Selecting a Mobile Event App For Your Conference

 

Article Contents

The Basics of Mobile Apps

Finding the best mobile event app for your conference can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical details and lose focus on what really matters: providing a convenient way for your attendees to access event information while at your conference. With that goal in mind, we’ve put together an overview to help your association learn the basic functionalities that are available in a mobile app and, most importantly, the benefits that different event app features offer your attendees.

The first decision to make when choosing your mobile event app is selecting the right type of app for your event. To help you decide, think about the goals for your organization, conference, and attendee and exhibitor experience.

Types of Mobile Apps

Mobile event apps come in three basic forms: native apps, web-based apps, and hybrid apps. Each of these types of apps has its own unique advantages, and depending on your specific needs, one option might be better suited for your event than the others.

Native Apps

Native apps are built for a specific operating system, such as iOS or Android. These apps are self-contained, meaning most features operate with or without an internet connection once you’ve installed it. All of the content, maps and other information you need on your app will be built-in for optimal performance on each attendees’ device. However, an internet connection will be required to update content once a user has installed it on their device.

Web-Based Apps

Web-based apps are built using HTML code, just like traditional websites, but are specifically optimized for smaller-screen devices. Using these types of apps requires an internet connection, since all content will be hosted online. On some devices, users can create an app-like experience by adding a bookmark to their home screen that, when clicked, will take them directly to the website.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps use a native app “shell” that is built for each operating system, but pulls content from the cloud. These apps can offer partial functionality while offline, but require an internet connection for the app to fully function. Some examples of these types of apps would be Facebook or Twitter; the base app is designed for the phone, but the content is downloaded from the internet.

The table below illustrates a few of the major pros and cons of the three basic types of mobile apps.

DescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantages
Native AppsBuilt specifically to the needs of the various operating systems such as Apple’s iOS or Android
  • Speed, performance and user interface are optimized
  • Works without Internet connection
  • Must build a specific app for each operating system
  • Takes more time to develop and deploy
  • Higher development costs

Web-Based Apps

Websites built using HTML that are designed specifically for smaller screens
  • No need to distribute using app stores
  • Works on any device with a browser, but experience varies
  • Lower deployment costs
  • Slower performance
  • Internet connection is required

Hybrid Apps

Native app shell with feeds from the website
  • Caches content, so it works offline to a degree
  • Downloadable from app stores
  • Easier to deploy cross-platform than native apps
  • Lower cost than native apps
  • Doesn’t run as smoothly as native apps
  • Offline performance can be inconsistent
  • Built to specific operating system

 

Which Type of App is Best?

When choosing the type of mobile app that is best for your event, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. First, internet connectivity will largely determine the usability of your event app. Does your conference location offer free WiFi? If not, a web-based or hybrid app may not be the best choice. If attendees have to pay for WiFi just to access your app, there’s a good chance they won’t use it. A native app with preloaded content would be a better fit in this scenario.

Also, consider how much you’re expecting your attendees to rely on the app during the conference. Will the app be something used to only check session schedules? Or will you encourage attendees to browse program content throughout the day? If you expect attendees will use the app regularly during the event, you’ll want to choose an app that has better performance, like a native app. Some other factors to consider include:

  • Will the attendees be downloading the app ahead of time, or at the event?
  • Will the venue’s WiFi be fast enough to support all of your attendees’ devices?
  • What types of content are you trying to provide your attendees?
  • How fast or slow do you need content to load?

Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the type of mobile app that fits your association’s objective.  Access to content can largely be done on offline native apps, but interactivity and live information feeds will require internet access and will be better suited for a hybrid app.

Increasing Engagement with Mobile Event Apps

A mobile app can increase engagement at your event by creating new opportunities for attendees to learn about your conference and connect with speakers, sponsors and their peers. Interactive features such as direct messaging, personal itineraries and live polling can help your attendees create an immersive experience and truly connect with their colleagues before, during and after the event.

These attendee connections are crucial to the success of your event; many attendees come to network, and mobile event apps can help facilitate these connections. Incorporating social timelines directly into the app can help attendees interact with speakers and other attendees while at the venue. This is especially helpful if your conference is large, and finding specific people might be a challenge. The ability to network virtually can expand the number of connections your attendees make and helps open the door for new conversations.

Another way to keep your attendees engaged via the app is to include the ability to build a personal profile. A profile allows the user to enter their personal and professional information to create more networking opportunities. Profiles can also let attendees build personal itineraries that help them navigate through a busy day at the conference.

Creating an engaging event app can benefit your association, as well. As host of the event, your association can create a profile to post polls, questions and conversations on the social timeline. Real-time activities like live polling can help spark discussions between attendees, while at the same time providing your association with instant feedback about the event. You can use this information later to improve on your event and help attendees know their opinions matter.

Other Benefits of Mobile Apps

In addition to increasing attendee engagement, mobile event apps offer other benefits as well, from providing event information to generating extra revenue to giving attendees easy access to conference content. Here are some additional benefits that a mobile event app adds to your event.

Simplify event navigation

Emails with conference maps, directions, hotel and parking information are easily buried in your attendees’ and speakers’ inboxes. Instead, all of this basic event information can be hosted on the event app for your attendees to access before and during the conference. GPS-enabled maps can also help your attendees navigate inside the venue and the surrounding area, if necessary.

Your event schedule is another piece of important event content that can be housed on the app. Help your attendees keep track of session start times and speaker locations by including this critical piece of conference data.

Provide up-to-date event information

Mobile apps offer a unique ability to keep your attendees up to date about information throughout your event. Push notifications can help deliver timely alerts if a session has been moved to a different room, for example. Sending a notification directly to attendees’ phones will avoid confusion and reduce the time your staff spends redirecting people.

To keep attendees informed throughout the day, an RSS feed can provide a consistent stream of event updates and information right on the attendees’ phones. A real-time Twitter feed can help them stay informed and engaged throughout the day.

Deliver content directly to attendees

With so much content available to attendees, you want them to be able to access it quickly and easily. An event app can be configured to give your attendees the ability to access abstracts, papers and presentations right on their mobile devices.

Promote networking through gamification

Gamification is another way to incentivize attendee engagement and mobile app use. Features such as leaderboards turn engagement into a game by awarding points to users who conduct certain actions on your app, such as posting a photo on the social timeline or participating in a poll. You can control how many points each action earns, meaning you can strategically incentivize certain aspects of your mobile app.

Generate additional revenue

Your mobile event app doesn’t only have to benefit the attendees. Sponsorships on event apps are a common way for associations to monetize their event. Banner ads and other branding opportunities can allow your organization to generate some extra revenue during the event.

Create value for your exhibitors and sponsors

Exhibitors and sponsors are an important part of your event’s success, and a mobile app increases the value your conference offers them. A live activity feed within the app lets you promote your event sponsors and exhibitors with sponsored posts, banner ads, document downloads, eCommerce links and promoted sessions.

Using a mobile app with lead retrieval allows exhibitors to focus on connecting with attendees, and not on collecting their information. Rather than taking notes on a sheet of paper, exhibitors can simply scan a QR code with their phone to sync an attendee’s information to their device.

Get real-time insight

One of the best things about mobile apps is that they can track how your attendees use them, providing you with insights that can help your association in the future. Perhaps you want to see if people used the engagement features more than the content features. Analytics can help you make informed decisions about what type of app and what event app features you should focus on for next year.

Case Study: How A Mobile Event App Helped IWCS

Offering a mobile event app at your conference can have a dramatic impact on how attendees engage with your event. One association, the International Wire and Cable Symposium (IWCS), experienced this effect first-hand with the addition of digital content to its annual event.

As a tech-based association, IWCS understood how important technology is to its members, which is why it elected to offer content from its annual meeting in print, on a conference content website, on a USB and through a mobile app. The introduction of this new technology helped them increase attendee engagement and participation and raise the profile of their event.

IWCS’s event app included session handouts, program/speaker info, attendee profiles and conference details. In the first year, 87% of attendees downloaded the app, proving the true capabilities of mobile event apps.

To learn more about IWCS’s strategy to increase attendee engagement and participation at their annual event, read the case study, “Blending Print with Digital Content Reinvigorated an Annual Conference.”

Mobile Apps are the Future of Engagement

As you move forward with a mobile event app, be sure to focus on the benefits you’ll be providing to your attendees, and not just on a list of features that sound good on paper. It’s a good idea to talk with other association professionals that have experience creating mobile event apps to gain insight on what has worked for their conferences. A conversation with an Omnipress Event Specialist can also help answer any remaining questions you have about creating an app.

If your association is looking for a new way to improve attendee engagement at your annual event, consider trying a mobile event app. From the variety of capabilities and features to the numerous benefits they provide, event apps are a great choice for conferences of all sizes.

Learn How One Association Takes Its Online Content Beyond the Conference

The International Wire and Cable Symposium (IWCS) understands how important technology and innovation are to its members, which is why the association has embraced digital options in addition to the traditional print offerings to deliver conference content to its attendees.

IWCS also realized that each digital format is a separate entity, and attendees use each to accomplish different things. An app isn’t simply a digital version of a printed program; it’s a different animal altogether, with its own purposes and strengths. Considering these points, IWCS wanted to make their conference materials available in a wide variety of formats.

IWCS offers content from its annual meeting in print, on a conference content website, on a USB, and through a mobile app. The association also uses an online abstract management system for collection and review.

The conference content website is a cornerstone IWCS’ digital strategy. As a result of taking its conference content online, IWCS accomplished these worthy goals.

Strengthened academic relationships
Members of the academic community must “publish or perish,” and a digital publishing platform makes it easier for professionals to gain exposure. Space is much less limited online than it is in a printed book of proceedings. Since IWCS added online conference materials to its content offerings, academic participation has skyrocketed.

Extended the lifecycle of the conferenceOnline content can be accessed by search engines, which increased IWCS’ online visibility. Not only could attendees easily find the content they needed, but others in the industry could find conference materials as well. Prospective members and attendees could access IWCS’ high-quality, well-vetted content, which could give them just the push they need to join the association or register for the conference.

Learn more about how IWCS took its content digital—read the case study! For more tips on using your online conference materials to meet your association’s goal, download our whitepaper Tap Into The Full Potential of Your Online Conference Materials

7 Ways a Conference App Enhances Your Attendees’ Experience

When was the last time you stopped and thought about how amazing mobile technology is? It’s easy to take this for granted. Didn’t we always have smartphones, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice to check the weather, the score, or the best route to your destination?

No! We didn’t.

But now we do, and it’s pretty incredible. Mobile technology can make your association’s annual meeting even more rewarding for attendees, on both the social/networking and the professional development side of the coin.

How? I have spilled ink on the subject before, but here’s a refresher on conference apps and the tools that enhance your attendees’ experience.

  1. Complete program information: Gone are the days when attendees would have to carry half of their body weight in printed proceedings just to look up where the next session is taking place. It’s all in the palms of their hands!
  2. Full access to conference content: Attendees can preview the handouts for an upcoming session, read through the abstract covered in yesterday’s keynote, or skim a presentation they missed to see if it’s worth following up on at home. Any content your association chooses to make available can be accessed through the app.
  3. Simple communication between attendees: Attendees can post to the app’s timeline or send a person-to-person message to a new acquaintance, without sharing contact information. All while staying in the conference app!
  4. Easy-to-use connectivity between speakers and sessions: If Ken loved hearing industry thought leader Dr. Jones contribute in a panel discussion, he can look her up in the Speaker section of the app and make plans to attend her session the next day.
  5. Timely push notifications: Keep attendees in the loop with push notifications. Announce a room change, let them know there’s a car in the parking lot with lights on, or promote your association’s next conference.
  6. Engaging live polls: Everyone likes to make their voice heard! Give attendees the opportunity with live polling. Ask for feedback on a keynote address, the networking events, or where to hold the next annual meeting.
  7. GPS-enabled maps: Getting around a new city can be a challenge, even though the map looks so easy to navigate. GPS-enabled maps can help attendees understand their location in relation to points of interest, like the convention center, area hotels, the airport, and recommended restaurants. They can just point the blue dot (themselves!) in the direction of their destination.

We’ve come a long way since the days when a printed proceedings book was the only option for attendees. There are other ways to access content, including online conference materials and USBs, to make it easier for professionals to learn on the go. Conference apps help attendees manage their engagement during the annual meeting, as well beforehand and afterward.

Remember how helpful mobile tools can be in your own life and recognize their potential to make your attendees’ conference experience richer.

Life is better with the right app. So is your conference! Make sure you include a conference app from Omnipress in your content strategy and budget.

How to Measure Success of Mobile Event Apps

One of the greatest mistakes you can make when providing a mobile event app for your annual conference is waiting until the event is over to try and figure out if your app was successful or not.

Instead, prior to launching a mobile event app, you should take the time to consider what success will look like for your app. Start by reviewing the objective for your mobile event app and then determine how you can measure if your objective was met.

2 Ways to Measure Success of Mobile Event Apps

Here are two simple ways you can determine if your mobile event app objective was met:

  • Ask for Attendee Feedback.
    Include a survey for attendees to take in the app allowing them to share feedback on the functionality and usefulness of your mobile app.
  • Utilize Analytics.
    Track how many attendees download your mobile event app, the most viewed content, the number of visitors to the sponsor module and other important data.

Please note: It is important to talk to your mobile event app provider to understand what data will be available to you.

Using Analytics for Mobile Event Apps

If you collect data, be sure you think about how it can be used. For example, if you have a sponsor list in your app, you can use the data to help gain more sponsors in the future.

mobile-event-app-sponsor-listing

 

Also, if you know that speaker information was a frequently visited module, you can think about how to add or change the information to get the most value, encouraging attendees to check out other modules of the conference app.

mobile-event-app-speaker-listing

The key to determining success is to have the data available to so you can make intelligent decisions on how to improve mobile event apps for upcoming conferences.

How are you measuring the success of your mobile event apps?

 

 

3 Ways to Increase Mobile Event App Downloads

 

Conference halls are full of attendees obsessively checking their email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, frantically searching for a power outlet to charge their dying iPhones and asking about Wi-Fi access and passwords.
According to Pew Research, as of September 2012, 45% of American adults own a smartphone and 25% own a tablet.

The fact attendees are captivated with their smartphones and tablets should not be a deterrence from your annual meeting; it should be yet another opportunity to reach your attendees through a mobile event app.

The Challenge of Mobile Event App Adoption

There is no question; mobile event apps are going to continue to increase in popularity. In fact, in Omnipress’ 2012 Mobile Event App Survey, 80% of organizations stated they will provide a mobile event app within the next two years.

The challenge many associations and organizations that hold meetings are facing is how to market their mobile event app. In other words, how can meeting professionals increase the adoption rates of their mobile event apps, in turn, maximizing their ROI?

3 Ways Associations Market Mobile Event Apps

  1. Make sure your mobile event app is live 30 days before the conference.
    Of course, there is no exact number of days before your meeting that your mobile app should launch. It will vary depending on what your mobile objective is, but having your app available early will allow for more time to build interest and engage attendees around your event. Remember: You can always update content easily as you get closer to your conference.
  2. Optimize your mobile event app for all devices.
    Unfortunately, technology is taking attendees in all different directions: iPhones, Android phones, iPads, Kindle Fires and countless other devices. In order to make your mobile event app accessible to your attendees, you need to make sure it is optimized for the devices your members are using. While it may not be realistic to optimize for all devices, make sure your mobile app is optimized to reach the majority of your attendees.
  3. Include a call to action on your conference website.
    Include a large call to action (CTA) on the homepage of your conference website to make sure visitors know you have a mobile app for your conference. Your CTA should link directly to the place(s) where they can download the app.

Does your organization use a mobile event app? How do you get members to use it?

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