K.C. Hopson, CMP, is the President, CEO and Founder of EventRebels, and has been doing business with meeting planners, associations and others in need of registration, trade show, mobile and conference software solutions for over a decade. Author of two published books, K.C. frequently writes about technology and meetings on his company’s blog. He is currently serving his second tour of duty on the board of Potomac MPI and is on the PCMA Digital Task Force. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.eventrebels.com
On the most basic level, mobile apps have exploded in popularity because they are easy to use. For most situations, you simply tap your smart device to make something happen. For meeting and event planners, mobile apps also solve many problems that were previously expensive, time consuming and frustrating to address. Most important, mobile apps are wins for everybody — attendees, exhibitors and show organizers.
Why? It’s simple: They save time and money, are easy to use and help the environment, all at the same time. Here is a look at three types of mobile apps and how they deliver big results across the board.
Event attendee apps have quickly become an expected feature at most conferences and trade shows. Among other things, attendee apps have replaced printed program guides, all the while adding interactive features such as social media and games. The event attendee app helps organizers and attendees in many ways:
The biggest success is placing the program schedule on the app. Typically, the schedule offers times and locations of the program, but also detailed information about the session and speakers. Planners are reducing or completely eliminating the printed program thus saving thousands of dollars and avoiding embarrassments such as inadequate supply. Attendees can easily find what is next on their agenda rather than flipping through a printed program and seeing what items he or she has circled.
Related to this is the attendee’s itinerary. If schedule choices are made during the pre-registration process, those selections are downloaded to the app. This saves the attendee the frustration of having to build his or her schedule at the last minute.
In almost all surveys, instant notifications are high on the list of app features planners and attendees love and require. This allows the staff to contact all or particular attendees about time-specific topics such as room changes. The attendee receives the information via a pop-up notification, email or a message within the app. This certainly beats running around and posting sheets of paper around the event venue!
Also critical for planners are app surveys for each session. This is a huge improvement over previous methods where either paper surveys or online surveys were issued separately for each session. While app surveys eliminate a lot of manual work, the bigger win is the higher response rates. Because attendees can respond to each session as they are completed by simply answering a few questions on their phone, the planner is much more likely to get good feedback.
Event apps also can be monetized, which can help pay for the app and even bring in additional revenue. This can include the home page and the “splash page,” each of which will generate thousands of impressions. You also can sell rotating ads at the bottom of each page, culminating in many views. The end result is you typically can sell more mobile app sponsorships than what the app will cost. So not only is all the paper eliminated, but you actually make some money on the app sponsorships!
Related to this is the promotion of trade-show exhibitors on the app. The listings can include logos, links to the website, brochures and booth location.
Maps of the venue and nearby locales also can be included, furthermore reducing paper requirements.
The old-fashioned lead-retrieval systems are expensive and hard to use, and exhibitors hate them for that reason alone. Fortunately, lead-retrieval apps designed for mobile devices solve all of these problems.
The most important thing is there is no new hardware that users have to learn. Most exhibitors already know how to use their smartphones, and there is a very short learning curve for lead-retrieval apps.
Because the apps are easy to use and do not require proprietary hardware, the show planner is spared the added expense and headache of flying in a technician to the show.
Another big win is that lead-retrieval apps are simply less expensive. Many systems allow show planners to mark up this lower price and make a commission. Typically, the marked up price of an app is still less expensive than past lead-retrieval offers, making apps a good deal for exhibitors without cutting a revenue stream from event planners.
The newer lead-retrieval apps use QR codes rather than unattractive 1-D and 2-D bar codes. The QR code is visually more attractive and easier to scan. This avoids the embarrassing “bar code dance,” where exhibitor and attendee have to keep adjusting position to try to get a good scan.
Finally, lead-retrieval apps can be easily purchased online versus many of the older systems, which require paper forms or even fax!
The winning trifecta is completed with mobile onsite registration and session tracking apps.
Using the same QR code as lead retrieval, show planners can easily track session attendance, saving loads of time compared to other forms of tracking.
Event planners also can complete onsite registrations faster using tablets. Card-swipe devices such as PayPal Here, a mobile card reader, can be attached to the tablets for easy credit card processing.
Many systems allow you to issue CEUs via a PDF to the scanned attendees. These even can be tied to completed surveys, thus further driving up response rates.
Because planners are always on the move at a show, these apps can deliver real-time information at any time. This information can include contact information, session attendance and even payment data.
Attendee apps have been the focus of the new mobile event technology, but they really just scratch the surface of what can be accomplished through mobile. Event planners actually can deploy mobile apps across the many functions and touchpoints of their events, ultimately making their event easier and less costly to manage. And the technology is constantly improving. Expect to see new functionalities arise, including the use of “beacons” which, in conjunction with mobile apps, can provide relatively inexpensive and deep insight into attendees’ behavior at the show. ACF