Smartphones – and more broadly speaking, mobile devices – are receiving a lot of negative publicity at the moment in the meetings and events circles, with claims they’re distracting your audiences. There’s even been a call to arms to ban them entirely. Vice President of Digital Solutions at Freeman Digital, Ken Holsinger, steps in to defend our beloved friends, claiming we need to encourage engagement with them properly, not to ban them altogether. And we agree!

Don’t ban them – engage them!

When it comes to the subject of mobile devices and disruption, everyone’s got a lot of opinions, often even emotional ones. There are officially more mobile devices on our planet than there are people — the real-time ticker from GSMA Intelligence shows the current number of worldwide mobile connections at over 7.66 billion, and it’s growing by the second. Love them or hate them, smartphones and tablets are now a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, and event marketers are struggling with how to best tackle the situation at hand. Now industry groups are buzzing with the question: should we ban mobile from meetings?

IMEX and MPI cite Amy Gallo from Harvard Business Review in their new study, which says that 40 percent of meeting professionals would support a blanket ban on devices at meetings and events. Gallo and her experts say nobody’s really multitasking as well as they think they are, and that device users can be distracting, even upsetting, to those around them. However, keep in mind that these experts are speaking in the context of the everyday workplace, where they also recommend keeping meetings to seven people or less and not let anyone sit down.

Maybe that’s sage advice for your typical office environment, but we don’t hold big events in the corporate conference room. Trying to apply the same advice to the events industry is not a one-to-one comparison. We are talking about taking devices away from people who are on the road, away from the office, and away from family for several days at a time. Not to mention that our biggest attendee audience has grown up with devices in hand—try telling a Millennial that his or her phone isn’t welcome at your event and see how well that goes over. It’s not exactly setting the groundwork for repeat attendance.

So let’s be real for a minute—people aren’t going to stop using their phones. According to KPBC’s annual Internet Trends report from 2015, 73% of the global population use mobile devices, spending almost three hours on mobile apps and almost two hours on social media every day. But by taking advantage of the already-in-hand mobile devices, you have a ready-made communication channel with the potential to drive deeper engagement and create more connected attendees. Here’s how you can harness the true power of mobile to focus attention and drive outcomes.

Mobile devices provide a personalized event experience

Mobile devices are the perfect guide for attendees at any event, providing easy access to maps, session information, schedules, reference material, and even networking apps to help them connect with peers, speakers, and prospects. They can help attendees plan their days at events and provide reminders to move from session to session, providing an event experience that feels much more organized and seamless to attendees. Personalized content tailored to each attendee’s areas of interest, industry role, and more can be pushed straight to mobile devices, pushing past the one-size-fits-all approach to a more intimate, targeted event experience that focuses on fulfilling attendee wants and needs.

Mobile interaction fully engages attendees during sessions

Would you like deep insight into how your audience responds to content, what they’re looking for from presenters, and even who might be interested in working with you?

Mobile devices can be your best friend during event sessions when you utilise them to interact with attendees through technology offerings like second screen applications. By integrating second screen interaction via mobile right into your session, you get your audience more connected from the start, encouraging them to actively respond and participate in the presentation. This leads to higher performance overall, from presenter scores to levels of engagement. Audiences rate presenters often as much as 15 percent higher when they utilise second screen in their sessions.

But that’s not all. Using second screen, you can take attendee questions and adjust content on the fly, poll your audience for rich data that can be used to fine-tune future presentations, and collect valuable feedback that could help you close deals and win new customers. We see a significant increase in audiences commenting, tweeting, and asking questions when using a second screen platform—sometimes by as much as several hundred percent, depending on how well the presenter has worked the platform functionality into their content.

Mobile creates communities

Don’t fight the attendee urge to post hashtags, check-ins, and selfies to social media. Use it to your benefit and create a sense of community for your event that turns attendees attention away from their Facebook wall and back toward your event by making it easy for attendees to share their insights and observations via mobile interactions. Plus, the rich data from these social media interactions can inform decisions for your event…not just for next year, but literally in real time!

Second screen applications often allow social sharing directly from the app during a session, and attendees can see questions and comments from the rest of the audience in real-time. More and more event planners are opting for social media integration platforms that display social posts live on screen aggregated by a branded event hashtag. Encourage attendees to post nuggets of wisdom from speakers, snapshots from the show floor, even selfies in your host city—and tag themselves with the event hashtag. And from LinkedIn to Twitter, it’s a tool that attendees use to connect with one another, so get involved and help guide the conversation.

Mobile devices help amplify your message

Keep in mind that attendees aren’t just checking in with the office or connecting back home when they’re online. Many use social media in smart ways on show site, and they follow and track hashtags, locations, speakers, and peers who are tweeting and Instagramming up a storm.

According to our study with the Event Marketing Institute on the viral impact of events, only 23% of companies are using social media during events to reach remote or non-attendees and industry members. Remote event attendance is booming, so don’t overlook the audience who isn’t right in front of you. This is a huge opportunity to utilize on-site attendee voices to maximize the reach of your message. Let them drum up a healthy sense of FOMO amongst their followers that turn them into future attendees, ready to register (or at least tune in) for your next event. Advertising that specific and marketing that organic is priceless!

Don’t let buzz on banning mobile devices distract you from the unlimited potential they can bring to any event. When you look at mobile as a tactic rather than a roadblock, you open up the possibilities of engagement and interaction with your audience, and gain data insights to improve year over year and offer attendees the kind of personalized experience they won’t find anywhere else!

This article was originally posted on Freeman blog


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