Is your event app evolving?

Event apps are one of the hottest topics in event technology these days — whether it's a new way to record attendee surveys, map locations, or facilitating connections, event apps are becoming a key component of the event experience. Experienced event professionals have been through these paradigm shifts before; they know that the new technology means new opportunities: replacing the paper agenda, increasing sponsorship opportunities, and driving more ROI through better insights from data. Apps today already offer many features, so has the innovation of apps reached its end?

It can still be better. Instead of looking for lists of features, organizers should consider whether their event app is evolving to meet the demands of their audience.

Setting the stage

Similar to some early life theories, several conditions had to be met before event apps could be possible as a useful tool for planners and attendees:

  • The ubiquity of smartphones
  • Connecting with others through social networks
  • Consuming content digitally

Once these conditions came together, event organizers began to realize and embrace the fact that attendees were expecting to find apps for their events on their ever-present smartphones, even preferring them to a paper agenda, flyer, or goodie bag insert. It’s clearly visible that this happened by taking a look at the search trend for “event app” (below).

The interest in finding the right one continues to grow.

Feeling duped

Organizing events is stressful. Organizers are constantly searching for solutions that solve a broad range of needs , such as streamlining the setup process, providing data-driven insights, or generating organic invites to new attendees. Many companies have advertised broad solutions, but the reality is that many options only provide shallow capabilities that do not take full advantage of the possibilities of mobile technology. This leads to several negative results for organizers looking for ROI:

  • Unknown or low ROI from using the technology, especially compared to traditional alternatives
  • Lack of user engagement
  • Poor customer experience and unmet expectations around the promise of this technology

There have been whispers in the hallways of the industry that event organizers could become wary of event apps, more focused on a “features” arms race rather than focused on looking for real value when choosing to use an app.

So what?

With over 1.8 million events each year and an upward trend of event app usage, there is an opportunity for the industry to take the next evolutionary step with technology. While features like agendas and activity planning are already becoming standardized, the “data-driven insights” should be baseline administrative features, and areas such as bringing more attendees to events, matchmaking, and seamless web/mobile experiences still lag behind. Apps also provide great potential for pre- and post-event engagement and reduced attendee churn. In the end, solutions that focus on making things better through increased ROI, open integrations, and superior user experiences will be the ones that go beyond substituting for the static printed to disrupt the landscape.

Event organizers are tech-savvy and have always been open to experimenting and trying new approaches to enliven and broaden their conference, tradeshow, or meeting — event apps being the next step in this process, advancing events in the new age of technology.

What to watch for

Here are key indicators of apps that will lead the next wave of event technology:

  • Focus on making things really easy for the organizer
  • High engagement features like networking recommendations, social media, and meeting scheduling
  • Proven ROI as evidenced by case studies
  • Ability to easily play with other technology solutions

Event organizers spend lots of time working on creating great experiences for their attendees and maximizing the benefits of their events — it’s time for event technology to go from being a novelty to delivering great ROI.