Brooke Gracey, senior mobile strategist at CrowdCompass by Cvent, has been with the app developer since it was a startup, and has seen what works and what doesn’t work for planners and attendees alike.
In a MeetingsNet webinar Gracey said, “There are more and more event app companies popping up every day, and each one promises the most engaging features and functionality. You want to provide that for your audience, but it is really hard to figure out which of them is going to be the best partner for you. Planners need to be armed with the right questions so they are not left hanging.”
Here is Gracey’s list of topics and questions to ask a provider to determine it their app is right for your event.
Users need schedules, speaker bios, info on networking with other attendees, and exhibitor profiles and locations before deciding where to spend their time. They want to engage with content with polling, surveys, and live Q&A, and in real life with other attendees with similar interests.
Gracey says, “You should be able to easily upload initial content and then make real-time changes as they are happening.”
How simple is the content-entry template?
If the provider doesn’t have a template that is user-friendly, move on. You should not have to manually input a hundred or two hundred sessions.
You should be able to upload information about a session’s content, speaker profile, room name and location, and then link those pieces of information, so, for example, you never have to upload a speaker bio or headshot more than once.
Disaster scenario: What happens if all the rooms change? Do you have to go into the content management system and update each session individually? Ask your provider if they can make changes to the template if that happened, and they’d better say yes, Gracey said.
How quickly will my content be visible once I make an update?
If updates are sent to the app only once an hour, or even once every 15 minutes, that can really affect your attendee experience. Imagine if your keynote has to start 30 minutes late, or there is a last-minute change of location. As a planner, you need to make sure your provider can give you instant updates.
Can an attendees’ session choices at registration automatically populate the app? What filters can attendees apply when choosing sessions?
Often the schedule at your event is the most complicated part of your content. Attendees might want to choose their sessions during the registration process, but then they risk forgetting them and having to build a schedule on the app again. They may also have specific interests they want to find sessions about. If you have taken the time to add topic tags to your content, the app should allow filtering. A recent Edelman study found choosing a schedule the second most overwhelming part of the live event experience. Will the app ease that stress?
The key to a successful event experience is attendee engagement with the content, with each other, with speakers and exhibitors, even with the destination itself.
For every event, Gracey said planners should have an engagement goal and the mobile event app provider should help you reach it by providing the appropriate tools for engaging experiences. Gracey cited an Edelman survey that said 100 percent of Millennials, 98 percent of Gen Xers, and 91 percent of Baby Boomers have a smart phone at an event.
What engagement features are built into the app to engage all generations?
Gracey cautioned that not all engagement features will resonate equally with each generation, so include a variety. Talk to your app provider about push notifications, polling, surveys, accessing social channels, gamification, and any other features they have to grab your attendees’ attention.
Can speakers manage their own live Q&A or does it require extensive training?
If the Q&A technology is too difficult for a speaker or his/her assistant to manage, your team will be very busy.
What profile information can attendees save to the app from registration, or do they need to populate the app separately?
App social networking experiences go way beyond notifications about happy hour. Attendees should be able to have a profile with their titles, company information, and contact information to make networking easier, and if any information changes, the attendee should be able to edit the profile themselves.
Does your mobile provider have in-app messaging, as well as social media buttons to follow speakers and other people at the event?
Ask the provider what kind of attendee-to-attendee engagement they have. Do they offer true in-app messaging, or just embedded emails? Ask for a demonstration.
Following one another is quicker with built-in social media buttons and will keep your attendees connected to each other (and you!) year-round.
Does the app offer a way to schedule appointments?
For every functionality ask what it looks like to the end user, it is user friendly? If not, you attendees won’t use it.