Making the most of event apps

Don’t be intimidated by the provided app the next time you attend a conference. Sure, you can probably navigate an entire trade show without ever downloading the app. After all, you’ll receive a printed schedule at registration and collect a sizeable stack of business cards from the people you meet. But you will be missing out. And really, you should not merely stick a toe in the water and stop at just creating your profile. Dive on in, and don’t be afraid to create a bit of a splash.

Event apps allow you to pull up the schedule instantaneously, get an understanding of the floorplan, and see a session’s speakers, bios, and photos. You can request and share electronic business cards, schedule meetings, and view lists of attendees by organization or profession. You can even take notes in-app if you want to be completely unencumbered and paperless. Oh, and most apps also have a closed social feed where you can post videos and documents and other information.

And for a little next-level fun, apps let you participate in the gamification of an event: completing certain tasks to rack up points or badges. Adding an edge of competition is usually a sure way to enhance participation. Create an attendee profile? 250 points. Exchange business cards? 10 points a pop. Participate in the live polling during a session? 175 smackers. Check in with exhibitors? The sky’s the limit. Just be sure to keep an eye on the leaderboard so you know how you’re stacking up against the other attendees. Who knows? There might be a fabulous prize in store for high achievers.

“Event apps are an effective way to find contacts in the sea of attendees that you have not met before.”

Mike Kraus, president of KMI International Project Management & Construction Consulting, made full use of the provided app at the Hunter Hotel Conference recently held in Atlanta. He finds that event apps are “an effective way to find contacts in the sea of attendees that you have not met before.” The greatest benefit, he says, is the ability to “set up and schedule meetings while at the event.”

Ideally, you would be notified at least a week in advance of an event how to download the app, which will allow plenty of time to create your profile and explore all the possibilities. This was one issue Kraus had recently: while an email did go out asking attendees to “log in to the system,” it was not entirely clear that an app should be installed or that myriad wonderful things would come to those who completed the download. “The app from the Hunter event should have been advertised further ahead of the conference, with complete details for use,” Kraus says. This is good advice, because as soon as you open an event app you can start networking. Exchange business cards, plan sessions, and set up meetings all in advance of registration and the welcome reception―before you ever leave your home office.

“The usefulness of event apps is directly tied to the number of attendees who actually make use of them.”

Apps certainly maximize efficiency and networking opportunity. But their usefulness is directly tied to the number of attendees who actually make use of them. At the Hunter Hotel Conference, a significant amount of attendees and exhibitors either made no use or minimal use of the app. One stumbling block, Kraus says, is that “some folks only partially completed the app’s business card, making it difficult or not possible to follow up.” But proper use of an app, he explains, “can provide a snapshot on the firm and representative.” His best piece of advice to neophytes hesitantly considering this technology? “Use it!”

By Ashley Atkins