Event apps: Success at your fingertips?

A well-thought out app can be one of the key ingredients for a successful event, but only with a little bit of forward thinking…

Search for ‘event app’ on Google and you’ll be engulfed by an avalanche of app companies pushing solutions that they claim offer ‘cutting edge engagement’ and ‘enhanced attendee experience’. But before you get sucked in by online demos showcasing exciting features like live polling and iBeacons, take the time to think about exactly how a mobile event app can contribute to the success of your event.

In essence, an app is just another channel for communicating, interacting and sharing content with your target audience and from our experience, the process of commissioning an event app shares many similarities with planning any other communications campaign.

So if you are planning to develop an app for your next event, we’ve pulled together a brief guide to get you going in the right direction:

Decide what success looks like

The objective of an event app should always be to contribute to the success of the event, so identifying what success looks like and how an app contributes needs to be your first step.

For most events, success is the combination of attendee engagement, sponsor or exhibitor ROI and revenue:

Engagement

Do you want your attendees to be able to navigate the event and its many streams and sessions easily? Is it important that you can push them content? Or do you want to make your event a more interactive experience (and collect some data) by including live polling? Is it important that your delegates can connect with others and arrange meetings via the app?

Sponsorship Revenue and RoI

Are you looking to maximise sponsorship revenue with additional advertising space within the app? Or is it important for you to ensure that exhibitors and sponsors get a return on their investment by being able to request meetings and creating leads via data capture?

Depending on which of these you care about most, you should be able to establish the right balance for your event.

Understand your audience

Nobody wants to invest a fortune in a bespoke app with all the bells and whistles only to find that the take-up is extremely low or that some of the features are hardly used.

Similar to a communications campaign, it is essential to understand your target audience. If you have already started to plan your event, you probably have a good idea of who your attendees will be (well I would hope so!), but you might want to gain some additional insights that will help you shape and deliver a great app.

So what do you need to know?

Make sure you have a good understanding of your attendees’ level of digital savvy, mobile habits, devices, etc. This will help you decide what type of app you need. ‘Off the shelf’ or ‘one size fits all’ apps like this one might be suitable for your event, but then again, they might not. For example, if you think your attendees are less likely to download an app to their own device (either due to their level of digital literacy, concerns for security or any other particular reason), then you might decide on a web-only solution that doesn’t need to be downloaded. Or choose to provide the app and the iPads specifically for the event (such as the solution offered by Eventpad).

The app that we developed for Digital 2015 took approximately 6 weeks in total (Both native and web versions)
The app that we developed for Digital 2015 took approximately 6 weeks in total (Both native and web versions).

You also need to identify your attendees’ needs and interests in order to decide what app features will be most valued. Is it as simple as knowing what is on, when and where, via an up-to-date agenda. Would they value the ability to build their own event schedule? Are they more likely to want to interact with social media feeds and networking tools? All of the above?

Tip: If you have managed similar events in the past, why not simply talk to previous attendees to glean some invaluable insights.

Recently, we developed an app for Digital 2015 that was designed for an audience of high-level professionals from the tech sector and beyond. This audience was comprised of individuals that were very familiar with apps, expected a quality user experience and were comfortable using interactive features. Feedback from previous events revealed that individuals were very selective regarding the sessions they wanted to visit and that networking was a very important aspect.

This had an impact not only on the choice of platforms our app accommodated, but also the look and feel of the app and features we selected to include.

Plan your timescale and resources

However much money you have to spend, an app doesn’t happen overnight and the more features you choose, the more time and resources you will need to manage these.

Even with the ‘off the shelf’ mobile event app solutions offered by the likes of Crowdcomms and Eventbase, the accuracy and quantity of event content you load on to it is key to the app’s success – and we all know, good content takes time. Think about whether you will be able to pull together content about the sessions, speakers, presentations etc. yourself and how much time this could take.

Tip – be generous with your estimates!

You may decide you require help from either the app provider or external resources.

It is also worth noting that if you are launching a native app (which can be downloaded to a device and needs to be developed for each mobile platform), this will require at least 3 weeks additional development time, so that it can be processed by the various app stores. Find out more about the difference between a native and a web app here.

Integrate the app with your communications strategy

You are most likely going to use a number of other systems to manage your event including a website, registration forms, ticketing platforms, and by deciding this integration in advance you can reduce the amount of work (and potential errors) that will result from having to move and maintain data in different places. I can’t emphasise enough how important data management is, especially when it comes to event apps.

Also, think about event management and production: if you are considering things like live polling, push notifications, etc. you will need skilled session facilitators comfortable with managing these aspects on the day.

Importantly, consider how you are going to communicate the app to your attendees. Will attendees be able to download it at the event, or do they need to be encouraged to do so ahead of time through your marketing outreach? After all, an app is not going to have a great impact on the success of your event if nobody knows it exists or uses it.

The Digital 2015 app had over 2187 unique users in total (a high take-up rate of nearly 100%, combining the native and web app versions). This was achieved by a number of email campaigns to over 2,000 registered delegates, in combination with a website banner highlighting the app and promotion via social media channels. It is essential all communications to attendees clearly highlight the value of using the app, in order to incentivise downloads.

And as I mentioned earlier, let’s not forget that an app is just another channel that allows you to communicate and share content with your target audience. By integrating the app into your marketing and communication strategy and activities, not only can you expect high take-up rates, you can also ensure consistency of branding, messaging and content across all channels (website, app, email, social etc.).

So there’s plenty to think about when it comes to event app decisions, but if you have a clear idea of exactly what you need from the start, an event app can really contribute to the success of your event.

Need some advice? Get in touch with us now.

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