Sam Smith is the president and CEO of Network Events Inc., a health and wellness event development, marketing and management firm. He is responsible for event partnerships with television stations and professional sports teams in markets throughout the country. A leading executive in the exposition industry, Sam is a highly rated speaker at major industry events and has provided sales and marketing consulting and training to top associations and private exposition management organizations. For information, go to www.networkevents.tv or email Carter Strickland at email@example.com.
In the age of instant digital gratification, the event planning industry has experienced its fair share of changes. Fortunately, it also has found ways to create new opportunities out of those changes. Case in point: The single most useful tool to many event planners now is the mobile app.
An estimated 92 percent of 18–34 year olds now own a smartphone, and 99 percent of young people are regular internet users. What better way to reach potential event attendees than with an app they can access from their mobile device? It’s fast, convenient and hassle-free. And event planners have taken note. As of 2015, 85 percent of event planners and organizers were using mobile apps to organize and run their events.
Here are a few of the potential benefits of using mobile apps.
Many traditional event planning tactics still are effective, but only because they’ve embraced digital tools. For instance, when planning a trade show or event, word of mouth can be a powerful tool. Today, however, word of mouth doesn’t take place by the water cooler or hotel bar, but on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. In the same way, mobile apps let organizers expand their reach and impact.
What are some of the ways mobile apps can empower event organizers to do their jobs more effectively? Here are some examples:
Local Festivals can span a single street or entire city blocks, and often come with food, music, games and other exhibits for guests to enjoy. Why not help them plan out their route beforehand? An app can allow guests to map their route and schedule their days during festival times. Not only does this promote attendee engagement, but it can save organizers printing costs.
“Mobile apps include maps and schedules so attendees know exactly where to go and when to be there.”
Conferences often house multiple workshops and panels over the course of a few days, but navigating through local venues can be difficult. Mobile apps include maps and schedules so attendees know exactly where to go and when to be there. Likewise, organizers can use any number of apps to coordinate these events in real time. Sudden changes to the schedule are common, and mobile apps make it easy to update everyone instantly.
Trade Associations. When planning an event with a trade association, mobile apps are invaluable. These events are typically held for networking purposes, and apps can actually help people connect beforehand and set up meetings.
Individual Brands. Whether it’s a theater group or a dance company or a showcase, it requires a lot of planning. If there are multiple groups performing or brands giving presentations, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. A mobile app will allow your attendees easy access to schedules and other important information on the go.
Whether you’re planning an event or you’re just looking for a more innovative way to make an event convenient and fun for guests, you should never underestimate the power of mobile apps for an edge over the traditional competition.
If you want a way to keep building customer relationships after an event has ended, mobile apps are the way to go. For example, if you’ve used an app to help plan a music festival or a showcase, diversify your efforts by offering a DVD of the event to your customers through the mobile app.
Have an event that happens annually? Why not keep in contact with your attendees throughout the year with a mobile app? This method of communication will allow you to send planning updates, entertainment lineups and other messages directly to mobile app users without worrying about paper mail or an email ending up in the spam folder.
But event planners beware! While it can be tempting to use mobile apps for constant communication, make sure you’re not bombarding your users with endless updates. Too many push notifications can actually push users away from your app.
Sponsors are incredibly important to any event, and making sure they’re recognized for their contributions is a huge part of event planning. Sending out paper or emails comes with its fair share of hazards. But one guaranteed way to make sure sponsors have their names prominently displayed is with mobile apps.
Sponsor recognition can make or break your next event, as a happy sponsor is usually a repeat sponsor! Taking the time to discuss various mobile app branding options and sharing page impression and click data with them via a mobile app is a surefire way to make sure they feel recognized. Not to mention, mobile app ads will definitely generate more web traffic to their sites.
In fact, when Meeting Professionals International surveyed event planners about why they use mobile apps to plan events, increasing sponsorship revenue was one of the top answers. About 9 percent of respondents said they used mobile apps to create new sponsorship opportunities at their event.
Who says your app’s usefulness has to stop when your event starts? If you follow Murphy’s Law, you know that anything that can go wrong, definitely will go wrong. In the past, these last-minute changes could have ruined an entire event, leading to mass confusion on the trade show floor. But mobile apps have changed all that.
Instead of letting a last-minute lineup change ruin your carefully planned event, keep your guests updated in real time via your mobile app. As soon as you know a change is happening, your guests should know about it, too, so they can effectively adjust their plans.
Did you know that SXSW has a social network just for their event? Though their social network is a large-scale project, it’s an excellent example of what networking can do for an event when it is planned properly. The festival’s social network not only offers a directory of guests attending, it allows guests to contact one another and schedule meetups before they even arrive at the festival grounds.
Mobile apps can provide a similar experience for attendees eager to network. This can be especially useful if your event is one that lends itself to professional or social networking. Not only that, but it remains useful long after your event has ended, as guests can continue to use the app to stay in contact with leads.
These are just a handful of the many benefits mobile apps can provide to professional event planners. From improving the attendee experience to more accurately measuring return on investment, there are so many more ways to use apps to your advantage before, during, and after your event. There are even event planning apps that allow you to create a custom app for your event, a sort of meta-app.
Mobile apps aren’t the future of professional event planning — they’re very much the present. Already, 86 percent of trade show organizers and 40 percent of convention centers offer their attendees custom mobile apps, and those numbers will only increase as late adopters discover some of the benefits outlined above.
Mobile apps have so much to offer to event attendees and event planners. Their diversity, flexibility and convenience make them extremely valuable to any party involved in event organization. If you’re waiting for the right moment to try this planning strategy, it’s now. Don’t wait to hop on this trend! It could make all the difference at your next event. C&IT