There’s literally an app for everything these days. As in every area of human endeavour, smart phone applications are used to enhance, improve and connect our event experience to the rest of our digital lives. Your audience can benefit from up to the minute event updates, location-based awareness, detailed information and special offers, all in the palm of their hand. Event organisers benefit from attendees engaging with and promoting the event beforehand, maximising your exhibitors and sponsor’s satisfaction while on-site and accessing useful data from your audience through active links such as Event Poll.
Event apps are now an expectation at major conferences, exhibitions and other similar events. Whenever there are multiple sessions, several active rooms and competing options for a delegate’s attention, an app is a welcomed tool to navigate what’s important. If an attendee uses an app to ensure that they see who they are most interested in, hear talks on the topics most relevant to them and therefore get the most out of their time, they’re more likely to return to the event next year and recommend it to others. The app itself can also be the platform by which their recommendation is broadcast to their network via links to social media channels.
Some of the efficiencies of using an app as an event programme are self-evident. Apps don’t need to be printed, transported, mailed out or stacked in boxes at the event to be handed out. If there are last-minute changes, they can be updated easily and distributed to all attendees instantly. Using an app will drastically reduce your event’s carbon footprint and environmental impact. The economic advantage of a programme to the organiser, namely selling advertising space, is easily retained. In fact, the capacity to advertise in an event application is greater than print – advertisers can run interactive content, link to their websites and even run video. Event organisers can package advertising at multiple price points with varied levels of sponsorship.
An event app promoted properly in the lead-up period is a powerful promotional tool in itself. A concerted campaign to get the app used before the event will help increase visitor numbers by building anticipation. Your audience can start using the app to plan out their visit, book into certain sessions or make appointments to meet with specific people. They can then recommend the session they’re attending to others by linking to their social network, share the link for the event, or get further recommendations on what’s hot at the show through in app bulletins.
Promote your app heavily and widely with a decent lead-time before your event. Links to the app should be included in all of your electronic communications. This includes regular emails to your customers, dedicated mail-outs to your database, frequent mentions and links on your social media platforms and in all print advertising for the event. Aim to have the app users promote the app itself – provide rewards in the form of giveaways, discounts or special ‘access’ to speakers or sponsors as a motivation to share the app with others.
An event app is the best way to link attendees with the colleagues, suppliers or speakers most important to them at the event. A professional social network like LinkedIn provides a fantastic tie-in to a well-engineered event app. In the weeks leading up to the event, app users that have tied their LinkedIn accounts to their app presence can see who among their existing connections is also attending, and have other members that are not yet connections suggested to them as valuable business contacts. A user can then build an organised calendar of appointments, catch-ups, seminars, social events and supplier meetings, guaranteeing their attendance and maximising value for time and money.
Even as the event opens and the audience pours in, keep promoting your app. Make highly visible references to the app and how to download and install it throughout the venue. This can done via lanyards, digital signage, goodie bags, flyers and posters around the room. You can assist people to do this by providing easy instructions on how to connect with the URL and access code prominently displayed. QR codes, posters and mentions in all seminar introductions and speeches will all drive your audience to engage with your app. When your MC or main speaker kicks off the event, ask them to promote the app, explaining what they can access and encourage all attendees to download.
While the utility of your app is obvious to you and the early adopters at your event, some of your audience may need another motivation to browse it and then discover its value for themselves. You can increase uptake by offering giveaways, exhibitor prizes or sponsor discounts that are exclusive to app users. Make the announcements prior to exhibitors so they can spread the word. Make it clear how to find the app and how to benefit from the in-app prizes and concessions.
The usefulness of your app to your audience depends completely on the kind of information and content included. Your attendees will expect easily navigable maps of the event, with locations of exhibitors, function rooms and utilities clearly labelled. Real-time location-based services such as Google maps can assist in local area navigation if the attendee leaves the venue. Agendas that can be used to create an event schedule for the user are another must-have. Bios of speakers and abstracts of their presentations should be included as part of the listing.
In a tradeshow format, or any other event with multiple suppliers showcasing products, an app offers a broad canvas for information. Exhibitors should be encouraged to include as much engaging detail as is practical, from personnel profiles of who’s on their stand to a video showcasing their products and services. Your mutual aim is to drive as much traffic to their stand as possible. Get them involved with product giveaways and encourage them to promptly respond to emails received by attendees through the app. The more value they feel the organiser provides to their presence, the more likely they are to return to the event.
As an attendee who is using the app, this is your ideal show; you have set up appointments with some of your existing suppliers and some potential new ones on their stands. This saves all of the time-wasting and occasionally embarrassing waiting around at busy exhibits trying to speak with your contacts. Through using the app in the weeks beforehand, you’ve managed to set-up a lunch with some like-minded colleagues from interstate and overseas, which turns out to be the start of a successful project.
During your meetings and conferences, you’ve connected digitally with new people you’ve met. This is a stark contrast to the collection of business cards and half-remembered conversations that used to be the aftermath of trade events. During the key-note speaker’s presentation, you participate in live Q&A through Event Poll and see your Selfie on the big screen via Event Feed. Your reaction and follow-ups on social media are read by your customers and followers outside of the event, promoting your brand.
Deeper engagement from your attendees leads to greater satisfaction, a higher likelihood of participating again in the future, and a greater likelihood of recommending the event to others. Higher foot traffic and deeper customer engagement for your exhibitors means a greater chance of getting their repeat business. Good attendance from interested audiences at sessions promotes your forum as one that leaders want to speak at. Apps help all of this to happen by making it easier to link people with who and what they are interested in, and get them to the right place at the right time. And after the event a platform that can be edited for next year.
This article was written by General Manager of Digital at Encore, Tim Chapman.
Encore’s event app platform is called Cumulus. We believe every event can benefit from instant communication with attendees so we've made this available for free when you use Encore for your event services. The Digital team have extensive experience to ensure that your message, your audience and your presenters get the most out your app. Talk with the team in the planning stages of your next event to find out the best ways to create your content, distribute your app and use it on-site. Every potential attendee is carrying the perfect platform for you to promote your event and share it with the world – seize the opportunity to help your audience build your event! If you are interested in finding out more about Cumulus, get in touch with an Encore representative by calling 1800 209 099 or by sending an online enquiry.
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