This post is written by Derrick Stomp, co-founder of twoppy and sponsored by twoppy.
More information about Event Manager Blog’s sponsored posts.
Event apps are hot, very HOT, no, EXTREMELY HOT! The last edition of the Event App Bible made this very clear. There are lots of providers, with tons of features to choose from and everything seems possible. And while we await the upcoming edition, the amount of providers and features will probably only have added up. So as an eventplanner how do you avoid feeling like a kid in a candy store spending all his pocket money?
First and most important thing to bear in mind – and I keep repeating this: “You don’t have an event app, your attendees have”. This means you’re intruding their personal space and time, putting an event app on their beloved mobile device. If it isn’t worth their attention, it will be removed from the device with a single hand gesture. Scary isn’t it? Now, here’s how to survive in the event app jungle.
The Wheel Has Already Been Invented
: there are numerous smart people and companies out there that have given event apps a lot of thought. Most of the issues you’re trying to resolve are already taken care of in standard event app platforms or are possible within the range of features with some extra creative thinking. Designing an event app from scratch is almost always a bad idea. A proven event app platform like twoppy makes it easy to create an event app with minimal effort.
Don’t: reinvent the wheel and think that your audience is totally different from the rest of the world. In 99% of the events this will not be the case.
Analyze Your Audience
: start by asking yourself a bunch of questions: what are the characteristics and demographics of your attendees? Are they young, old, tech and social media savvy? How do you estimate app adoption or uptake amongst them? Maybe you’ll need a social media helpdesk in order to help attendees get started with using your app if they are real ‘app newbies’.
Furthermore you should be interested in what the exact needs of your audience are. What information is vital to them, and what kind of (social) interaction is needed? Is your audience a tight community where they know each other very well, or is it a diverse group of people? The latter may probably be interested in meeting new people, and in a different way compared to the first group, which may be more interested in year round engagement.
Don’t: expect your event to be a year round engager in the first place. Unless you already have a really strong community, brand and user engagement, don’t bother investing a lot in creating a new community kind of app. Nowadays people are overwhelmed with events and social media, so chances are that your event is one of many. Better put your energy in getting/keeping them on your Facebook page or Linkedin group.
Align the Purpose of the App with Your Event Goals, Combined with the Attendees Needs
What are your typical event goals? How does the app contributes to those goals? Make a wishlist of features based on your goals, and mix them with what your attendee might actually need.
: only implement those features that will really benefit the attendee. Furthermore, paying a lot of attention to content is worth the effort. By doing that you’ll definitely leave the attendee with the feeling of being understood and taken care of. Taking care of an attendee is as simple as providing a phone number from a local taxi company in the app’s transport information section. Or suggesting great restaurants in the area.
Don’t: pack the app with spiffy features, just because it makes your event or organisation look cool. Most modern attendees are not easily impressed – been there, seen this, done that. So don’t bother looking for the cool stuff, unless you’re 100% sure you’ll totally blow their mind.
Define Success Metrics
How are you going to measure the success of the app? What metrics are significant? And what do you consider to be reachable goals? Relevant metrics can be number of downloads/installs, pageviews, average number of sessions per user, etc.
: success should be measured in terms of ‘engagement level related to how well you’ve brought the app to the attention of your audience, and the characteristics (usability and relevance) of the app itself’. In other words: were people aware of the app, did they download/install it, and if they did, how much have they used it before and during the conference, how did they rate the sessions?. If you can quantify the answers to these questions, you’re be able to measure app success.
Don’t: judge the success of the app solely on the number of downloads or engagement metrics. If you poorly promoted the app to your audience, and the app content is not relevant enough, it is obvious that engagement levels will fall short.
: assign someone to be responsible for the app. Most of the time it will be the same person dealing with the website or communication. If it’s your first time dealing with an event app the process involves requirements setting, provider selection, implementation, promotion, content curation, attendee support and evaluation. Especially provider selection can be confusing because of the enormous amount of providers in the market. Depending on your budget and needs event apps can be available from free.
Don’t: think of the app as something that is done ‘in between’, it requires decent attention from a communications professional in your team.
Decide What Content Is Important to Include in the App
: consider an event app as a tool that is designed to quickly answer attendees most common questions. If you’ve thoroughly analyzed your audience you should know by now what their direct needs are. Keep content in the event app short, to the point and scannable. Be aware that a small screen isn’t ideal for reading a lot of text. For iPad users probably PDF documents (for example with abstracts) are a good thing. Provide a link to the PDF in the text for suggested further reading or having a post-event archive.
Don’t: stuff your app with the printed 800 page conference book content. It doesn’t add value and is annoying to your attendees.
Make Sure Attendees Know That You Provide an App
: communicate about the app on all your channels (e-mail newsletter, social media, website, etc.). Keep doing this before the event. Most event attendees become to gain interest in the app only a few days prior to the event. Make sure your efforts increase at the same time. Make a short manual, or a step by step how-to-use instruction. The most natural way to make your attendees notice the app is to use device detection techniques on your current website. If an attendee visits your website with a mobile device give him the option to download/install the app.
Don’t: think that having an app automatically means that people will use it. Bringing the app to the attendee’s attention is crucial in implementing a successful event app. And that involves more than just attaching a plain QR code to the wall.
Deliver Relevant Content
: be accurate with the content you deliver. Make sure the content in the app is always up to date or at least synchronised with the information on your website.
Don’t: as opposed to too much content is providing too little information. Just a session title won’t do the job. Again, think about the questions your attendees might have.
Facilitate Some Kind of Interaction
: use the app to facilitate interaction for example empowering social networking. Or interaction with a speaker during sessions by implementing rating, polling or voting. Apps can also be of great value if they are incorporated in some kind of game mechanism. Bear in mind that your own creativity is more important than app features.
Don’t: offer a digital version of the event booklet. Make the app useful for the attendees by providing features that aren’t possible on paper. On the other hand don’t overdo it, less is more, in particular when it comes to apps.
: make it a learning process. Get to know your audience better. Get to know event apps better. Based on the results of implementing the app evaluate how you’ve met your goals. See to it that you get feedback from your attendees, not only from the post event survey, but also from talking to random attendees. Ask them about their experiences with the app and definitely ask for suggestions. Share these with your app provider, everybody will benefit from it. Try to do things differently if it hasn’t worked out this time. Event apps are relatively new for everyone in the industry, so there’s a lot to explore.
Don’t: let disappointing results discourage you to use event apps. New things require learning and patience. Look at your goals, the app metrics and the data from the attendee survey to improve the next implementation of the event app.
Event apps are here to stay. They are becoming a commodity. Several event venues offer a mobile twoppy event app for free to event planners as part of their standard service. If you’re looking to start with event apps, it might be a good idea to ask the venue if they already offer that service. It is worth the time and effort to research your own and your attendees needs when it comes to event apps. Being successful with an event app boils down to knowing your audience, catering their needs and being an ace at promoting it to your attendees.
Did you ever implement an event app for your event? What were your learnings? How have you improved over time?