Typically, having a lot of choice is great, but with this much choice, the life of an event planner gets much more complex!
Did you know there are over a hundred different types of event management platform apps currently available in the market? This article aims to help you cut through the noise and find the event app that’s best for you.
Why you need an event app
Most industry insiders agree that event apps are pretty much a must nowadays. Close to half of event planners already regularly use an app at their events, and adoption is growing at 30%+ per year. However, event apps are not a one-size-fits-all. Each of your events is unique, as well as your event planning team. So, figuring out which vendor or internal solution is the best one for your needs is key.
To determine what type of event marketing app is best for you, let’s first take a look at why the majority of event planners are currently using or planning on using an event app. It all comes down to achieving attendee satisfaction.
1. Shifting demographics of the event attendee
The profiles of conference and event attendees have shifted significantly within the last decade. New generations are entering the workforce and technology has become seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. The goal of an event planner used to be as simple as getting the greatest number of attendees (sometimes regardless of their fit to the event content or brand). At the same time, only one overarching marketing message was used to garner interest.
With economic shifts, constant cuts in budgets dedicated to attending events (if one even exists), and easy access to online educational resources, attendees are becoming increasingly discerning of the events they choose to attend.
On the other end, event planning professionals are more attuned to how their marketing messages influence attendees’ decision to attend their events. They also understand that attendees are placing more emphasis on the value they receive by attending an event.
2. Apps are top drivers for event attendance and satisfaction
Remember that attendees are consumers and the process of deciding whether or not to register for your event is essentially the same as them deciding between any other product they may be considering purchasing. There will always be others in the market to compare against, so the best way to differentiate your event from other competitors is to provide the greatest amount of value for their financial and time investment.
IAEE, PCMA, and The Experience Institute conducted a study to determine the leading reasons why people decide to attend events. In “The Decision to Attend Study”, results show that education, destination, and networking are the top three drivers for event attendance.
In fact, across all generations surveyed (Pre Boomers, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y Millennial), 76% of respondents said it’s important that events provide them with opportunities to network and make connections. Overall, this heavily impacts their decision to attend an event. Networking opportunities are especially important for Millennials, with 84% reporting it as a driving factor. The younger generations look at attending events as a way to grow their network and look for job opportunities.
The majority of attendees (84%) also tend to register for an event 2-6 months before the event date. So this means that most of your registrants will already have confirmed their attendance to your event prior to when you start promoting your event app. It’s during this time when they would be most receptive to taking advantage of looking through the attendee list, personalizing their event schedule, and booking appointments with other attendees.
Using event app technology to enhance networking between attendees, sponsors, and other key stakeholders is one of the biggest areas where event planners are seeing game-changing opportunities to increase attendee satisfaction.
Additional benefits of an event app
In addition to driving attendee networking, event app technology can also be used to achieve plenty of other event goals, such as:
Increasing attendee engagement
Generating new revenue streams
Simplify information distribution
Saving on costs by eliminating paper and consolidating providers
Meeting the newest demands of your event guests
Gaining deeper insight and measurement into your event analytics
Increasing exposure for sponsors and exhibitors
Providing better problem solving for attendees
Improving customer service
Helping to differentiate against competitors
The drivers you focus on will help you define your KPIs and measure your event success. For instance, you can use the survey feature within an event app to measure engagement and satisfaction delivered to attendees during and after the event.
The above list will also help you figure out which event app features are the best to meet your goals. As an example, if one of your drivers is to eliminate printing costs then make sure that you have all the materials digitized and uploaded to the event app, including the agenda, speaker notes, presentations, and other supporting materials.
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Once you’ve identified your event success goals, the next step is to select the best event app provider who will help you reach your goals.
Top 3 factors to consider when selecting an event app provider
Let’s take a closer look at how your choice will be affected by budget, technology, and integrations.
Event planners often view cost as one of the major determining factors in choosing which event app provider to work with. There are hundreds of event app providers to sort through with price tags ranging from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
The true cost of “free”
You may have a natural tendency to gravitate towards vendors that have the lowest price point. Be careful.
There are plenty of free event app options out there, but before you make your decision, it’s important to be aware of the many hidden costs associated with that option. Typically, these are providers that provide little or no customer support, so your team is solely responsible for the development and deployment of the app.
Free apps also tend to lack the customization features you may require to ensure the app design reflects your brand and delivers on the best user experience. There tends to be a higher likelihood of the technology being more buggy, increasing the risk of it failing you and your attendees during your event.
Time and people: the hidden costs
When selecting an event app provider, make sure to ask questions related to how long it will take to build your event app. The time and people costs required could add up quickly. On average, it takes approximately 20 hours to get the event app built. But that amount of time is dependent on so many factors.
If it’s your first app, you’ll most likely need to double that estimate due to the steep learning curve. Look for a platform that’s intuitive and easy to learn, especially if you don’t have tech-savvy skills in your team.
If you don’t have available resources on staff, you will need external help, either from the event app provider or a third party. Speak to the event app provider to see if they have services to help you build out the event app prior to the event. Also, check that providers have a full fledged support team that you can reach out to at a moments notice. Do they have 24/7 availability, easy to use knowledge base, self directed training, in platform support to help users navigate the features?
Get as much information as you can upfront. Request for a demo or free trial, and even a mock-up of what your event app could look like, if possible. It never hurts to ask.
In many cases, event planners come up against the argument that there’s not enough budget to invest in an event app. In most of these situations, there is usually a lack of understanding related to how this type of technology can help achieve event success and maximize ROI for all event stakeholders. This is where you need to build a business case in order to get everyone on board to see the benefits of adopting new technology.
By integrating an event app into your event strategy, you can actually lower your overall event costs by eliminating printing costs and the need for separate tools. Within a single event app, you can issue session and feedback surveys, audience response tools, and digital displays, just to name a few functionalities. Event apps also enable you to generate new revenue sources through in-app sponsorship offerings.
The cost of not changing
Another hidden cost that nobody really talks about is the risk of losing attendees. If you do not drive better engagement and satisfaction rates at your events, your numbers will dwindle year after year. There’s too much competition vying for your audience’s attention to remain stagnant.
Event app technology is designed to engage attendees and provide them with the information they need in order to maximize their time at the event. So much more can be done to create an interactive and immersive event experience through the use of engagement tools like live polling, mobile surveys, and appointment booking features to help drive engagement, networking, and better education. In absence of creating that experience, you're risking that attendees will just choose to spend their time and money elsewhere.
2. Event app technology
If the primary goal of your event is to drive engagement and attendee satisfaction, here's a list of features that you should definitely consider adopting at your future event.
Show guide/event agenda - This is a must feature and the majority of providers offer it. As the name suggests, this is where the user will find the event schedule, agenda items, show guide, event map including room information, etc.
Networking - Ensure the event app has networking features that enables attendees to connect with one another. Common features include appointment booking, in-app chat, group discussions, and event gamification challenges.
Engagement - Now that you enabled your users to network with their peers, make sure you drive their engagement during the event by giving them a voice. As an example, live polling is a fantastic tool to get attendees interacting with presenters and each other during sessions. Poll results can be presented live during presentations and the presenter can cater their content based on the audience inputs.
Another critical feature to drive engagement is gamification. Develop games in the app to engage your attendees and influence their behavior and learning through fun, friendly challenges that reward activities and actions.
And don’t lose the opportunity to collect ratings and feedback with session and post-event surveys. These mechanisms are a must-have if you’re looking to collect critical event analytics.
Although there any many interesting features in development, like matchmaking, AI machine learning, and voice activated features similar to Alexa or Siri, if you really want to achieve your event goals, these three engagement features are the primary drivers to your success.
3. Event app integrations
Event planners don’t have it easy! On average, those that leverage event technology work with five different technology platforms, including online registration, event apps, email marketing , CRM, polling, and ticketing systems–just to name a few.
The challenge is that many of those tools aren’t connected with each other. Essentially, event planners are forced to manually extract data from one tool and reconcile using tools like Excel before importing it again into another tool for analysis.
The data incompatibility is a huge headache. But there is a better, more efficient way to do this–event app integrations.
Event software integration 101
Think of an event software integration as a connector between two tools or systems (typically not coming from the same provider) that allows to share data with each other. It allows for changes in one system to be reflected in another automatically without manual uploading/importing on the part of a human.
In order to develop a sustainable event tech system that is easily replicable between numerous events, you will need to ensure your tools are integrated with one another.
It’s quite rare that any one event management platform will offer up all those tools in one package. That’s why the vendors’ ability for you to integrate your disparate tools is another important consideration when selecting an event app. Does the provider offer pre-built integrations you can use? Do they have a team to help you setup new integrations with your current tools to ensure compatibility? Do they have a list of the most sought after integrations to showcase their success with it?
The concept of the best event app is quite fickle. One event app will be perfect for your competitor but terrible for your event needs. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. You have to figure out what are your event goals and the needs of your audience and other key stakeholders. Then you need to discuss these needs with event app providers to understand and compare the various features available to address each of these needs.
The winning formula is : Your and your users’ needs + product fit + vendor fit= end user happiness.
Ready to learn more about event apps? Discover the best mobile event apps for event planners in 2019.