Is your event app engaging or simply functional?

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By Ben Moorsom

I was at a conference recently and was using a mobile application to find my way from one part of the event to another. As I checked my schedule, it got me thinking: Are we maximizing the potential of mobile technology in the event space? These apps are great for physically moving people from place to place, but couldn’t they also be used to move people, in the sense of engagement?
Is your event app engaging or simply functional?
No longer is it enough to use mobile technology purely for logistics purposes or to create a paperless meeting. While these are both great uses, it’s time to consider what else we can do with the technology that we’re investing in.

Leveraging technology

Mobile technology can be an instrumental tool to enhance the event experience, becoming more of a catalyst for content and sharing. If your purpose is to engage attendees and move them toward action, then why not leverage the power of technology to help you do just that?

Here’s an example of something Debut Group did recently: At a multi-stream event for a large company, we used a mobile app to synchronize and unite attendees while connecting them with the overall “story” of the event. By pushing out a compelling message to all participants every morning through the app, we were able to introduce attendees to the day’s focus. We also directed them to a private networking space (think Twitter but a closed network) where they could continue the conversation and share ideas. This was then broadcast to a live screen in the event space so participants could interact with the online conversation in real life.

Links to event objectives

I believe technology should be used primarily as an engagement tool that draws people into the message you’re trying to deliver, rather than distracting them from it. The shift here is from a logistics tool to one that is seamlessly integrated into the storyline of the event. The app should be linked to the objectives of the meeting and should allow for real time ideation and content development.

We’ve been working with many mobile app companies recently, so we asked them what they think about leveraging their app’s capabilities to leverage the meeting content and further engage with participants.

“Engagement is still very much driven by organizers,” explains Robin Jones, CMO of QuickMobile. “If organizers promote, publicize, and encourage people to participate, then things like gamification and social networking in the app can really raise the bar on engagement.”

Games add meaning

Mobile games are an exciting means of engaging participants in a way that’s interesting and memorable. Says Jones: “Games are a great way to add meaning to the story – if you tie the activities to the overall theme. A game for the sake of a game, however, will add little value.”

As we continued speaking, Jones mentioned something that I feel strongly about: “Too many times organizers have an app for the sake of having one, and actually don’t take the time to align the app functionality to the meeting objectives. You want the app to really facilitate flow, energy, and delivery that syncs perfectly with the goals of the event.”

A program like QuickMobile offers planners a highly configurable app with more than 40 components. They work with planners to ensure the app meets their event objectives and maximizes engagement opportunities.

Personalized experience

I continued the conversation by checking in with another event application company, EventMobi. Jonah Wolfraim, Communications Manager at EventMobi, had some insight to add. I asked him how their app is being used for engagement purposes and what, if any, opportunities event planners are missing when it comes to utilizing the app. Wolfraim made a good point when he said: “A personalized experience goes a long way. If event planners take the time to utilize EventMobi’s various personalization tools, they will be able to connect with their attendees on a whole new level. It’s not the app itself that connects, it’s the content and the people on the other end; an event app is simply a channel.”

As far as this app goes, there are a few specific features that provide the opportunity for engagement. One such feature is a polling function, which allows participants to engage with planners by responding to surveys in real-time and providing immediate feedback. It can also be strategically choreographed into the meeting content through the live polling functionality, providing measurable results of retention and interest.

Polls, surveys underused

According to Jones, event planners aren’t using polls, surveys, and audience response systems as much as they could be. She says: “When people are sitting in sessions and are asked for their opinions, they are way more engaged and connected.”

Another engagement feature offered by many including EventMobi, is the direct notification functionality, which allows planners to create a personalized experience and send focused messages to particular segments of the attendee population.

With mobile technology offering a world of possibilities when it comes to event engagement, it’s time that planners hop on the mobile bandwagon in a more meaningful way. The possibilities for moving your attendees and increasing retention, if utilized to their fullest, are endless.

About the author

Ben Moorsom is President and Chief Creative Officer at Debut Group, an agency that specializes in corporate business communication and events across North America. Since 1997, Debut has pioneered new ways of delivering content and has mastered the art of creating greater perceived production value for their clients. For more information, visit www.debutgroup.com.

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