A best conference mobile app starts with a user friendly, well designed mobile app, an easy to use backend for the Event planning team, an experienced event app provider and, importantly, clear pricing.
A lot of time is invested into selling Event planners on features that are often minor. At the end of the day, you’ll want your event app company to be able to answer the following questions to your satisfaction:
- User friendly: Will attendees know how to use it to successfully navigate my event?
- Event Planner friendly: How easy is for my event team to create and change the Event app content?
- Vendor Experience and tenure: Is your vendor a new one, or has 3-5 years of experience?
- Clear Pricing: Is there a clear, published pricing, or am I embarking on an “add-on surprise” pricing journey?
- True mobile app or glorified web page: Will it work for my attendees both online and offline?
The best conference mobile app is multi-channel, integrated across mobile and PCs (iOS, Android, PCs, Macs)
Mobile apps have been the hot topic in the events industry. But, time after time, we see that usage of mobile-only solutions lags behind solutions that provide an integrated experience on any device, including the old fashion computer. And yes, the app needs to work on an old Blackberry as well.
Key here is to look at the mobile app – is this a true mobile app, which takes advantage of the mobile features, or a glorified web site that runs on the iPhone?
Some quick acid-test questions to ask: Does the app take advantage of the integration with Google Maps for directions or Twitter for a quick post that integrates the event hashtag? Does it work offline? Can you receive real-time alerts via your Phone messaging system?
A good mobile app takes advantage of the device it runs on – the larger real estate of the iPad, the capability of the browser on all devices, or the elegance of the iPhone smaller screen.
The goal of an event app is to guide through the event, and make planning easy. It should point people to the right connections, content and solutions. That’s the difference between a traditional digital directory or program and a modern event app. So, it should be no surprise then that the highest adoption and satisfaction come from apps that help attendees find the right things—and build an app experience around those things.
Key things to look for: Can a user create a personal calendar and agenda to help them navigate the event? Can the user tweet from the mobile app with a ready-made hashtag for your event, without typing extra characters, or remembering what the event hashtag is? Can the user easily ask questions on a Q&A session, or answer a survey for a session?
The most successful event apps act as hub for everything your attendees do at the event.
Whether they’re taking a session survey, participating in a poll or reading the slides for a session, your event app should be their platform for engagement. If there are other web sites, devices or apps that your attendees need to use, you are hurting your adoption rate—and diminishing your audience engagement. Of course, it’s likely that your event app provider won’t have all that built in to their solution. But, the best apps on the market will integrate with just about any digital solution to provide a hub for everything people need to do at your event, including social media channels.
The best conference mobile app needs to make the creation of content easy for your team. Can you easily change the content – add speakers, add agenda topics, or anything needs to be sent to a content team? Can you have multiple editors, or only one person on your team can edit the content?
Is the content published instantly, or do you need approvals and workflow steps before the change appears on your event attendees mobile devices and laptops?
We have found out that designing a mobile app involves a good understanding of how the users look at the application during the event, but equally important how the event planners plan.
Three examples on making it easy for the event planning team to edit the content:
- A speaker can present on multiple topics, and tracks. Our Zwoor platform allows the event planner to re-use the speaker profile already created, and simply add that speaker profile to another topic, instead of retyping all the info. Multiple speakers on a key topic? No problem, simply add the speaker profile to that agenda item.
- We can bulk-load an event from Excel. Most event planners still operate in Excel, and is only natural to offer a template to load from there.
- Creating tracks is done simply adding a keyword on the agenda topic description.
It’s not by chance that the Event Planner job is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. With hundreds or participants, tens of speakers and tens of sessions, surprises are bound to happen. A room gets flooded (yes, it happened). The projector refuses to start. The road to the restaurant gets blocked.
Key is to communicate easily with your participants, via a short message. A webpage type application will not be able to do that, while a true mobile app can do that via the integration with the messaging system.
For the alerts, it is important that you have the capability yourself, vs. trying to locate the content editor from your team, or worse, a vendor team that might be located time zones away. You should be able to type a short message, and then send it to your participants.
This capability is also great for promotions or offers from your participants. Just be aware that too much messaging grows old very quickly on your participants – limit to two or three alerts per day.
Many apps tout features that are nice to have vs. “must have”. Start with key functionality, and then look for the extra features.
First, conference mobile apps provide key content, helping attendees build a schedule, find their way around the building, see speaker profiles or participate in Q&A or live surveys.
Second, apps bring extra value to your event with digital-only content: presentations, white papers and handouts. A key section to use is for sponsor materials that people can’t get anywhere else. Several times better than advertising and banners that can become very intrusive.
Third, the app is a hub for connections and user-generated content on social media. One click connection to a speaker in Linked-in is a good example. Tweeting with the event hashtag, and joining the social media discussion in an easy way is another.
Producers of successful event apps focus early and often on maximizing the value of all three content types.
Speaker sessions are populated with a great description, speaker bio and speaker social media connections. They make sure exhibitors fill out their digital “booths” just like they do their physical stands. And they encourage speakers to seed discussions in social media to spark conversation.
The app should look familiar…look to the most used apps in the world for guidance, including Facebook, LinkedIn, iTunes and Google Maps. Those apps have spent significant time building an experience that works, and have set your audiences’ expectations for how apps should work. Users don’t want to learn a new app interface at every event.
So, when you create an event app, check that it uses well-established best practices for icons, menu design and layout.
The more clicks it takes an attendee to find the information they need, the more likely it is you’ll lose them. Modern app designs have moved beyond directory-style interfaces to living, breathing home screens that present the information that is most important, most timely and most relevant to the individual. The less clicks to get to the info, the higher the adoption.
Our experience shows that app usage declines when users see ads as a nuisance instead as a value add. Disruptive advertising, characterized by lack of relevance gets in the way of a positive user experience.
Some apps rotate banners every few seconds or plaster them at the top and bottom of every screen.
The trick to creating powerful advertising in your event app is not to make it “on your face”, but rather to make it relevant and contextual. So, as should be the rule for all content, choose an app that allows you to put information in front of people, instead of intrusive banners. And, instead of linking them to a web page on a slow cellular data connection, send them in the mobile app to a piece of content, like an eBook, that will help them make a decision and keep them in the context of your event. Sponsorships don’t have to kill adoption. In fact, it can improve it when it provides relevant, useful information.
Most event apps have layers of security. Our Zwoor mobile app has four different levels, from listed events to unlisted events that are unlocked via code, to a layer that opens the content to a group of users that validate a certain email domain (@ibm.com, for example) to the highest security level, best suited to a Board meeting where a takeover discussion might occur.
We combine that with strong encryption, in transit and at rest, so your content is truly protected.
Our best advice is to “know your audience” and select the security level that is best for the user. Any password or code access is one more hurdle for the user to get to the content.
Also, beware of the “single sign on” (SSO) unless you know your attendees are familiar with those usernames and password. We’ve had a lot of association events where single sign on becomes a big barrier. Simply put, members don’t know their association login.
How many times the event app link and instructions become an afterthought, and are sent the day before the event, when most participants are in transit? Despite time invested in content, many event planners fail to communicate the value of the app through a strong communication plan.
There are two important parts of promoting an event mobile app: 1.) communicating the value and 2.) creating awareness.
The first goal should be to create a compelling communication plan that conveys the value of the app, focusing on the app content and experience as an extension of the live event.
For example, we create for each event a webpage, with a simple URL that can be typed, where the instructions for downloading are shared 1.) as a link to the iStore and Android store to our mobile app; 2.) as a QR code, and 3.) as a web link. Users have their preferred method of getting the apps, and we want to cater to all this pathways.
Second, once the message is refined and the key values are well established, it’s critical to promote the app at every step of the process, starting before registration and continuing through confirmation pages, reminders, email, invitations, on site signage and even in sessions and keynote presentations.
The most successful event apps are much more than apps—they are digital experiences that span the entire lifecycle of the event.
The best conference mobile app is integrated with Social Media, and allows easy connections between participants
Participants attend your events for the knowledge AND connections. Having a perfect speaker profile is a great start. Having a great speaker profile that a participant can send an invite via LinkedIn from within the app is even better.
Being able to send a tweet about the conference is a good start. Tweeting with the event hashtag already populated is even better.
The app social connectivity can be an additional reason to attend the event.
Mobile app for events can be very expensive. Some of them start at $20,000+. Some start with a low price point, but the add-ons add very quickly. The other part is that continuous pressure for selling the add-ons. The best mobile app companies have clear, published, no-surprise pricing that you can count on. From what we know, we are the only mobile app that does not have a “range”, but a clear fixed pricing that you can count on.
We also offer a free trial, so you pay only after you experienced your event content and mobile app features on your own mobile phone, or PC or MAC.
We hope you enjoyed our guide. If you have a questions or suggestion on how to make it better, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of our Zwoor Team,
Thanks for investing the time on reading this document!