Are You Appy or Un-Appy?

Event organisers are convinced that their mobile apps will enhance your experience and deliver unique networking opportunities at the next business event that you attend. They suggest that by failing to embrace this technology, you will not receive the same benefits as those who do.

These mobile apps integrate a wide range of features that are designed to deliver a more personalised and engaging experience for attendees during business events. With this in mind, we want to find out from you, why business professionals are not downloading and using mobile apps to their full potential? Are the benefits that organisers have highlighted as being most important to you, really what you want? If not, we question whether mobile apps are the right tool to help you get the most out of the business events you attend.

The diagram below summarises the key app features that event organisers have designed for your benefit:

The video clip below shows just how an attendee would use their mobile app at a typical business event

Based on the features highlighted above, there are certainly some elements that allow you to tailor the event to your own personal needs. While this may positively add to your experience, others could have the potential to detract from the live event altogether. For example, interactive features such as gamification, combined with the constant potential for polling and push notifications may contribute to the ‘depersonalisation’ of the event; where you are more engaged with your electronic device than what is going on around you.

When attending business events we know you want an experience that not only engages you on the day but delivers value even when you are back in the office. Mobile apps are just one of the many technological tools that organisers consider to be ‘essential’ for the professional attendee, but we want to know what it is you think!

Are they app-solutely necessary? Through accepting push notifications, your app can greet you on arrival, inform you of any important news or events to look out for throughout the day and even remind you when you next session will be! But how many push notifications will it take before they become a distraction? Will all of these features help to increase your engagement and networking potential, or do you think we are taking the technology too far?

Join in the discussion and have #youreventsay in the comment box below.


Emily says:

Very interesting concept. Really like the idea of live questions during conferences and also interacting with other attendees at the event, that for me would provide the the biggest benefit for me, due to the ease of networking. Gaming for me would be the least beneficial because I don’t equate gaming with events. However all the other benefits seem very appealing and would definitely add value to any event I hold in the future. A very informative blog post. #youreventsay

youreventsay says:

Thank you very much for your comment Emily. Would you feel that push notification from the app when direct messaging would be a distraction?

pandabeare says:

I think apps at events like these are most useful as replacements for paper brochures. These are often annoying and unwieldy, and can easily get lost or binned. Apps can also be updated throughout, and are of course far more interactive. Therefore I believe the most helpful functions are the event maps, and the notifications of upcoming event features throughout the night. I would personally use these the most to make sure I don’t miss anything. I also believe requests for contact info from fellow attendees would be a great networking tool that could prove very popular.

I think the least useful app ‘benefit’ is the gamification feature. This could work at a leisure event or as a consumer marketing tool, but I don’t think it would lend itself to a more serious business function. Furthermore, I think the most significant drawback of having an app at all, is the fact that it must be downloaded first. Can you guarantee that all attendees will bother? Imagine you are a businessperson that attends networking events twice a week or more – will you download a separate app for every event?

Overall, I think apps will be key facilitators of business events in the future- but how far does the app need to go? Maybe a simple venue map and event timetable – with the odd notification- are enough? Will the extra work of adding interactive features such as polls, games and live questions pay off, especially if the app is swiftly deleted after the event?

youreventsay says:

Thank you very much for your comment it is much appreciated. A very interesting comment regarding the practicalities of downloading the app for each event. Would you agree that if one app was created for networking events as a whole and each organiser creates a different section within it, it would be more practical for attendees? Only one app for several events.

Isobel Marchant says:

If the use of an app is ONLY applied at relevant points during a conference it can only be positive. However, if delegates are using it at their own discretion throughout then I would expect this to be a negative distraction and would make the job of the presenters very difficult in terms of audience animated reaction and interaction, making the experience quite ‘slow and dry’.

youreventsay says:

A great comment Isobel Marchant, thank you. Do you think that the use of the app to ask live questions to the speaker or in session polling would be an effective way to increase the use of audience interaction during sessions as well as involving the use of the app?

Stephen Gear says:

When I am visiting events or exhibitions I am only really interested in two things: visiting the people I want to visit and discovering something new & unexpected. I realise the need to cater for all types with these apps but I do think they are too over-developed. Who needs games on the app? Having a feature to request a meeting from an exhibitor is very important. The other issue I have with expo’s (& I’m sure I’m not the only one!) is covering the same isles and missing out other areas. If you could have a map of where you’ve been since you arrived it would be invaluable. Also maybe once you’ve requested/booked meetings with various exhibitors it could show you the best way to get from start to finish.

youreventsay says:

Thanks Stephen Gear for your very insightful comment. A great example of the use of location tracking in the app. There has been some discussion about privacy issue when using location tracking, however other say its a safety tool that can be effective to know where attendees are an events. What are your thoughts on this debate?

Greg says:

Personally, during a conference or event like these, I would prefer not to rely on apps and rather get involved using more traditional methods, such as raising hands and asking questions.
Although some of the concepts bought up are quite interesting, and some apps like presentation streaming can be usful, I find most have alternatives which are likely cheaper and less time consuming to produce.

youreventsay says:

Thank you for your ideas here Greg. Would you prefer to have a printed programme instead of an agenda built into the app? If so is this for ease or for keep-sake reasons?

Natasha Bishop says:

I think that at large business events and conferences apps that support networking and provide up to date information are key. They of course never replace the value of personal contact but in maintaining organization during the events and routing people to relevant information or insights they are extremely helpful. Often you cannot attend all talks or sessions so access to blogs or recorded sessions or other streaming can fill those gaps. All in all I’m supportive as long as there is freedom to still enable the natural networking that is so valuable.

youreventsay says:

Natasha Bishop, thank you for a great comment. There are many that agree with you in regards to the importance with face to face interaction. Do you feel that the apps are most effective for the event organisers or the event attendees?

Mike Estall says:

The core problem at corporate events is to communicate the message across in a way to keep the audience engaged. All people absorb information in different ways. This does appear to facilitate such a process where feedback can be swiftly and seamlessly and adds another dimension to the overall experience. One drawback could be information overload if too many people interact simultaneously, another is face to face contact is so very important.

youreventsay says:

Thank you Mike Estall for your comment. An interesting point about information overload, perhaps too many notification can become annoying for the attendee?

Daisy says:

Really interesting article. While the use of apps might be useful or enhance certain events, I don’t think they’ll be able to fully replace personal interaction and the best value still comes from networking with speakers and fellow attendees.

youreventsay says:

Thank you for your comment Daisy. Which events are you referring to when you mention ‘certain events’? Do you think some elements are more useful than others?

mari1861 says:

The Events Industry must embrace new technology in order to innovate and remain current with an ever more digital public; simultaneously the industry needs to enhance the experiential experience for their participants. These apps can help create additional buzz around the event from start to finish. Networking is the #1 priority at events and these apps can enhance connectability and a higher level of engagement with the event. They offer the event management team with real time updating of pertinent information; this means attendees can get more out of the event and experience less frustration in understanding layout of venue, keeping up-to-date with agenda, etc. Streaming features offer 100% participation; attendees can physically attend one session, but catch up on other sessions via the app. Furthermore, apps eliminate the need to print out numerous brochures or handouts. Attendees can access information when they need it, thus optimizing their experience. They can interact with speakers; getting their specific questions answered. I believe the use of apps will not deter from attendees face-to-face interaction; they just make it easier to connect and enhance their overall experience

youreventsay says:

Thank you Mari1861, its great to hear your thoughts. You mention the benefits for the event organisers in your comment, would you say that the apps are more useful for them than they are for attendee?

mari1861 says:

No, I think the advantages for the apps are equally useful to both the attendees and the organisers.

Fergus Bruce says:

I work for a large telco company, every year we run a week long conference where the entire company of 10,000 + employees attends. Last year we created our own bespoke app which was a huge success. Every delegate had to download the app and included in it was a bespoke timetable for each delegate with timings and locations for the day. There was also a live voting function, where during sessions speakers could open the floor to votes, this was a great interactive feature which worked well. Each delegate could also post ‘statuses’ and interact with other delegates, which created some great debate and build up to events. It was a fantastic platform for us as organisers to push important messages to delegates mobiles. Are they necessary? No, but they added hugely to our event. Do they distract? Not if they are managed in an appropriate way. Did they enable engagement and networking for our delegates? Absolutely, in a far more effective way than has ever been acheiveable previously. Great blog, about a very current issue.

youreventsay says:

Thank you for a fantastic comment Fergus! This is such a great example of successful app use. It is very interesting that you have mentioned that they are not necessary and maybe perhaps just a luxury. Did you receive any feedback on the app from the delegated from last years event?

I have attended quite a few large conferences. At the most recent one, the BMA (Business Marketing Association) 2014 event in Chicago there was a very active use of mobile apps (both on smartphone as well as on tablets). BMA is the leading B2B marketing association in the US with over 1000 participants. We were asked to vote, download information about presentations and other comments; twitter; make appointments and ask for appointments with other conference participants etc. I truly believe this is the future of events: mixing the real and the virtual world in a seamless way. You simply get more out of the event for both attendees, sponsors, exhibitioners and organizers since you can get real time feedback and make adjustments on the spot to get more out of the event experience. In short better outcomes! So I am appy!

youreventsay says:

Peter, thank you for sharing your experience of using a mobile app at such a recent event. It is really interesting to hear how this technology has been used to positively add to your experience.
Did you experience the use of games being incorporated into the mobile app for the BMA 2014 event? If so, do you feel this added positively to your experience? This would be interesting to know as gamification has been highlighted by other participants to have the potential to be more distracting than beneficial for the attendees.

Linda says:

I can see the advantage of using apps during conferences, but I’m also “older” and I find some level of paper still appealing. I am retired, but still attend various events such as genealogy conferences and training; general land office tours; etc, and I ALWAYS have to be taking notes-it helps me stay interested. For me, nothing replaces a good old pen and highlighter. I also want to be able to review my notes at later dates. If the apps can combine the current generation’s use of technology with old school paper needs, I’ll certainly be interested in giving them a try. I do like to stay current on most technology.

youreventsay says:

Thanks for the great comment Linda, you have very interesting thoughts. We agree that apps can’t completely replace the pen and paper, but what do you think of having an app to be more sustainable? Perhaps having an app will save you having to carry lots of paperwork, notes, information, pens and highlighters?

Fred Sampson says:

I think Apps are useful for business people however with phone battery always being an issue there would have to be sufficient power supplies, also if the event is primarily based around the app without any other alternative people who do not like using the apps may feel unengaged. Apps use a lot of phone space so the event needs to prove that the app is worthwhile downloading.

youreventsay says:

Fred, thank you for your interesting comment! We understand that power suppliers at events would be a must or to have plenty of charging points. If the app was to be available to download before the event, in order to give delegates a chance to get a feel for how it would run, would this help in better engaging delegates?

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