Custom apps made for meetings, conferences and events are turning into the norm for attendees and planners alike; they are an obvious must-have. In turn, companies are pouring thousands of dollars of their event budgets into these apps; and while typically wildly successful for the duration of the event, usage almost always becomes stagnant and nearly non-existent post-event. How do we change attendee attitudes towards event apps to increase post-event usage, stretch the allocated app dollars, and increase ROI?
First, let us explore the successes of an event app. First, creating a cloud-based platform where attendees can connect with other attendees before, during, and after the event sets up the program for success before it has begun. Doing this creates an already exclusive environment for these guests and produces engagement without a physical presence. Once attendees arrive onsite, the event experience can be strengthened by utilizing a User Experience (UX) friendly app, meaning the app should be intuitive and useful for the user, and customizing it with the international attendee in mind. Guests should be able to easily reference the schedule, speaker slots, education opportunities, offsite dinners, and more, all within the app and preferably without using too much data. Streamlining the communication builds a subtle trust with the attendees—if they can rely on the event app, they can rely on the host company. One final success of an event app is pushing other technology through it, connecting the entire event experience. For example, utilizing RFID technology within the app to collect and share information, or going keyless with the host hotel, can make a major difference in the event structure and its efficiency.
But what happens when all of those successes end with the event? App engagement tapers off dramatically post-event. Where do the opportunities lie to correct that? Quite honestly, if meeting professionals want to see continued engagement with the app, it must be treated like any other successful app and be continuously updated to fix bugs and add features. An event app should not be a one-time investment if its goal is to be engaging year-round. Take any successful social media platform. Its ultimate goal is connect people to other people. Not so different from an event app connecting attendees! But these social media platforms are consistently working to better the app, to further communication, and to improve UX. While an event app may not have the ability to be solely focused on, occasional updates must be made if it is to extend its lifetime past the few event days. Furthermore, and unlike most social media, the app should be a space where attendees can continue to network post-event without the fear of non-attendees seeing the information. It needs to be protected and exclusive. Especially given the recent data breaches in many social media platforms, users should feel that their information is secure in a career-driven platform. The final opportunity that we feel is largely untapped in the event app market is driving future information out to past attendees. Are there location-specific meetups and networking opportunities based on the past event? Are there related seminars that attendees can attend to further their education? Updating these in real time would make the app that much more usable post event.
As we were writing this piece, we thought for a long while on events that we know of that are already doing what we are proposing here; but we had trouble thinking of anything tangible. That means that this opportunity is largely untapped, and any meeting professional who explores it in the coming months will be an early adopter. So while it is true that event apps serve their main purpose in the duration of the event, extending their shelf life will help bring continuous engagement to the event, and ideally, keep past attendees coming back. As meeting professionals, it is imperative that mindsets are changed surrounding event app development from focusing solely on event duration to an extended and continued usage. We are in an increasingly agile world; if your technology is not following suit, you will fall behind.
Cindy Y. Lo, DMCP
President & Event Strategist
Red Velvet Events, a Global DMC Partner
Associate Program Coordinator & Writer
Red Velvet Events, a Global DMC Partner