New event applications continue to unroll quicker than the latest iPhone, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump on the bandwagon just yet. Event apps at modern meetings are a must, but the key to finding the perfect app to serve all your needs is taking the time to navigate through the maze of technology on the market.
Text Lane Nieset
Paper Programs? So Old-Fashioned.
"Evolution of mobile event apps is probably one of the most significant developments in technology since I've been watching over the past 20 years, and it is changing all of the rules," says events and tradeshow technology analyst Corbin Ball. "I think these are like Swiss army knives because they can do and be so many things."
Mobile technology has many advantages, but one of the most obvious and efficient uses is reducing paper. In today's world where printed programs change multiple times, they become outdated before they're even printed.
Not only have apps replaced paper, they've also replaced most written forms of communication and information for delegates. "It used to run parallel, but now most people have moved to relying 100 percent on the app, not only to convey key information, but also to create networks between the delegates, both before, during and after the events," explains Mark Cooper, CEO for the International Association of Conference Centres.
Up in the Cloud
Cloud-based apps are proving to benefit everyone from the organisers to the attendees, since the coordinated apps save both space and time. This is something that really helps out smaller associations, since cloud-based solutions allow the possibility of streaming larger amounts of data and managing everything from meetings to travel plans.
Ball says one of the trends he's seeing is specialized apps being custom-designed for an event or series of events, especially for large shows or associations that have multiple meetings throughout the year, so the attendee doesn’t have to download a new app every time. Since cloud-based apps use cloud storage, they're simply updated as needed.
Michael Douglas, director of sales at Lanyon Mobile, explains that with Lanyon's Smart Events cloud technology "we are able to really offer the power of that information flow from one end to the other, so you are able to leverage the whole process to deliver more and learn a lot more as you go."
The World of Social Media
Social media is a valuable tool for promoting an event and creating buzz that both engages and excites attendees, as well as keeps those who are not there in the loop on what's taking place.
With event-specific hashtags, everyone can follow along with the chatter surrounding the event and feel more inclusive—one of social media's goals, after all. Linking apps to social media sites like Twitter can really boost networking opportunities, especially when splashed across social media screens during events.
"Social technology and events try to accomplish the same thing—bring people together is the ultimate goal. I think if used well, the two should go hand-in-hand with each other," Ball says.
More mobile forms of social media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are common at events, but not everyone is up for putting their personal life on display at work-related functions, and not all attendees are making their voice heard loud and clear with status updates and live Tweets. This is where products like Lanyon's come in handy. With pop-up social networks that have all the same functionality as the main social media players, you can do everything from post comments and photos to update your status on the private and streamlined platform, without having to link your Facebook or Twitter handle. This is also a huge perk for events that want social media buzz and dialogue taking place between attendees, but may have an embargo on the information being presented at conferences. With a private network, everyone has a voice on the same platform, and there's no worry about sending out a Tweet that may affect clients or privacy agreements.
"In the public realm, the big push is inclusivity and ensuring there's an accessible message from all attendees, but another thing that's interesting about that platform is that in the private realm, there's this very different opportunity and it's one that we're seeing is tremendously popular," Douglas says. "In order to have that engagement and interactivity that social media offers, a pop-up social media platform allows all of the same things but in a private environment which has proven to be tremendous boon for those kinds of organisations whose events are behind closed doors."
What's Next in the App World
Event applications are continuing to grow at a rapid fire pace, so even by time this article comes out, a few new pieces of technology have probably hit the market. While some trends are fleeting, others of the horizon look like they're here to stay. One of these examples is GPS-based technology, great for targeting locations at larger events, or events taking place in a larger space.
"GPS technology is something we're hearing more and more of, and in a year or two's time, it will become a standard feature in most apps," Cooper says. "It's still early days yet for GPS."
With this type of technology, apps significantly improve onsite networking and help delegates find workshops or exhibitor areas, streamlining the process serving as a map and matchmaker at the same time.
"The position-based technology allows people to find and exhibit more efficient, finding who's there and who's around, having the ability to make appointments with those individuals, and guiding people to each other," Ball explains.
Lanyon, meanwhile, is finding a different type of trend—customers maturing and cooling off when it comes incorporating all of the latest technology. Of course early adopters will always be curious about what's new, but newer organisations are taking a step back and looking at what an app's real potential is and can be, not racing quite so quickly to add new features.
"There's a world of difference between having an event and having an app in the app store and having an events app that really delivers value. It's a lot more about how it's integrated into the event…the content, quality of project, how it's described and distributed," Douglas says.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.