Mobile event and conference apps have now become a pillar of the event experience. In this guide we will explore event app best practices, uses cases and more.
An event app allows attendees to more effectively network, keeps everyone aware of the latest event updates, and most importantly, provides a rich dataset from which event organizers can draw insights. Given an event app’s versatility, it’s no wonder that 91% of event organizers stated that adopting a conference app resulted in positive event ROI.
Although it is clear that mobile event apps are prevalent in the event industry, the constant improvements in technology and the shifting landscape of mobile apps in general require organizers to stay up to date with the latest news and best practices.
This guide will cover the spectrum of what organizers need to know about the event app. Readers will learn the full range of event app capabilities and how they can best leverage them to achieve event success.
Defining the Event App
It can be difficult to nail down a universal definition of an event app because its functionality continues to evolve alongside advancements in technology. However, at its core, the purpose of any event app is to enhance the event through a more intuitive, collaborative, and digital-friendly experience. This is done through a variety of key features such as the event agenda, one-to-one messaging, attendee profiles, and more.
It is also worth noting that an event app and a conference app are synonymous terms. The former is the more common phrase. Throughout this guide, these two terms will be used interchangeably.
On the other hand, a networking app is slightly different from mobile event and conference apps because they focus solely on event networking. Although such apps serve a very important purpose, most conference apps today already offer a networking platform in addition to other functionalities. Understanding the event app as a holistic solution will ensure that you take full advantage of its capabilities.
Learn more about the state of event apps in the Event App Primer.
Recent App Store Updates
In the app industry, the Apple and Android are the gatekeepers. The rules that these entities establish for their respectie mobile app stores can end up redirecting an industry—as was the recent case with Apple.
At the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced a set of sweeping guideline changes. During the conference, Apple had announced that they were tightening up their app review process by rejecting apps that were created through a template form. The most important sentence in the guideline read as follows:
Guideline 4.2.6: "Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected."
Naturally this alarmed a number of different industries that used templated apps as a core part of their business model. The guideline particularly affected the event industry as many event tech companies used templates to create event apps at scale for their clients. Many feared that this new guideline would upend the white label event app creation process. As a result, many app providers scrambled to figure out exactly the extent to which Apple would be enforcing the new rules.
For a while it seemed that universal apps (which we'll cover later) were the only safe solution. Then in December of 2017, Apple released an updated version of Guideline 4.2.6. The full section read as follows:
“Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app's content. These services should not submit apps on behalf of their clients and should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences. Another acceptable option for template providers is to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or "picker" model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event.”
Whereas the initial guideline begged for specificity, this new revision paints a clearer picture as to what extent templated apps will be accepted. Given the updated version, it seems that white label apps are not completely off the table so as long as the clients submit the app through their own Apple Developer Account. So it is fair to assume that the App Store will not be overly strict on templated event apps so as long as they are unique and original to a certain degree.
White Label App vs Branded Universal App
As an event organizer, it is important to know the differences between the two to help inform the decision of choosing the right conference app solution. The differences between the two event app types can be summarized as follows.
Templated White Label Apps - With templated white label apps, clients get a great branded experience and access to a variety of modules, but at the cost of uniqueness in both design and functionality. Per Apple’s revised guidelines, the app will only be accepted if it is submitted through the client's Apple Developer Account. The implication is that event app companies must hand over the templates, modules, and framework with which a client will design the app on their own. This is where things may get tricky since a too rigid of template may result in a lack of customization while a loose template makes it difficult for the client to design the app on their own. For these reasons, white label event apps may still have a hard time being accepted into the App Store.
Branded Universal Apps - One thing that Apple’s revised guidelines makes very clear is that an acceptable form of templated apps are aggregate or “picker” models in which numerous different profiles exist in the same container app. This is otherwise known as a branded universal app. Just like a universal remote might be in charge of your home entertainment system, a universal app aims to be your one-stop-shop for events. Clients download the universal app which then contains their specific event or event series. It is within the container app that clients can create and display their unique branded event app without having to completely create one on their own. A branded universal app does well to abide by the Apple guidelines because it steers away from overcrowding the app store with templated apps while giving clients the freedom to showcase their unique event brand.
To have a better understanding of this particular app solution, here is Bizzabo’s new branded event app in action:
How a Mobile Conference App Enhances the Event Experience
Now that we’ve gotten the lay of the land of the app space, it would be worthwhile to articulate the actual benefits of the event app. Regardless of the specific type of solution, the event app can be highly impactful in enhancing the event experience. Below are just a few of the key benefits that an event app offers.
1) Networking - Connecting with other professionals is one of the main reasons why the event app came into existence. An event app not only facilitates meeting with others but helps identify who is most relevant to you. Visually pleasing profiles and an intuitive messaging system are key ingredients to offering a strong networking solution within the event app.
Profile within Bizzabo branded event app
2) Polling and Surveys - One of the most valuable aspects of an event app is the data that can be collected from attendees. The most straightforward method of collecting this data would be to initiate polls and surveys to attendees in real time. This can be done during workshops, prior to the event, and even after the event. An event app provides a way to ask immediate questions to attendees and receive responses that will help shape future event strategy.
3) Personalized Agenda - With so many different sessions and workshops going on at a conference, it can be difficult for attendees to keep track of it all. An event app solves this problem by giving attendees the ability to build their own event agenda by adding the sessions they want to attend into their personal schedules.
4) Sponsorship Opportunities - When it comes time to securing event sponsorships, the event app will come in handy. An event app provides sponsors with a prime opportunity to expose their brand and services to attendees. This can be done through individual profiles that sponsors make within the networking feature, using full-screen ads within the app, or sponsoring polls and surveys. Having a strong event app will be of high interest to sponsors.
Ways to Increase Event App Adoption
The benefits of an event app cannot be realized unless the app is widely downloaded and actively used by attendees. The following tips will help increase app adoption rates.
1) Articulate the Value-Added - Before planning any specific campaigns surrounding app adoption, take the time to properly form the messaging. Yes, you want as many attendees to download it as possible, but why should they? What is the specific value-added that they will receive by engaging with the app? Clearly being able to explain to attendees why and how the app will elevate their event experience is necessary to not only persuade them to download the app, but more importantly, for them to encourage other attendees to download it as well.
2) Turn Attendees into Advocates - Once the messaging is taken care of, it’s time to create specific ways for attendees to easily advocate on behalf of the app and thus facilitate event app adoption. Make it easy for attendees to promote your event and app by providing easy-to-use sharing buttons with pre-populated text. Attendees can then inform their networks that they’ve joined the event networking community and that their fellow attendees should too. Remember, your speakers are your biggest promoters since they tend to have strong follower bases. Ensuring that they join and use the event app can be an extremely effective way to onboard attendees.
3) Create a Dedicated Email Campaign - Email will be one of the main points of communication with your attendees. Send a series of emails to every registered attendee with a clear call to action to download your event app. Make sure to space out the emails sufficiently to avoid overwhelming your attendees. Educate attendees on why and how the conference app will greatly enhance their event experience. Also, be sure to keep clear and concise messaging in these emails. If you bury your attendees with a barrage of links and information, the call to action to download your event app will be lost.
4) Devise a Social Media Strategy - To really ensure that all event attendees are aware of your event networking community, consider launching a social media campaign. Incentivize attendees to download the app by offering a prize to the first 100 community members. Also consider creating a shareable download link so that people can quickly download the app via their contacts. Showcasing your conference app through social media platforms is a good way to show potential event attendees the added value they will gain if they choose to attend the event. By publicly promoting the mobile conference app, you are positioning your event brand as one that is embracing tech solutions that enhance the experience.
How to Leverage Event App Data
As the event organizer, the most valuable aspect of deploying an event app is the data that is collected. Because attendees use the conference app in a range of different functionalities, each piece of information can be pieced together to help the organizer better understand the impact of their event. Insights such as most popular sessions, time at which most messages were sent, and profiles with the most views are all key data points that paint a bigger picture.
Bizzabo's event app engagement dashboard
Obtaining rich event data and drawing actionable insights are possible when multiple datasets are integrated with the conference app. Integration is imperative when leveraging data because it gives different platforms the ability to communicate with one another. This is especially relevant for event apps because attendee behavior on the app can be directly linked to their information in your CRM or marketing automation system. The more data points that can be connected to the same contact, the better idea you will have of how the event impacted that particular attendee.
For more information on integrating event data, click on the image below to access our free ebook on event data integrations.
Event App Data Security and Privacy
As discussed, attendee data that results from conference app usage is one of the most valuable benefits of implementing an event app as this data will help inform future decisions and strategy. However, this means that such information must be handled with care. Organizers hold the responsibility of offering full transparency to the attendees from which they will be collecting the data.
Being mindful of such precautions has become increasingly relevant as the General Data Protection Regulation will be coming to full effect on May 25th, 2018. This new EU protection regulation will help ensure that organizations are handling personal data in a secure and transparent manner. GDPR not only applies to companies who operate out of the EU but also for companies who sell to, hire, or engage with EU citizens and its organizations. For more information on GDPR, visit the official GDPR website
To become better acquainted with data protection methods, here are some best practices surrounding event data security and transparency. (Please note that this blog should not be referenced for legal advice. For proper legal guidance, please refer to your legal team.)
As event app users, attendees should be fully aware of the data they are sharing. There should also be processes put in place so they actively choose to offer their info. Some platforms are designed so that collecting data is the default and that users must actively to opt-out if they no longer want to their data pulled. This results in a poor user experience as the process feels sneakier than it should be. Make sure to make your event app data collection an opt-in process that requires active engagement on the side of the attendee. This way, both organizer and attendee are fully transparent right from the start.
When it comes to legal rhetoric, it becomes very easy for one to get lost in the jargon or simply tune out the confusing language. In order to avoid this sentiment among your attendees and other event stakeholders, take the time to breakdown your basic data policy in a way that can be understood by the average person. Doing so will be much appreciated by attendees and help to establish your event brand as one that places attendees’ user experience as a high priority.
Send a Detailed Email Summarizing Your Policy
According to The Event Success Formula, email is one of the most effective ways for marketers to communicate with their audiences. Attendees will appreciate if you create a separate email that summarizes, in layman's terms, your data and privacy policies because they can then refer to this email on separate occasions. Thoroughly explicating the details of the policy and how attendees will be affected are great ways to build trust with your audience and let them know that you have their best interest at heart. This will do wonders for how people perceive your event brand.
Clearly, the future of the event app is constantly changing course as technology steadily improves and guidelines are continuously rewritten. Keeping up with such a fast pace industry may seem dizzying at times but the unpredictability is what keeps it exciting.
The growth of the event app space is a direct result of the growing relevance and enthusiasm for the technology. Maintaining this momentum will be key to innovation within the space as well pushing expanding the full scope and capabilities of the event app.
Learn how an event app can fit int your overall event strategy in the Event Stack guide.