Meeting hosts that look at their event app as more than simply an information and networking tool for attendees can enjoy long-term benefits—but that requires a strategic focus on the app far ahead of an event. That was the overarching advice offered by Kate Gray, event marketing manager for app provider EventMobi, during an educational session at the recent IMEX America show in Las Vegas.
What should an event-planning team do to get attendees to hone in on the parts of the app that it most wants them to use? First, “start looking at alternatives to your present app content and design with your long-term goals in mind at least six months out,” Gray said. “Then ask your app provider for other possible design options for areas where you want attendees to spend more time.”
Naturally, attendees should be able to find event-related information, connect with one another, leave comments, and get their questions answered, all on the app. But the next step is to declutter the app and streamline it for all participant types who have their own specific needs and goals: full-access attendees as well as expo-only attendees, plus VIPs, presenters, sponsors, and volunteers.
“Don’t force anyone to deal with content that is not pertinent to their event experience,” Gray said. “This means not just having a smart navigation framework across the entire app, but setting visibility criteria for different areas too.”
Test All the Possibilities
Gray (pictured below) stressed that “planners should not simply use the stock version they’re given of the event app. Instead, test different homepage designs that match your hierarchy of importance for certain categories. Your priority elements could be set front and center on the homepage in a specific icon size and style, while other strong elements should at least be above the bottom edge of the screen so users can see them without having to scroll down.”
Grouping together like modules can also help advance the host organization’s goals. For instance, items that are action-oriented—appointment-setting, group discussions, social-media posting, live polling, and gamification—all increase attendee engagement with the app, and thus are a natural grouping. Other recommendations from Gray included giving enough space around icons, buttons, and text to minimize distraction and loss of focus among users.
Lastly, Gray said that “rethinking the attendee experience requires that you control that experience better through well-thought-out app customization and navigation paths. Set up your app so that attendees and other participants are spending the most time in the app doing the things that you want them to do.”