Is there anything you can’t do on your mobile device these days? Most of your conference delegates will have a mobile device and it’s time to start taking advantage of them at your next conference. As an association management company, we’ve only recently started introducing event apps at our clients’ conferences, and we are still learning as we try new things.

When we started exploring our options with event apps for one of the associations that we manage, it was overwhelming. Perform a Google search on ‘Event App’ or ‘Conference App’ and you’ll see that the options are limitless. Also, this is an ever-evolving industry, and what we found through our research last year is already different than what we discovered in a recent search. As someone who knew the very basics about how to use an event app, I quickly realized that I had to take a step back and think about why and what I was looking for before I started reading through every event app’s list of special features, pricing levels, packages, designs, etc.

Step 1. Why are we considering an app?

  • Delegates were showing interest in accessing all the conference information online and with their mobile devices.
  • The printed version of our conference program was long, a nuisance to carry around for some, and increasingly expensive to print.
  • We heard that a conference app could encompass special features such as: online networking through text walls, games, social media feeds, polls, and more. We were also interested by the various ways to increase exposure for sponsors and exhibitors, but most of all we were looking to simplify information distribution.

Step 2. Who will be using our app? Why will they be using the app? Is this realistic?

  • Know your audience – Is our group tech savvy? In the past, have they been active on social media during our conference? Are they receptive to online communications?
  • What are our main objectives with the app? Are we wanting to be more ‘green’? Will it create more business for attendees, sponsors and exhibitors?
  • What are the benefits for our association? Make a list of pros and cons.
  • Do we have the staff to populate and manage the app?
  • Can we fit this cost in our conference budget?

After we have answered these questions, we confirmed that we could benefit from creating an app for our next conference and we moved on to Step 3.

Step 3. Explore our options and start comparing prices, features, design and more.

Once the research is done and we had a detailed comparison (we used an excel spreadsheet), we narrowed it down to our top 2-3 options. From here, we took part in demos, asked to test the app first hand, and asked to speak to other event managers who worked with these app providers in the past (or currently) to get their feedback. Once we were confident with our findings, we presented them to the executive director and our staff member who would be populating the app for final approval. In your case, you may have to get the final approval from your conference planning committee, the association board of directors, your colleagues, or other.

For us, because this would be new for our delegates, we were looking for something that is easy to access, and user-friendly. In this case, less is more! We were looking to keep it simple, straightforward, and at the same time it needed to be useful.

It is now up to you to do some research and find out what works for your association. Good luck!

Check out the Event App Bible (free guide) for a detailed look at how to evaluate, compare and understand event mobile apps.