The rise of mobile technologies has upended how event planners reach — and engage — attendees at live events. Nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, up from 58% in early 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Additionally, 85% of 18-29 year olds own a smartphone. Meanwhile, the mobile app market has also exploded. Since April 2009, the number of available apps in Apple’s App Store has grown more than 4,000%, totaling more than 1.5 million apps as of June 2015.
The meetings and event industry is not immune to this surge in smartphone and app popularity. A host of providers have popped up to meet event planners’ demands for apps that meet their attendees’ specific needs. Sentergroup has had great success using several event app providers for our clients (and has researched many, many more in the process). Here are several benefits we’ve found of using mobile apps:
- Increased Attendee Engagement: Attendees crave interaction and networking with each other. In our post-event surveys, networking usually comes up as the top reason for attending a conference (yes, often ahead of education). Event apps make it easy for attendees to engage by providing them an all-in-one platform to do communicate before, during and after the event. Some apps even use gamification to sweeten the networking pot.
- Streamlined Survey Process: One of the most important parts of a meeting is collecting feedback from those in attendance to plan for future events. Event apps make this simple, offering survey modules that can be configured to measure only the data you need.
- Reduced Reliance on Paper: Event apps contain a large amount of data that, in the past, would be printed in the event program. But gone are the days of printing huge binders stuffed with session information. Best of all, any last-minute schedule or speaker changes can be made at the click of a button and updated almost instantly for all attendees within the app.
- Real-Time Notifications: Known as “push notifications,” these notices are sent directly to attendees’ devices, similar to a text message. App users do not need to open the app to receive the message, assuming they have opted-in to this type of communication. These messages can be scheduled in advance, but are also useful for on-the-fly announcements, such as room changes, or last-minute availability to an evening gala or happy hour.
- Two-Way Communication Between Attendees and Staff: Event organizers often think it is possible to be in all places at all time — but then reality strikes! An app that allows conference attendees to reach out with questions and feedback allows organizers to address hot-button issues before they turn into fires. Session room too hot? Did a room run out of chairs? Spill on the 4th floor? An app allows attendees to flag problems digitally, enabling organizers to fix the issue ASAP.
We have already found a great deal of success utilizing event apps for several clients’ annual events, allowing us to immediately gauge attendees’ feedback by placing the meeting experience in the palm of their hands.