Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Get Conference Goers to Use Your Event Mobile App

This is a guest post from promotional marketing expert and author Heidi Thorne.

You’re soooo excited! You’ve just launched a new mobile app for your event and it’s awesome, right? 

Mobile Apps for Events
Mobile apps for events are a perk now, 
a necessity next year. 
Photo credit: freedigitalimages.com.
Then you get to the event and—drum roll, please—no one seems to be using it. Attendees are still wandering around and coming up to registration to find their session locations. That game you thought would engage them, just confused them. And they’re STILL looking for printed handouts. What went wrong?

First, give yourself a pat on the back that you even attempted making your event mobile! It is an investment in cost and effort. But with 91 percent of the adult American population owning a cell phone, and 61 percent of them being identified as having a smartphone (Pew Internet Study on Smartphone Ownership 2013), mobile devices will need to be integrated with event experiences.

The Mobile App Disconnect


Here’s the scenario and the problem. You’ve got your mobile app. Your attendees have their mobile phones and devices. So the disconnect is in awareness and implementation on both sides of the equation. But you, as the event organizer, are the key to addressing both issues.

While awareness seems like an easy issue, it can be the primary problem to overcome. If a mobile event app has not been used in the past, attendees aren’t expecting it. At one of my past speaking engagements, the show organizers had launched an extensive mobile app. So I rolled on, figuring attendees were referring to handouts and my session info on the app. Not! Attendees informed me—after the session ended—that they didn’t even know the app existed. Oops!

How to Get People Using Your Event Mobile App


Especially during the first couple of events, more pre-event and onsite app promotion are required, including:

• A “download our mobile app” notice should be on EVERY piece of literature and email that goes to registered and prospective attendees. Inform them what is in the app and why it’s important.
• Make sure to note how to access the app for iOS, Android and on the web, as well as the name of the app to look for on iTunes or in the Android market.
• Even if attendees become aware of the app, expect some “What do I do with this?” questions to pop up onsite. You might also find that many do not pay attention to the app download instructions prior to arriving. To prepare for these situations, do the following:
• Onsite, big signs with app instructions should be in all registration and session areas, as well as notices in welcome packets.
• Include an announcement about the app in session introductions.
• Train your onsite and customer service staff on how to use the app so that they can field attendee concerns and questions.

Take heart in the knowledge that we are still in the evolutionary phase of mobile, especially for events. One day, attendees will find getting on board with an event’s mobile app as easy and natural as picking up their lanyards!


Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne is a promotional marketing expert, speaker and author with over 25 years of sales and marketing experience, including a decade in the hotel and trade show industries. She is the author of the book, Messaging Marketing: The Mobile Marketing How To Guide to Text Message Advertising for Small Business. To learn more about Heidi, visit www.HeidiThorne.com.