Asia is a mobile-first market. Five of the top ten countries with the highest smartphone penetration rate in the world are located here. Forrester Research estimates more than two billion people in Asia Pacific will be using smartphones in 2019. Event professionals in Asia should respond to the exploding growth of smartphones with a smart mobile strategy.
Is Mobile in Your Marketing Mix?
Event apps can be a huge time saver for attendees who are planning their events. With a well-designed app, you can provide them with more than just the agenda, exhibitor list, and floor plan. Unlike a printed brochure or a promotional USB stick, the event app can be updated with real-time content and is a platform to connect attendees with speakers and exhibitors.
Consumers are increasingly discerning about the apps they download and use. They will delete an app if it is hard to use and does not add value. The Event Manager Blog team tracked more than 100 event apps in the 2015 edition of The Event App Bible. How do you know which app is right for you?
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES, Meetings Technology Analyst, CorbinBall.com, said:
"It depends. One size does not fit all. There is such a wide variety of events and event goals. Meeting apps are like Swiss Army Knives - there are many tools that they can provide. In general, ease of use/navigation should be a key criterion. I like features that increase engagement: networking, polling, second screen, and gamification. However, I also like the ability to eliminate paper through interactive programmes, etc. Also, good analytics can be a goldmine of information for event planners (every touch is trackable)!
What's in an Event App?
Event apps typically offer standard features like personalised scheduling, floor plan, maps, speaker profiles, social media integration, and attendee profiles. You can expect bells and whistles like push notification, gamification, in-app chat, live polling, and analytics with custom apps.
Most event apps are divided into two kinds - native apps and Web-based apps. Native apps can function offline and access the smartphone's hardware, for example, camera, GPS, and speakerphone. Web-based apps are quick to deploy and do not need to be downloaded on the user's phone.
How Do I Get Started?
Step One: Prepare an event app brief. Be sure to include goals and objectives, target audience, timeline, budget, and resource allocation. Giving your developer a good brief is critical to the success of your app design. As the famous saying goes, 'If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!"
Step Two: Shortlist your vendors. Get referrals from other event professionals. Meet with app developers at MICE events like Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo (AIME). Schedule demos online with vendors like EventMobi and DoubleDutch. The Event App Bible is also a great resource to compare, evaluate, and understand event apps.
Step Three: Build the app. For a Web-based event app, it could be as straightforward as uploading your content. Branded apps offer more customisation and that requires you to work closely with the developer to fine-tune user interface and graphics. Remember your app has to be tested for quality before it can be made available in Apple's App Store and Google Play.
Step Four: Promote the app. Kevin Costner's character in the movie Fields of Dream famously said, "If you build it, they will come." Unfortunately, it does not work that way for apps. You have to tell attendees about the app through emails, social media, and offline marketing materials. Promoting the app has to be part of the overall marketing campaign.
Here's what Corbin suggests for making your app easy to find on-site. "Provide signage on site promoting the app. Good locations for signage include the entrance, your show information booth, and at your interactive kiosk version of the app."
Step Five: Analyse the data. User downloads only tell part of the story. App data can be used to capture event effectiveness and attendee behaviour. Event apps with smart analytics can help you improve on your event real-time. For example, if a popular session is filling up, you can schedule a repeat session and send push notifications to the attendees.
"App insights tell you where to concentrate your resources. They help reveal what works and what doesn't so that you can adapt the current event and apply your learning to future events. You will know which topics people like and don't like, where they like to spend their time, who the influencers are, and more. Future events will get better because you'll know what worked and what didn't," said Julie Bevacqua, chief marketing officer, QuickMobile.
"The main goal of event app users is to plan their sessions, everything else comes secondary…Attendees are the event app users, not the organisers, nor the sponsors. A killer event app must allow users to effortlessly build their schedule."
Silke Fleischer, CEO, ATIV Software
"There are several factors that go into making a Killer App for a meeting or event.
First and foremost, the best apps are ones that answer a specific need or requirement for attendees. ACTUALLY want. It isn't just doing something cool or interestingly. The app must share information that attendees want or need in a way that they can access without jumping through a lot of hoops."
Alec Sonenthal, director of technology development, Centium Software
"Adoption by the event attendees is the key to becoming a killer event app. Without adoption, it really does not matter what "cool" functionality you offer to the attendees, since few will use and see it."
Jan Sysmans, head of international marketing, DoubleDutch
Future of Event Apps
It is impossible to ignore the global penetration of smartphones. Without a doubt, Millennials in the workforce will influence mobile technology acceptance in the workplace. The question for the event professional is not if you should use event apps but how to make it work for you.
Here's a list of 10 event apps to help event professionals do what they do better. Apart from event-specific apps, I have included operational apps to streamline event management for busy event professionals.
1. Social Networking - Post, Share, Like Your Event
DoubleDutch creates branded mobile event apps that facilitate social interaction between attendees and your content. Collaboration and real-time messaging transform passive attendees into active participants and help shape the tone of the event.
• Cross reference social contacts with registered attendees
• Share links, photos, and videos on social media including Twitter/Facebook/ Pathable
• Direct messaging that puts attendees in touch with each other and connects event organisers with team members for better customer service
2. Gamification - Turn Your Event Into a Fun Experience
EventMobi's event app includes the agenda, speakers & session profiles, maps & location information, social media tools and rich participant profiles, among other features, so that attendees are well-prepared for their onsite experience. The EventMobi's gamification feature allows planners to create games around their event.
• Custom-design challenges with relevant incentives
• Drive foot traffic to exhibitor booths with check-ins
• Help attendees retain concepts by awarding points for answering quizzes
3. Analytics - Turn Data into Actionable Insights
QuickMobile's app offers more than an agenda and a list of attendees. Event analytics capability enables event professionals to measure ROI and make data-driven decisions. QuickMobile help clients define success metrics and point them to the right data points that support them.
• Gather mobile insights before, during, and after the event
• Analytics dashboard to reveal trends and patterns more quickly
• Create powerful reports for your team, exhibitors, and sponsors
4. Business Networking - Connections with a Swipe
Jublia is a Made-in-Singapore startup that is making a mark on the world stage. Jublia offers a networking ecosystem platform for event organisers to enable business matchmaking. The MATCH app curates the list of delegates based on one's business matching needs, and also schedules meetings effortlessly for them.
• Attendees can search and reach out to the people they want to meet at the event
• An unified meetings list for users to manage the rescheduling and cancellation of meeting
• Data-driven customer insights to quantify the ROI of business meetings
5. Event Discovery - Reach a Global Market
Headquartered in India, 10Times.com is a hugely successful directory of business events. Through the 10Times app, users can find events based on relevant interests and connect with people from their industry. By uploading your event on the app, you can promote it to over 20 million users around the world.
• Manage, sell event tickets and promote your event
• Visitor management system lets you see who are attending the event
• Send timely event updates to attendees
6. Event Management - Planning is a Breeze
EventsAIR by Centium Software provides a powerful cloud-based organiser app for on-the-ground management tasks that include real-time run sheets, on-the-spot reporting, full attendee database access and a powerful alerts and communications environment.
• Multiple Dashboards for staying up-to-speed on numerous events
• Organise agendas, venues, travel, catering, speakers, audiovisual requirements, entertainment, schedules, event personnel and more
• Communication platform for confirmation emails, marketing emails, automated follow up and extensive targeting and filtering tools.
7. Interactive Conference Program - Conference Guide at Your Fingertips
EventPilot by Ativ Software is a robust interactive conference program app that can support complex scientific and medical meetings with thousands of presentations. Using this native app, attendees can take notes, send messages, find rooms, and highlight exhibitors they want to see on the expo map.
• Location-based alerts and notifications with iBeacon and GPS technology
• Offline PowerPoint viewer with slide-based note taking and unique slide sharing on the mobile app via email, Facebook, or Twitter
• Sponsorship options ranging from rotating ads to special sponsor listings with Web and media links
8. Attendee Engagement - Listen to Your Audience
Crowd Mics powers audience engagement by turning the audience's phones into wireless microphones. Attendees no longer have to wait for a mic wrangler or walk up to the mic stand. They can also participate with text commenting and live polling.
• Audience can speak into their mobile device and be heard on the sound system
• Moderators can control Crowd Mics and facilitate Q&A
• Questions and comments can be projected on a screen
9. Smart Polling - Energise your audience
Micepad is a customised application to crowdsource questions and generate ideas. Attendees can ask and vote for their favourite questions to be answered. Audience engagement levels are kept high with interactive game-show like features such as live polls and snap quizzes. Networking is also made easy via the app's built-in private messaging system.
• Synchronise presenters' slides and allow annotation
• Capture real-time feedback, messages and poll results
• iPads with pre-loaded Miceapp available for rental
10. Ticketing - Peatix
Peatix is Japan's answer to EventBrite. With Peatix, you can create event pages and sell tickets online with your mobile device. Apart from QR code and manual check-in, Peatix came up with a patent-pending ColorSync technology to check the validity of the attendee's ticket by comparing the flashing colours on the organiser's smartphone and the flashing colours on the attendee's smartphone. This innovative technology allows event organisers to check-in hundreds of attendees in a matter of minutes.
• Event promotion through Peatix search
• Paperless ticket service
• Track ticket sales and page views 24/7