As I did a final proof on our July meeting app issue (download it now if you haven’t already!) and read about all the cool apps meetings professionals are using to help plan meetings, I got a little nostalgic.
You see, I finally said good-bye to an old friend over the weekend—my Foursquare app, which I used so much that it was completely integrated into my everyday life. It sounds a little silly, but for the past five years or so, I got a little thrill when I got points from the location-based social network for checking in when I went to the gym, the grocery store, the anchorage at the Tobago Keys, pretty much everywhere. I loved seeing where I ranked with my Foursquare friends on the leaderboard, unlocking the rare special deal for checking into some stores and restaurants, and vying for being the Foursquare “mayor” with mostly total strangers.
Then they changed it this spring, splitting Foursquare into two separate apps. The main one looks like it’s a Yelp wannabe for reviews and suggestions, while the check-in function was stripped of pretty much every reason you had to check in (points, mayorships, rankings, etc.) and spun out into a new app called Swarm. Since I already use Yelp, I don’t need Foursquare for ratings and suggestions, so that’s gone.
I gave Swarm a couple of months, but what arguably was a pretty silly, if addictive, game became totally meaningless without the gaming aspects of it. It might be different for those who live in a city, but for someone like me in a small town whose Foursquare friends tend to live hundreds to thousands of miles away, the new “neighborhood” function doesn’t do much for me, and vying for mayorships of places my Foursquare friends don't live anywhere near and likely will never visit makes that meaningless too. And the stickers they now provide are just, well, a little too juvenile. It's pretty, has a nice color scheme, but it just doesn't do what Foursquare initially brought me to the party to do, so I'm weaning myself off of it.
I’m not deleting Swarm off my iPhone yet—I want to see how and if anyone is using Swarm’s new “future plan” function when I’m at MPI’s World Education Congress next month—but it’s out as a daily life app. Which is a shame. I loved that dumb little game!
So what does this have to do with meetings? I’m all for innovation, but especially associations that are reinventing their meetings to draw in a bigger, more diverse audience, be very careful that you don’t alienate your core audience in the process. What you see as being outdated or no longer essential may in fact be the very reason some of your longtime members have been returning year after year. Don't make any assumptions—ask your most loyal participants what keeps them loyal. It may not be what you think.
And, even if your conference is about serious business for serious business people, don’t lose the elements that make it fun. In fact, add more of them—gamify—because there's nothing most serious business people like more than a good competition.