Why your Meeting, Conference or Tradeshow Needs an App

 Look, lets be honest. Your event needs a smartphone app and it needs it today. Your event does not need it next week, next month or next year, your event needs it today. Get a smartphone app from me (just use the contact form and ask) or from someone else, but get an app. We are 10 years into the 21st century, you need to get with the program.

Why an app? Why Now? There are four reasons.

The first reason should be obvious, the world is moving to Smartphones and it cannot be avoided. Don’t believe me? Let’s do this by the numbers:

  • According to figures for 2009 released by Gartner, smartphones accounted for 172.4 million (14%) of the 1.211 billion mobile phones sold that year. That’s 23.8% more smartphone sales than in 2008.
  • The same company recently released Q1 2010 figures. Smartphones represented 54.3 million (17%) of the 314.7 million mobile phones sold, a sales increase of 49% over Q1 2009.
  • For the same time period, the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker puts smartphone sales at 54.7 million, up some 57% over Q1 2009 and accounting for almost 19% of all mobile phones sold that quarter. The report notes that the smartphone market is growing twice as fast as the broader mobile phone market.
  • The Coda Research Consultancy predict global smartphone sales of some 2.5 billion over the 2010-2015 period, and also suggest that mobile Internet use via smartphones will increase 50 fold by the end of that period.
  • Morgan Stanley Research estimates sales of smartphones will exceed those of PCs in 2012.
  • Gartner expect over 500 million smartphones to sell in 2012.
  • Click Here to see the source information

Now, just because you are still using Grandpa Munster’s old Nokia candy bar looking paperweight, you should not assume that the rest of the world is like you….the rest of the world is not like you. The rest of the world is steaming headlong into the future while you crack jokes about how “a phone should just be a phone”. Sorry Barney Fife….. it is the rest of the world that is asking when you are going to get rid of that thing… and besides, why would you want to dis an audience this size? Why would you want to not speak to them in their language in a way that they understand? I am sure that not many folks at Coca-Cola headquarters can speak Spanish, but you can click to “en espanol” on their website.

OK, still not sold on the idea. Lets talk about something that you may understand. Money.

Saving money  is the second reason that your event should have a smartphone app. This is the part where I tell you that to save money, you have to relearn the basics. The new normal is that people do not want printed materials.. period. Lets walk through this:

You will no longer need to print brochures or maps and other event related items. If you do, you will print on demand or short runs. Everything is on the App. Event brochure, the event map, the schedule, the speaker hand-outs, the speaker bios, the exhibitor brochures, sponsor materials, etc, etc, etc. It all sits on the app, at the fingertips of the event attendees…. where you want it. This saves money.

This also makes you green(er) than you were before you built the app. A whole lot greener depending on how much you print. Just like people have to opt in to email marketing, you make them opt in to receiving the printed materials (the new normal). You say something like: XYZ conference is taking strides to minimize our impact on the environment, materials will be available on our smartphone app or online, should you wish to have printed materials, please click here. They won’t be clicking, I wouldn’t, I know that it is better to have this information handy and at hand.

This is the hardest thing for some people to overcome, especially people who like paper and brochures. People who like paper think that everyone else in the world likes paper too. They think that the whole world is one big, paper loving, love in, love fest. Paper lovers, hear us! The opposite is true, no one likes to be carrying around printed crap all day. Printed materials are heavy, take up space and get left in hotel rooms.

For those that do not have a smartphone you will make all of the materials available in PDF format for download…. it is that easy and people will learn to adapt. People who loved the telegraph had to adapt to the telephone, people who loved cassettes had to adapt to the compact disc. It is the way of the world, adapt or get left behind.

Now lets move to making money. Making money is the third reason you need a smartphone app.…… no, get off the floor and stop laughing, you can make money by paying someone to build a smartphone app for your event. It actually makes perfect sense.

It all starts with sponsors and the fact that sponsors are getting a little jaded and not parting with their hard earned cash. You are losing revenue.

Why are you losing revenue? Sponsors are sick of the same lame story about how having their logo in a printed brochure or event handout is so awesomely great. Really, they don’t buy it. They also know that having their name on a banner, a napkin or on the side of a bus sucks just about as bad.

This is why sponsorships are down. In the eyes of a sponsor, there is no return on investment beyond a few business cards of people that they can grab. Oh, I am sure some smart marketing cat can pull out a report about how having your name on a bus equals X amount of exposure, but ask yourself this….. would you pay $10,000.00 to hang a banner in a show hall? No, not your companies money… Your Money………..see, I didn’t think so.

So, how do you turn this around? You combine any sponsorship opportunity with the ability to have sales materials, brochures, links to websites and even phone numbers and emails in the pocket of an event attendee (and beyond)…. Now you are talking bang for the buck, now you are talking measurable response.

Add to this that the app isn’t going away when the event ends and you are starting to have a winner. The true ROI for a sponsor is the fact that your exhibitor list is a buyer’s guide that is sitting in the very pocket of the people that they are trying to reach. They want to reach your attendees? Then they should sponsor your event.

Would you spend sponsorship dollars to have your information attached to a potential customer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year including all major holidays, vacations and even at funerals… Thought you might, I would.

There are other benefits as well, benefits to the attendee which is the fourth and final reason why you should have a smartphone app for your event.

As an attendee, it would be nice to have:

  • My conference info, schedules and appointments all in my pocket
  • The speaker bios and pictures in my pocket
  • Social Media integration  in my pocket
  • Exhibitor and sponsor info in my pocket
  • Area information so I can find somewhere to eat, grab a beer or buy a tie, all in my pocket
  • Event videos and pictures at the ready so I can show my colleagues by pulling my phone out of my pocket
  • Something that makes my conference or event experience better than it has been in the past.

You get the idea, the future is in your pocket.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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