check email and mobile apps like Facebook. The authors say people like the positive feeling of importance that is associated with a new email or update.

So, how do you compete with your attendees’ uncontrollable checking habits?

Well, you know what they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Go Mobile with Event Mobile Apps

If you can’t take attendees’ attention off of their phones, then bring your conference where their attention is… their mobile apps! Mobile Apps for events are becoming an increasingly popular way for meeting organizers to keep their conferences and meetings interactive, innovative and engaging.

5 Reasons Mobile Apps Improve Your Events

  1. Attendees stay informed. A mobile app is a great place to post important event information such as location changes, sponsor deadlines and schedule updates. You can even include a RSS feed to your association blog to keep attendees updated on the latest event news.
  2. Your association generates more revenue. By creating an event mobile app you are also creating more sponsorship opportunities! If you’re including an exhibitor listing on your mobile app, you could offer “premier logo placement” where exhibitors could pay a fee to have their logo featured at the top. You could also encourage local restaurants and hotels to include sponsorship ads as well.
  3. Attendees can personalize their conference experience. Attendees should be able to create a profile on your conference mobile app with contact information and messaging capabilities. Many event mobile apps allow attendees to create a personal itinerary including the sessions they plan on attending, and connect with other individuals who plan on attending those sessions as well.
  4. You create a more engaging conference and increase networking. By allowing attendees, speakers and sponsors to create profiles, they are able to easily connect before the conference which leads to greater engagement at the actual event. In addition, you can increase social engagement by sharing Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn feeds on your mobile app. Many conference apps have even enabled live polling/surveying and discussion boards to keep attendees engaged during sessions.
  5. It’s easier to measure conference success. Analytics can be integrated into your mobile app so you can gain insights to attendee’ preferences and behaviors year round. This is yet another great way to measure access to your association content; providing a more accurate measure of your ROI.

What are some of the best event mobile apps you have seen?

Learning About The New Body Language With Janine Driver

As Janine Driver, Body Language Expert, made her way from the back of the Grand Ballroom to the front at HSMAI’s MEET Mid-America, she shared with us just how much we say before we even open our mouths to speak.

“This guy’s legs are so far apart under the table it’s like Britney Spears getting out of a limo.”

During her session, “You Say More Than You Think: How to Use the New Body Language to Get What You Want,” Driver explained that before we even speak, we tell our friends, co-workers and current and potential clients exactly how we’re feeling, which sets the tone for the conversation to come.

Sworn to Secrecy: The CIA Oath

Before sharing the secrets of the new body language, Driver made every session attendee stand up, hold up their hand and take the CIA Oath:

“I swear to use the new body language for good, not for evil. I swear to keep the new body language within the walls of this room. And for those MEET participants who choose not to come to this session, but could’ve, screw them.”

Since I took the oath, I can’t share all the secrets I learned, but I’m willing to share a few…

What’s Wrong With The Old Body Language?

Before we get into how Janine Driver defines “new body language,” it’s important to take a look at how we generally view body language and why that’s wrong.

The problem with old body language, Janine explained, can be exhibited in two examples:

  1. “Bill Clinton’s ‘Yes’ Nod”: As Bill Clinton stood before millions of Americans and said he was not having inappropriate relationships, he shook his head “yes.” He said no as he was shaking his head yes.
  2. “Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘No’ Nod”: Martin Luther King stood on top of the Lincoln Memorial shaking his head “no” while he was changing the way we would forever look at the world.

The problem with the old body language is that it tells us A=B when this is not always true.

Janine Driver’s Formula for the New Body Language

Janine Driver tells us to:

  1. Identify the Baseline: The normal behaviors an individual displays
  2. Identify Hot Spots: When an individual deviates from their baseline behaviors and exhibits a change in their normal mannerisms
  3. Ask Powerful Questions: Ask the right questions when someone exudes a hot spot. A great way to turn a bad situation around is by simply stating, “Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems to me…”

Janine’s formula tells us to stop being mind-readers and to start paying attention to people’s normal behaviors, notice when they exhibit a change and ask a powerful question to turn a bad situation around quickly.

Implementing the New Body Language

Whether you’re trying to establish stronger relationships with your association members or increase attendance at your annual meeting, implementing the new body language can help you. We often focus on saying the right things, but how often we do focus on what we are already saying with our bodies?

How can you implement the new body language to drive sales or establish stronger relationships with your attendees or members?

Get Attendees to Network Before Your Conference

I recently read a fantastic article by Bernie Mitchell entitled, “5 Ways to Break the Ice with Social Media at Events,” which talked about how meeting and event professionals can get attendees to network and “break the ice” before the conference with social media.

In short, Mitchell suggested:

  1. Creating a unique Twitter hashtag and promote retweeting
  2. Recording speaker video interviews or a podcast and write blog posts
  3. Collecting attendee Twitter handles and reach out individually
  4. Asking questions on Twitter to get attendees engaged and interacting
  5. Making sure attendees know about the hashtag before the conference

Yes! I couldn’t have put it better myself, but I do think we’re missing a #6, which might make 1-5 a little easier.

6. Create an online event community for attendees to network.
Online event communities are the one stop shop for all your attendees’ conference needs. Give your attendees (and speakers, sponsors and exhibitors) an online hub where they can create user profiles, develop their personal conference itineraries and connect with other attendees who are scheduled for the same sessions. Then, post the conference final program and session handouts onto the branded homepage of the event community next to your Twitter wall and blog posts, and there you have it a one-stop social media shop!

Online Event Communities – Help Attendees Avoid the Awkward Silence

Social media has been a gift to meeting planners and attendees alike. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have provided attendees a virtual place to get the introductions out of the way. Attendees no longer need to go into an annual conference not knowing anyone (which is a blessing if you’re anything like me and a little shy). Plus, this increases the quality of conversations at the actual meeting, allowing attendees to get right into the conference content.

Not sure if an online event community is exactly what your association is looking for, but you still want a place to put speaker presentations or proceedings online? Read here to find the right place to put conference materials online.


How to Create an Active Online Community

Wondering how to create an online event community where attendees, sponsors and exhibitors are logging into (and actively involved with) as much as their email accounts?

As a meeting or event planner, you understand creating a networking opportunity is critical for attendees, sponsors and exhibitors of your conferences. And as your conference participants become more engaged in online networking and social media sites, it is critical to create an online hub where your conference participants can network before, during and after your events.

3 Ways to Create a Successful Online Event Community

  1. Have a strategic plan.
    This is probably the most important aspect of having a successful community. What is the goal of the community? What will deem it successful? You need to be sure your online event community is in alignment with your bigger picture goals and objective. Write down these objectives as it provides you with a basis for measurement. Some core objectives might include: Visitors to the site, repeat visitors, number joined vs. total attendees, activity within the site. Who will manage and run the community? What will the technology be? How will you incorporate this with your other event marketing initiatives? What content or topics will draw people into the community and engage participants. By having a plan, you have a much greater chance for success. Plus, you’ll have something to measure against as you go.
  2. Assign a leader.
    Someone must own the community and make it theirs. It can’t be owned by everyone or a group of people, it really needs a leader who is passionate and unselfish. Someone who knows and understands relationships and social media. Giving this responsibility to someone because they have the time or because they are in marketing doesn’t cut it. They must have solid project management skills, excellent communication skills. They must understand the big picture and have the authority to drive the community. Failure to have the right person lead your community usually results in a stale, unused web site and a poor representation of your efforts.
  3. Outline your communications plan.
    This is essential to knowing who’s doing what, what’s being created and when it’s being shared. It will involve formal communications, promotional content as well as informal and just informational content. This plan will involve many different participants in your community. For example, you will want the speakers to create content and engage attendees by asking questions and providing insights to their sessions a few weeks out from the event. The key is to know the members of the community expect action and communications. They didn’t sign up to the community to just create a profile and never come back to the site again. Your plan should address how you and others will engage all participants.

What other ways can you think of to create an active community?

Who’s Who in Your Online Community

An online community that centers on an event has all the major players of a traditional live event. You have presenters finishing their PowerPoints minutes before their session begins, attendees searching for the right breakout sessions, sponsors who want to see and be seen, plus exhibitors who want to engage attendees.

You’ve probably dealt with many live events and know how these people interact with you and each other, but here’s our take on the way these groups may engage online and benefit from your social networking online event community. As well, we’ve included some ideas to help you help them.


Presenters at events are the thought leaders, the buzz creators and usually the main purveyors of valuable information. Online, they can be all that and more. In your community, ask your speakers to upload content (such as their presentation materials), start conversations about their topics, interact with attendees who have signed up for their sessions and more.

Outside your community, ask them to blog about their speaking engagement at your event (with links to your event community and conference pages). Have them create short, informal YouTube videos (like this one from Beth Kanter) that give away “nuggets” about what they will be sharing at their event. As well, ask them to share updates with their social media followers.

You might find if useful to include these types of social media activities into your presenter agreement. This becomes a guideline for your presenters to follow and will help your online event community thrive.


When they really dive in to an active online community, attendees are going to love it. Many attendees place a high value on the networking opportunities at live events, and an online event community offers networking to a much more advanced degree. In addition, attendees love to be able to research their sessions to determine their best itinerary. They’ll also enjoy downloading material in advance, participating in discussions and meeting up with people who share their interests.

In your event community, be sure to ask your attendees engaging questions such as:

  • What problems do you hope the event will shed light on?
  • What are you attending?
  • What’s the one session that interests you the most and why?

Ask them anything that gets them talking. And realize, not everyone will talk.

You might create a team of social media champions who are already active online and at the peer level with other attendees. Sometimes conversations are better started at this level and attendees feel less like you are trying to force them to engage online.

One thing you can give attendees to make them feel special (and to promote your event) is an online social conference badge. Which is merely a banner ad promoting your event. This badge can say something like, “I’m attending XYZ. Are You?”

For more tips on getting attendees involved,
check out 5 ways to Make Your Members Feel at Home in Your Online Community.

Here’s an example from the Theater industry: TCG National Chicago.
Here, over 65% of the total face-to-face attendance (748 attendees) participated online using a Conference 2.0™ event community:

Sponsors and Exhibitors

Sponsors and exhibitors attend events for one main reason: to make connections that will lead to business. At live events, they frequently take a back seat in the industry discussions because they frequently spend more time in the exhibit hall than in the sessions.

When a sponsor or exhibitor gets involved in an online event community, they can really create relationships and participate in the education. Vendors can bring a high level of expertise to your event community.

They keep up with industry trends, know the hot topics and can provide meaningful insight into active discussions. They can also provide valuable tools to attendees by sharing information about their products and services that allows potential clients to research their options before the live event. For them, social media and online networking is a great way to build brand and start the relationship process online before the face-to-face interactions occur.

Sponsors and exhibitors may be a factor in helping your online community stay active after the live event as they continue to engage online to stay connected to their contacts after the event.

In addition, the companies themselves can use social media to help promote your event and online community to the rest of their contacts. Like your presenters, ask your sponsors and exhibitors to blog about issues relevant to solving attendee problems. Ask them to inform their following about your event, but remind them a good content marketing strategy goes miles further than trying to “sell” to their audience.

The best way to prepare sponsors and exhibitors for your online event community is to help them understand the community guidelines before they get involved. Check out the Dos and Don’ts of Participating in an Online Event Community as a guide for your sponsors and exhibitors, as well as other attendees.

Be sure to take care of this group as they a major source of revenue for your event and can bring a strong, positive experience in the online community while providing the solutions attendees are looking for.

How Can You Provide Your Attendees More for Less?

Like everyone these days, I’m looking for more value from the things I spend money on — mine or my company’s. For example, I receive invitations to a lot of seminars and workshops. They promise in one day I’ll learn to be an expert in product development or get the secrets behind online shopping behaviors. That’s fine and dandy, but when I’m trying to decide which seminar to go to, I will evaluate the value that I’m getting for the registration fee.

Assuming the speakers and event location are comparable, I’ll look to see if they include any extras. Let’s look at three scenarios for example:

Seminar A: Offers just offer handouts online to download

Seminar B: Offers a printed workbook on site

Seminar C: Offers the printed workbook and session handouts, plus a searchable CD or flash drive of all the training material.

The more you can provide your attendees, the better.

Seminar “C” makes the education more accessible after the fact, allows me to follow along. Ultimately, it has more value. On top of that, maybe they offer a supplemental workbook that goes into a related topic. Bingo – I’ve found the class that pays for itself.

People (including me) love packages, kits and bundles.

When I buy a product that includes some type of added value, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Fast food restaurants perfected the approach with their “value meal” bundles, selling the main dishes with a side item and a drink and forever eliminating the need to ask, “Do you want fries with that?”

If I were in the training business or a seminar coordinator looking to find a hook to get more people to my sessions, I’d bundle products both during and after the seminar. Most seminar companies produce a workbook for an event, and they may sell the book after the conference. But the same book may sell better (and attract more attendees) if it’s bundled with other workbooks or access to the material online.

The trick is putting together a package that your audience will truly value. And if you’re working with the right vendor for the production and fulfillment of your educational materials, chances are repurposing these materials into other formats or printing more copies of an existing resource won’t be a huge expense. In the end, the value you create will earn you more money than it will cost.

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