Sally McNamara, Head of Digital Services at Conference Care, gives her thoughts:
Even before 2020, we found that the need for Event Apps was on the rise. Whether organisers were adopting a more sustainable approach, trying to streamline operations at their live event or simply wanting their delegates to have a better UX (user experience), an App was becoming the go-to solution in bringing a digital element to their events.
The technology now available has come on in leaps and bounds and Apps are more in demand than ever. There’s a few contributing factors to this. I think one of the key ones for me is how completely attached we have become to our mobile devices. Research shows that people spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on their phones – that’s 1/3 of their waking time, up 30% from 2019 levels! (Source: data.ai State of Mobile 2022 report)
Having a phone in your hand has become a normal part of daily life, and why would it be any different when you’re at an event? It makes sense to roll with this adoption and literally give your attendees access to all of your event content ‘at their fingertips’. Having a device readily available has become embedded in our human nature. Disagree? Turn to the person on your left (or right) and try and take their phone – you’ll soon see how attached we really are!
Think about the interactions we have on a day-to-day basis with mobile devices. There’s an App for everything, from ordering groceries, catching up on news and emails to tracking medical information. Aside from in an office-based environment, it’s becoming rarer that people will sit down in front of a computer and use their browser to interact with their favourite sites – it can all be done via their mobile device. It could be that apps in general are overtaking websites as a primary means of interaction. It makes sense to embrace and leverage this for your event.
Of course, just the fact that people engage more with their devices isn’t the only reason for you to invest in an Event App. It needs to be right for your event, and sometimes it’s not! I always return to thinking about the reasons and benefits, what value a digital extension can bring to the experience, and your ultimate KPI’s and metrics for the event.
If you’re on the fence and unsure, here are some of the key reasons our clients are leaning towards this approach:
This one is a no-brainer. The move to an App means that your event can be truly paperless, reducing your emissions and alleviating waste. For a medium size event for 150 attendees with 10 exhibitors, the Carbon Footprint for brochures alone can be as much as 15KG of CO2e. In addition, it’s all retrievable information, nothing gets accidentally lost and it can be downloaded for future use.
365 Marketing & Communications
Events no longer exist as just a moment in time. With the right planning, your event app can be live well in advance of the actual in-person event day, and you can use it to push out promotional material, exclusive content and communications before, during and after the event. It’s also a great space to advertise any future events you have planned to your attendees. It works well as an extension to your overall marketing plan and objectives.
Now we’re all easing back into in-person events, it’s key that audience members still feel that they can be interactive. Event Apps facilitate all of your live Q&A (for those feeling a bit shy, or have follow up questions), live polls and social walls/twitter feeds. The networking features mean that regardless of your audience type, everyone has the opportunity to interact with one another through text and video.
Ultimately the success of an event is based on the experience of your attendees. An Event App can enhance the delegate journey with personalisation. This can be agenda items, ability to purchase extra tickets for evening dinners and drinks, choosing workshops and even sending out personalised notifications to specific groups of attendees.
Understandably, the way we interact at events may have changed – just a bit. Using an Event App and QR codes you can offer contactless check-in by scanning someone on arrival. Ticks the boxes from both a hygiene perspective and also eases any bottlenecks at different points of your event. It’s a really accurate way of looking at your attendance rate too, rather than just checking someone off a list or counting badges that have been handed back in at the end of your event.
The ability to have all of your event resources in one place is a huge benefit to both you as an organiser and your attendees. It removes the need for cumbersome brochures and bags which rarely get another use. Unbelievable (but true), you need to re-use a jute bag at least 30 times for it to have a lower carbon footprint than a plastic bag, another check for helping the carbon emissions of your event. The fact that people can access the App in advance of the event means they are more prepared (in most cases). Plus, there’s the ease of being able to choose your sessions if you have a jam-packed schedule, rather than circling your options on a printed agenda.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced last-minute changes to agendas, room moves and – more often now than ever – an unplanned absence of a speaker. With the right Event App and support you can make these changes on the fly as they happen, to update your audience in real-time.
Relationship building is a valuable and necessary part of many events. Networking tools within an Event App give your attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers the opportunity to not only interact before, during and after an event, but you can even go as far as automating meetings, giving people the opportunity to meet with others who have similar interests.
Investing in an Event App shouldn’t just be seen as something to enhance the user experience at a cost to you as the organiser. There are opportunities for increased revenue sources that will often cover the cost of your investment. The ability for exhibitors to easily scan and qualify their leads, and for more sponsorship opportunities (in some apps you can have a separate sponsor per icon or module) should be capitalised upon and considered in the early stages of planning.
If you’re selling exhibition stands and sponsorship, these investors will want to be fully aware of their ROI from the event. Robust analytics can show all of this information, encouraging them to get more involved in your future events. The ability to quickly report on their leads, have email notifications for follow up and lead questions make an Event App a much more affordable and streamlined way of data capture, in comparison to lead scanning software just a few years ago.
For you as an organiser, the data is important too. Whichever format your event takes; in-person, virtual or hybrid, you want to be able to track your attendees journey as a measure of success. See who has participated in Q&As, poll results, survey responses, downloads and engagement points.
It’s a much more intuitive way of gathering insights and true feedback from the event to improve in future.
Apps may seem daunting and “too much work” for smaller events, but we feel sure that the future of physical events… is digital!