Should You Invest in an Event App?

Should You Invest in an Event AppIn this day and age, when you are planning a complex event, a major consideration is whether to invest in an event app. In the era of smartphones and Millennials, many people consider apps a must-have.

Based on my experience planning conferences without apps, shopping for an event app, and attending both kinds of conferences, I can tell you that an app is not always necessary, nor is it always the right choice.

So how do you know whether it’s a good fit for you?

Here are some of the pros of using an event app:

Keep In Touch Before and After the Event

When you offer an event app, you can start interacting with your attendees even before they get to the registration desk. Through push notifications and preloaded content, you can build excitement for your event, which will help you increase the attendee show-rate.

By the same token, you can use the app to stay in touch with your attendees after the show ends to drive excitement towards your next event.

Add Personalization to Your Event

One of the most popular buzzwords these days is “personalize,” and event apps help you be one of the cool kids offering it. An app allows your guests to customize their event experience by selecting which conference tracks they plan to attend, save the bios of their favorite speakers, and more.

Add Social to Your Event

An app also makes it easy to enhance the networking aspect of your event. Most apps sync with social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter so that your attendees can connect with each other online. They can also post quotes or photos directly to the social networks with your hashtag pre-loaded. It enhances their experience and increases your brand.

More Interaction Between Your Sponsors and Attendees

Apps are a great way to enhance your sponsor’s experience at the event. You can add games to the app to incentivize your attendees to stop by different sponsor booths, encourage attendees to follow the sponsor’s social media handles from within the app, or even allow your sponsors to send out push notifications during the event to capture attention.

Event Analytics

Finally, with an event app, you have easy access to event analytics. Push surveys on each speaker and topic to your attendees real-time. You can also see things such as who clicks through on push notifications, which tracks are most popular, which sponsor profiles are visited and by whom, and more. Plus, you can share those engagement metrics with your sponsors, increasing their ability to prove ROI and hand over the cold hard cash for your next event.

Invest in event appsAll that said, event apps also come with a number of drawbacks. At my previous company, we deployed an app after shopping CrowdCompass, DoubleDutch, and others of the many, many, many event apps out there. What I learned was that as great as an app sounds, it doesn’t always work out so great in practice.

Not Everyone Can (or Wants to) Use an App

Apps end up being exclusive. I planned conferences for the financial services industry, and it turns out that many of the executives attending used company mobile devices that restrict what apps can be downloaded. Or they had a Blackberry, which does not support Android or Apple apps.

Beyond that, there was always a vocal minority of attendees who simply do not want to download an app. Maybe they didn’t have enough memory on their device, maybe they weren’t comfortable using technology, maybe they simply were being stubborn.

Finally, even those who downloaded the app often asked for a paper version of the agenda or a notebook to take notes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not great about typing notes with my thumb (and I’m a millennial). Even fans of the app still often expect some old-school paper to complete their event experience.

Tech Support Required

As an event producer, you have a lot of moving parts. While an app takes certain things off your plate–like finalizing the agenda in time or worrying about shipping the print to the right address–it adds a lot to the day-of. If you’ve ever used technology, you know that sometimes it doesn’t work.

Same thing happens with your event app. Whether it’s a problem connecting to the conference wifi, app bugs, or the fact that your guest doesn’t know how to log into their own phone, the app might not work for everyone. And when it doesn’t, they’re going to tell you and expect you to know what to do about it.

Same thing happens with your event app. Whether it’s a problem connecting to the conference wifi, app bugs, or the fact that your guest doesn’t know how to log into their own phone, the app might not work for everyone. And when it doesn’t, they’re going to tell you and expect you to know what to do about it.

Of course, your rep at the app company should be available to support from afar, but if you’re tracking down speakers and checking to make sure lunch is on its way and running to get that cable your gold sponsor forgot, the last thing you need is an attendee telling you the app won’t work.

Not a Lasting Memory

While the app does allow you to connect with your attendees after the event, that’s assuming they keep it on their phone. Apps are easy to discard and don’t provide a physical reminder to your attendee of the incredible experience you created for them.

Cost

Finally, event app technology is an investment. Depending on your business model, you may be purchasing a one-off app, or you may be developing an app that will connect attendees across multiple events. You’ll need to consider exactly what your event objectives are, who your audience is, and whether the benefit of the app will outweigh the cost.

Ultimately, we ended up offering a blended content approach. We invested in an app to increase the attendee experience, but we also printed agendas and notebooks to keep the event grounded in the physical world.

PS. If one of your objectives is to extend the time you have before finalizing the agenda because you know as soon as you hit print, a speaker will drop out, consider using Mimeo Print for next-day shipping. Here’s my story of how it changed my life as an event producer.


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