Event Apps

With nearly everyone, including technology laggards, carrying around a smartphone, mobile use at events has exploded, and mobile event app developers are expanding and refining the options.

The October 2014 MPI/DoubleDutch survey reports that 85 percent of meeting planners are using or will soon use mobile event apps for their meetings. However, when asked what the most useful features are, most planners responded with features that replace paper (session descriptions, speaker profiles, expo floor maps, etc.). Although these greening features are important, they are just the first step.

New developments will provide a goldmine of analytic detail and extraordinary new capabilities for participant engagement and event improvement.

Analytics

The onsite meeting used to be the “black hole” of event data management. Planners used computers before and after events, but during an event they were “flying blind.” A planner could hand out paper surveys, but tallying could not be complete until after the event—not in time to make mid-course corrections.

Today, mobile event apps offer an unprecedented amount of analytic data—ample useful, real-time information to improve the event experience. Every touch is trackable!

App analytics can answer instantly many important questions.

  • What are trending topics?
  • Who are the top speakers?
  • What exhibit booths have the most attendance?
  • What is the crowd flow through an exhibit hall?
  • What speakers/exhibitors are “liked” the most?
  • Who are the key connectors/influencers?
  • What app features are the most popular?
  • Who, when, where, why and how are apps being used?
  • What are the attendees’ ratings on specific survey and/or polling questions?

Event hosts can use these data to create a better experience. As mobile event apps become entrenched in the business process, these analytic capabilities will be considered one of the most useful elements of the many benefits they provide.

The following are just a few additional new mobile developments coming to an event near you.

BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and Beacon Technology

Beacons are BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) radio transmitters with up to a 150-foot range. A beacon is low cost (starting about $10) and low maintenance (one battery can last more than a year) and can share information with Apple and later model Android mobile device apps. This year, beacons are in many sporting arenas, museums, and a variety of retail establishments.

There is great promise for events, with nearly all of the major event app developers working on ways to incorporate this technology. Following are some of the possibilities.

  • Gamification and scavenger hunts: A scavenger hunt using beacon technology at CES 2014 encouraged attendees to explore the many exhibit halls.
  • Location information and navigation assistance: Beacon-enabled apps can notify attendees where they are on a map and give guidance on where they wish to go.
  • Personalized welcome and other location-based alert notifications: For example, a badge prints when the attendee enters the geo-fence, with notification sent via the app to the badge-printing location.
  • Social media networking and information exchange: Beacon communication can be two-way. With user permission, the phone app can transmit contact information, social media profiles, specific meeting room access information, meal tracking, food preferences, and much more. Communication among attendees will be enhanced with notification/pictures/information about who is nearby.
  • Exhibit booth dwell-time measurement: The longer a person is at a booth, the more likely they are interested in the product. Beacons can measure this dwell-time, providing valuable information to exhibitors.
  • Automated demonstrations: Videos and other media for any point of interest in a conference venue can be triggered by beacons.
  • Targeted exhibitor or event management messaging to participants.
  • Automated continuing education unit (CEU) tracking.
  • Local area information and deals: Local merchants can send discount coupons to convention attendees (if the attendee opts in to receive).
  • Loss prevention: Audiovisual companies or venues can be notified of unauthorized equipment removal using an RFID tag linked to a geofence.
  • Attendee action metrics: Organizers will be able to track where attendees are spending their time with alert notifications to problems (e.g., an inordinately long registration line or crowd flow through an exhibit hall).

Planners and event app developers must take care to use beacons judiciously in order to provide significant value to event participants. If attendees feel that this technology is an invasion of privacy with no payback for them or a “pop-up spam” device, they will simply turn off the Bluetooth reception or uninstall the app.

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Participant Networking and Engagement Tools

The combination of mobile technology and social media has provided a wide range of attendee-engagement options. The entire dynamic of meetings is changing; instead of “top down” it is “bottom up.” Instead of attendees passively sitting at an event watching a talking head, meeting participants are demanding a greater say and expect active engagement using their mobile devices. This is playing out in several ways.

  • Social media apps can recruit and engage participants before, during, and after events.
  • The highly mobilized social media apps (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook video, YouTube) are seeing strong use during many events.
  • Gamification can be integrated into many mobile event apps to increase participant engagement and appealing to our “fundamental need and desire for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism” (Bunchball.net).
  • Advanced matchmaking and networking options are becoming available in many mobile event apps.
  • Many specialized meeting room engagement apps have recently become available, including Conferences i/o, CrowdMics, Evenium ConnexMe, MeetingPulse, PollEverywhere, Social Q&A, Klowd, and UberMeetings.
  • Many of the mobile event guide developers are also building in polling, survey, gamification, and other engagements tools as well, including QuickMobile, DoubleDutch, and CrowdCompass just to name a few.

Mobile technology for events is going way beyond the elimination of paper. The major transformation has just begun to improve participant engagement and events in general. FM

This article was originally published in The Meeting Professional, a strategic content partner with Facility Manager.

(Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Creative Commons)