By Issa Jouaneh
In recent years, we have seen the role of technology, particularly the impact of mobile apps and devices, transform people’s abilities to connect and communicate with one another. Over time, these technologies have proven to improve the traveler and attendee experience and enhance the way attendees and planners conduct business.
In recognition of this shift, meeting planners have already started to implement mobile strategies which incorporate mobile technologies before, during and after meetings and events to engage with audiences and drive positive outcomes. American Express Global Business Travel recently released its 2016 Meetings & Events Forecast, which highlights several ways meeting planners can use mobile apps and technologies to boost the overall experience for attendees.
App selection and preparing for success
Today’s meeting planners have a variety of technology needs – from event registration to attendee management to customer relationship management, among others. Across all of these needs lie a growing desire to consolidate the types of solutions being used and the ability to incorporate mobile technologies to better streamline planning processes. When it comes to selecting the right mobile apps to use, meeting planners must assess their event goals and use them as criteria when selecting their mobile app provider and event apps or software to use. One way is to create a list of the features that will help achieve the unique event goals in mind, and then compare that with the offerings of potential vendors.
Next, meeting planners should consider the following questions: What do I want attendees to get out of this event? Is this an internal company event or an external conference? Do we have speakers? Exhibitors? Multiple tracks? Each of these answers will help the planner best determine what elements of their meeting are most important. Since every event is different, meeting planners should tailor their mobile strategy to the specific needs of their events. The key is to maximize event success rather than minimize vendor count and focus on the user experience, above all else.
Examining the essentials
The most basic element of a mobile app is its content. It should house all of the pertinent event information from session descriptions to speaker bios to exhibitor details. Apps rich in content enable attendees to easily navigate their meeting or event seamlessly. One of the most important tools to include can be a scheduling tool because it allows attendees to view their schedule at a glance, build their own agenda and receive notifications in real-time. Other features to consider include information on accessing Wi-Fi, transportation details, lodging information and specifics on evening activities.
Facilitating interaction and engagement
With networking serving as one of the top reasons for why meeting professionals attend events, facilitating interaction is a top priority among meeting planners. One way of fostering greater interaction and engagement with and among attendees can be achieved through mobile apps. An app’s social capabilities can offer new ways to generate engagement via a channel that remains open long after the event concludes.
Providing attendees with interactive capabilities similar to what they already use on social networks like Twitter and Facebook enables them to post status updates detailing what sessions they attended, topics they learned about and future sessions they look forward to joining, as well as interact with other attendees. These social interactions can create relationships among attendees and spark new dialogues related to the meeting or event. Gamification is another way to encourage networking, interaction and participation in an app by rewarding users with digital rewards, such as points and badges, for taking specific actions.
Additionally, the ability to engage with attendees through surveys and polling is another key way to better understand attendee needs. Attendee surveys can be useful to receive feedback in real-time from attendees, speakers, participants and sponsors. Through mobile apps, attendees can be asked to reflect on their experience in the days or weeks following their event. Mobile apps not only impact completion rates but can also provide meeting planners with feedback to help shape future meetings and events.
Using analytics to achieve greater ROI
Demonstrating a meeting or event’s return on investment (ROI) continues to be a top challenge for meeting planners across the globe. Therefore, meeting planners must consider event apps that offer clear analytics dashboards and insights into assessing an event’s performance and calculating an event’s ROI.
Mobile apps that feature social engagement offer the ability to capture insights and data to demonstrate ROI. Meeting planners can also use this data to create internal reports, media kits, one-sheets, and other marketing collateral for future meetings or events. With access to in-app engagement data, meeting planners have the ability to measure and demonstrate their success, further improving the outcomes for all event stakeholders.
As we head into 2016, mobile apps will continue to serve as essential tools for meeting planners. At the same time, attendee data will become more widely available, offering new opportunities for meeting planners to interact with attendees and assess the value on their meetings and events. With access to new technologies and mobile applications, meeting planners and attendees will benefit from enhanced levels of engagement, allowing meetings and events to be even more successful in the future.
About the author:
Issa Jouaneh is Senior Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events, a service provided by American Express Global Business Travel (“GBT”). GBT is a joint venture that is not wholly-owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (“American Express”).