What do Event Professionals Need to Know about Mobile Applications? (2011 session notes)

Facilitators:  Ashish Jain, a2z Inc. & Danalynne Wheeler, Sybase
Scribe: Danalynne Wheeler

Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding to Build an App (and what the requirements should be):
– What is the need for this app – what do I want to get out of it?
– What does my audience need / what will they use?
– What devices does my audience use / how many & what types of apps will I have to build?
– Approximately how many people do I think will use the app (usually a small percentage of attendees)
– Do I want/need to track usage or any specific information from the end users?
– Do I want this app to tie into other systems, such as registration, session information
– How much do I want to spend (how much budget do I have)?
– Will I be able to reuse this app, or use it as a base to tweak/build upon for future?

What Should I Include?
Some of the most popular / useful items to include for event usage are:
– Conference Schedule & details
– Session Information
– Agenda Builder
– Exhibit Hall floorplan / exhibitor & sponsor descriptions
– Maps of the facility
– Information / maps for the local area
– Transportation (to / from the venue, shuttle service/schedule, public transit, taxi costs)
– Conference and/or session surveys/evaluation forms – must keep these short
– Game elements – i.e., check-ins, get codes from sessions or exhibitors & input to get points
– Twitter, Foursquare, or other social media links (for twitter, ideally should be set to automatically insert the event hashtag and show search results for that hashtag if possible)
– Social networking (if you are using Pathable or similar vendor online, do you want this to be mobile as well)
– News & important updates / information you want to highlight

Devices / Operating Systems
– Government attendees typically still use BlackBerries, and it’s hard to find an app developed on RIM anymore. They can use a web-based app, but the BlackBerry browser is notoriously slow.
– B2B audiences are now primarily using iPhones and, increasingly, Android phones. iPad usage is also on the rise.

In an ideal world, your app will be ready well in advance of the event, so you can promote and users can download & become accustomed to it before they get onsite. Realistically this doesn’t always happen. If you can’t deploy your app until you get onsite, make sure you have signage and whatever other methods of communication possible to inform your audience that the app exists – and why they should use it.

App Usage Tracking
Many vendors are not currently tracking app usage – they can track downloads, but it is harder to track actual usage time unless there is a login associated with the app, and frequent synchronization with the server/back end database. This will change as the requirements for analytics rises (a2z will be adding this functionality soon).

Some apps have logins, some do not. If you are going to have a login (to track usage, or gaming points, or surveys, or agenda) it is easiest for the end user to have this be tied to another login (such as the registration system).

iPad Apps
More and more iPad-specific apps are being developed. These can be utilized not just by attendees, but also by show management – registration check-in, information staff, exhibit reception desks & kiosks, credit card payments for items you are selling, inventory tracking, exhibit inquiry/lead tracking (and information dissemination), etc.

Mobile Payments
Other things discussed included mobile payments (Square). The cost is lower than most credit card companies charge, but the security risks may be higher.

IMPORTANT!!  — However you structure your app, make sure it is easy – and fast – for users to find the information that they need! If they won’t use it, don’t include it (even if it looks really cool).

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