The Xperience Conference is aimed at association professionals and the most recent event took place at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Orlando, Florida, USA, in April 2017.
The Xperience Conference first began in 2014, and has run annually ever since. Originally conceptualized as a user conference for YourMembership clients and products, Xperience expanded this year into an industry event for anyone involved with community management, educational initiatives, and the creation of experiences for communities
This year, there were roughly 500 people in attendance. The conference comprises workshops, topical discussions, and interactive sessions designed to provide attendees with the tools, technology, and know-how to improve member experiences within organizations.
The event took place over 3 days, opening on Sunday, April 23rd, with the ‘Fire and Ice Welcome Reception’. Keynotes, breakout sessions, and various learning tracks took place over the next two and a half days, with the conference wrapping up early on Wednesday afternoon. In addition, there were networking and social events throughout. On Monday night, YourMembership held a social networking hour. The major social activity was the off-site event on Tuesday. Attendees boarded a bus to Harry Potter World, which had been fully rented out for the conference, and were able to enjoy themselves at the theme park.
- 500 people in attendance.
- 3 day event.
- This is the 4th Xperience Conference.
- Originally a user conference, in 2017 the event reinvented itself to an industry event, aimed at anyone creating the ultimate member experience.
- Attended by those working in the education and community management industry.
With the move away from a user conference to an industry focused event the organizers were keen to ensure all attendees, whether or not they had attended past events, got maximum value from it. A big part of this was ensuring everyone had a memorable experience and benefitted from relevant learning resources and networking. By ensuring a positive event experience this should help to encourage loyalty and repeat attendance in future years.
Why an Event App?
The Xperience Conference understood that an event app could help them to achieve their objectives by making full use of features such as surveys, live polls, gamification, profile matching, interactive schedules and more. The organizers had worked with QuickMobile for three years to deliver a seamless event app experience for the event and were keen to continue the relationship.
The focus and objectives for the 2017 conference were however different to previous years and the app needed to help make the experience memorable, supporting networking, new connections, engagement, sponsor information and learning. By working with QuickMobile the Xperience Conference could gather real-time audience and participation data, and compare these metrics against past events, as well as keeping attendees engaged before and after the event.
The shift towards an industry, rather than user-focused, conference, meant that in 2017 there were new event objectives:
- Providing top content for everybody across platforms in the industry, rather than product-specific information.
- Creating a community of professionals focused on the ultimate member experience.
- Creating a conference that was “an experience”, by helping attendees create memories that stick with them even after they have left the event.
- Creating a seamless, standout experience with surprise and delight elements to add exciting features to the conference.
- Providing on-site training to customers, as well as information about products.
The conference has run for 4 years now, and their core event objectives relate to continuous improvements, including:
- Increasing engagement among attendees compared to previous conferences.
- Gathering data for content and speaking engagements, to better understand what most interested audiences.
- Gathering data on behalf of sponsors, to help demonstrate ROI and prove value in attending the conference as a sponsor or an attendee.
- Providing a seamless user experience with a tool that ‘flowed’ with attendees throughout the conference, in order to make it easy for attendees to navigate.
How Were the Objectives Achieved?
The major challenge was hosting an event that appealed to a diverse audience, while providing a seamless experience to seasoned experience-makers. It was crucial for Xperience to have moments of surprise and delight, ensuring that the conference would have lasting impact on attendees.
1. Selecting a Unifying Theme
The Xperience Conference utilized a Harry Potter theme throughout the event, in order to capture a sense of magic and excitement that would appeal to a varied audience. A challenge was making sure that the attendees’ actions – whether they were downloading documents, attending sessions, or interacting with other attendees – would fit the theme and create a holistic experience, even while they were engaging in the conference learnings and discussion.
Technology helped to integrate the Harry Potter theme into the day-to-day activities of the event. Attendees were automatically a part of the in-app game, which awarded points for actions such as attending a session, social media activity, sharing photos, or contacting other attendees. To fit with the theme, attendees who logged into the event app were also automatically “sorted” into house teams, named after different aspects of community management.
This seemed to have a drastic effect on attendee participation in the game. The second place team had 43,000 points, only 2,000 less than the winning team. Automatic inclusion in the team game encouraged attendees to participate throughout the event, even if their individual scores were low, in order to contribute to the overall score. The game also helped familiarize attendees with in-app functions such as exchanging contact information, setting up meetings with peers, and sending messages to one another.
2. Measuring Successes with Technology
Attendee engagement was both a major challenge and a major goal for the conference, as it was important to ensure that attendees were invested in the proceedings, and able to learn from the sessions at the same time. Although the Xperience conference had used QuickMobile’s event app platform last year as well, the organizers wanted to work more closely with the QuickMobile team to create a more rounded and seamless technology experience that integrated with the overall conference theme.
Their previous experiences working with QuickMobile had demonstrated that event apps can be a unique way to reach out to and direct attendees, as well as taking advantage of people’s inclination to constantly check their smartphones. With the use of proximity technology, engagement tracking, and other analytics built into the platform, YourMembership were keen to gather more data about their attendees’ behaviour and to build strong sponsorship cases by providing sponsors with information about ROI and the value of attending Xperience.
The information gathered would also help Xperience’s event planners to better understand the impact of their speakers and sessions, and gauge their successes in order to continue to improve the event going forward.
3. Incorporating Technology into the Experience
The event planning team also used the app’s messaging, announcement, and notification functions throughout the event. By using the app to send reminders about ongoing activities, as well as individual messages to key influencers, they were able to provide a sense of personalization and recognition that encouraged attendees to stay motivated and engaged.
Location technology (via the placement of beacons), push notifications, and the activity feed were also used as part of Xperience’s event strategy. For example, when attendees stepped through the main gateway at Harry Potter World, the app sent a push notification welcoming them to the event. It included a sponsored document, and so was able to bring more visibility to sponsors while also impressing attendees. The organizers saw many attendees bring out their phones to look at the notification, and then Tweet excitedly about the unexpected experience immediately after.
The event app also helped Xperience drive audience engagement along with learning. Part of the pre-event initiatives included rewards and incentives for attendees who participated in the in-app discussion boards and forums. These perks included front row seats for keynote presentations and reserved seating at sessions of their choice. The event planners found that this, paired together with the pre-event in-app game, helped ensure that attendees came into the event having already looked at the session documents and presentation slides. There were over 20,000 app views before the first day of the event, better preparing attendees for the presentations so they could get more from the content.
4. Assembling and Distributing Relevant Content
As part of the goal of preparing and disseminating more top-quality content, the planners organized part of the app into a resource center where attendees could search for, save, and share documents. To help attendees access relevant documents, the event planners paired the app with location technology, which meant that as users passed by vendors or went into sessions, the event app would notify them of content that they could view. This helped ensure that attendees were able to make the most of the available resources, and added to the flow of their day without interrupting the typical processes of the conferences.
Some of the content was sponsored or otherwise product-based and because of this, it was very important for Xperience to track statistics such as document views, session attendance, and the most popular communication streams. Using the event app as the main vehicle of communication and content allowed the conference team to track the statistics.
This type of information was vital to provide to their sponsors, in order to show the ROI and value from attending and sponsoring the conference. Some of the information was passed directly to sponsors, helping them both to understand Xperience’s impact on their business, as well as providing them with the feedback to improve future experiences. Particular surveys in the app were directly about attendees’ experience and impression of sponsors, from the number that attended the booth, to how it was rated in the survey. Other information, such as purchasing trends, will become a part of Xperience’s sponsorship package next year.
Overall, Xperience was able to track the engagement and activity of this year’s conference in comparison to last year’s, and found a notable difference. In previous years, the week before the event found very low numbers of app downloads, versus in 2017, where over 70% of attendees had downloaded the app before the event started, and were already engaging with documents and features. Based on numbers from the in-game app, Xperience also found that attendees participated much more. Total individual points, which were awarded for different participation and engagement activities, totalled over 100,000, whereas in previous years only a few high ranked individuals would have 900-1,000 points.
Raising Engagement Levels in Attendees
A major obstacle for the planners of Xperience was finding ways to encourage attendees to participate in the event, rather than being swept up in the theme and remaining observers on the sidelines. It was important for the tech used to create a flow that encouraged attendees to take actions and make the most of the resources available. They ameliorated this potential issue by meeting early with QuickMobile’s support team, and had several meetings to create a game that matched the theme of their overall event, as well as ways to align the event app with the goings-on of the conference so that they could cue attendees to take action at key points (such as push notifications for session or booth relevant content, reminders to respond to surveys and polls, updates for the game leaderboard, etc). It was important for the theme of the event to draw attention, but also invite attendees to take part in the event.
Shifting From a User-focused to an Industry-focused Conference
The shift meant that Xperience needed to broaden their approach to content, as well as work to improve attendees’ access to the relevant content. Attendees who had previously attended Xperience may not have expected to have industry-relevant content, so Xperience had to strategize ways to draw their attention to relevant resources. This required the planners to take into account the places and parts of the event where attendees would be able to make the most of certain pieces of content. They then incorporated timed notifications and location-based reminders to ensure that attendees were aware of the pieces of content that were most relevant to them at that time.
Continued Improvement Year Over Year
Xperience has worked with QuickMobile for three years, and this year, one of their major goals was to improve the numbers of attendees who were actively participating, contributing to discussions, and taking a more active part in the event. They used their event app’s built in statistics and analytics platform to measure which sessions and activities were the most well-attended, as well as which ones inspired the most activity in-app, whether through social media, surveys, or other attendee generated posts. This type of tracking, over the last few years, has helped them to hone in on their most effective types of event activities, allowing them to streamline their events.
This year, there was an all-time high of 88% of attendees downloading the app. Everyone that downloaded the app also had points of some kind through the in-app game, meaning that each attendee participated in some way, whether that was simply filling out their profile and allowing other attendees to contact them, meaning that Xperience saw a marked increase in engagement from their attendees.
Takeaways for Event Planners
1. Be Patient But Proactive When it Comes to Event Metrics
It’s crucial to measure the statistics of your event, especially when your goals are focused around increasing engagement, or having data to prove ROI to potential sponsors. Be sure to have methods in place to gather than information; however, be prepared to spend some time waiting for your initiatives to produce results that you can act on. Year over year comparisons will ultimately be more useful to you.
2. Plan Early, and Plan with Your Service Providers
Your event tech should be well integrated into your event strategy, particularly when you have a dedicated event app. Take advantage of the support your event app team provides to make sure that you are using the tech to it’s full advantage. Ask questions, and be open to suggestions, and you will be able to get more out of your event tech.
3. Don’t Let The Theme Overpower Your Event
Xperience’s theme worked well for their event because it helped create a seamless experience between the content, experience, and technology, without sacrificing opportunities for attendees themselves to participate. While you want your tools to flow with the theme, it’s also important to make sure that your theme helps attendees engage rather than only giving them something to marvel at.
4. Build Bridges Between Attendee Expectations and Your Objectives
As Xperience had been a user conference until this year, it was important for planners to recognize that attendees wouldn’t necessarily expect industry-relevant content. They worked hard to draw attention to relevant content, in order to help attendees re-conceptualize Xperience as the forward-thinking industry event that they were shifting towards.
An event mobile app with a well thought out engagement strategy can help attendees to get more out of the event in terms of networking, resources, learning, information and participation. The Xperience Conference objectives and focus changed for 2017 and by working closely with the QuickMobile event app they were able to use event technology to offer a more valuable experience to attendees. Working together over the last three years has also enabled continuous improvements and comparisons to be made and persuasive ROI data to be generated which can be used to strengthen the sponsorship offer and content for future events.