Event mobile apps can sometimes seem to be at odds with boosting engagement. After all, they require users to be focused on their smartphones as they navigate an app’s functionality—hardly the picture of an engaged attendee, right?
Not so fast. Corporate event- or meeting-specific mobile apps—which, by the way, are increasingly becoming the norm, especially for high-profile events—can leverage connectivity, communication, collaboration and even gamification to not only help attendees plan for and navigate an event, but also stay engaged as the programming unfolds.
And as a bonus? That in-the-moment participation also becomes a treasure trove of data that event and meeting planners can use to refine their approach and deliver an even better experience the following year.
“Mobile apps are now a ‘must have’ for all events,” said Linda McNairy, Vice President, Global Operations and Shared Services, American Express Meetings & Events, in the 2018 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast. “Attendee engagement, both before, during and after the event, in addition to gamification are driving richer insights into attendee behaviors and allowing event organizers to make more informed decisions about their business.”
How can you use a mobile app to boost attendee engagement? Let’s take a look at three key tactics.
- Use push notifications to keep attendees in the loop
Communication is so critical during a meeting or event, especially if you’re hosting a large group of attendees. You want to be sure they know where they’re going and what sort of programming and special events are available. And that’s where push notifications come in.
Push notifications are handy—and effective—because they’re so visible. Think about when a push notification pops up on your smartphone screen—you immediately glance over to read it, right? As you plan your event or meeting, think about a few opportunities to use push notifications to keep attendees informed and prompt them to attend a special event like a keynote address, a collaborative breakout session or end-of-the-day entertainment.
One caution: use push notifications sparingly! If too many of them start to roll across an attendee’s smartphone screen, they’ll produce the opposite effect and the attendee will start to tune out the messages. Instead, pick 1-3 opportunities for push notification messaging that you can test during your next meeting or event. Then, based on the resulting participation and other data, you can continually refine your push notification strategy to be even more effective.
- Get instant feedback with surveys and polls
Everybody loves a post-conference survey, right? Attendees may roll their eyes at them, but surveys are so important in terms of gathering feedback, measuring an event or meeting’s efficacy and identifying opportunities for improvement.
Why not shake up your survey strategy and incorporate some short surveys and polls into your event’s mobile app? Not only will they feel a little more spontaneous, but attendees will also have a chance to respond while programming is still fresh in their minds.
You can also mix things up by throwing in a few polls. Try making them in-the-moment—a question that relates to a keynote presentation, for example. You could also use a poll to judge reactions to changes. Let’s say you host an annual event or meeting, and you’ve stuck to the same format for several years. This year, however, you decide to mix it up by changing venues, adding a different type of a session, or adopting a more informal, unconference-style format. Offer a corresponding poll in your mobile app to see what attendees think of the change, then you can use that data to further improve your meeting or event strategy.
By offering in-the-moment opportunities to provide feedback, attendees not only have a chance to chime in about what’s happening around them, but they’ll also feel more like valued stakeholders. That’s one of the most important results of attendee engagement, and it also makes it more likely that attendees will continue to prioritize your meeting or event.
- Encourage sharing with social integration
Sharing and broadcasting what’s happening during a corporate meeting or event has become an integral part of the attendee experience. (After all, if you’re not tweeting or Instagramming about something, is it really even happening?!) To help make it easier for your attendees to share and talk about what’s happening around them, make sure your app is equipped with social media integration so that they can quickly and seamlessly connect to and share with their preferred channels.
It also helps to provide attendees with key social media-related information, including relevant hashtags and user or company profile names, so that you can ensure more consistent messaging across disparate profiles and networks.
The easier you make it for attendees to share information, the more likely they are to do it. And that’s the sort of engagement that not only keeps your attendees invested in what’s happening around them; it also helps spread awareness of your event or meeting, which helps with brand building and even increased attendance.
Of course, it also helps to include an unforgettable experience as part of your event or meeting programming. Not only will attendees clamor to share the excitement, but they’ll help cultivate a serious case of envy among those who missed out. You can be sure they won’t make the same mistake the next time!
Meeting and event mobile apps definitely aren’t going there. In fact, respondents in American Express’s 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast predict app usage will increase in 2018. Now’s an ideal time to examine what a mobile app could do for your next meeting or event. And if you need help planning and building a mobile app—or incorporating an existing app into your meeting and event strategy—we’re up for the challenge.