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Apps 2.0

Meetings apps have become more versatile and affordable than ever, especially as app developers create template-based products that are easier to customize. Nearly every event app’s baseline features include meeting agendas, venue maps and sponsor information, but today’s technology makes it possible for planners to track attendance, organize virtual competitions, create and edit PowerPoint presentations in real time, and so much more. To narrow down some of the key steps for incorporating apps into conferences and events, we spoke with several technology experts.

Chuck Law serves as the director of business development at Creatacor, a long-respected trade-show and event service that specializes in designing custom displays. Shelley Brown is the sales manager at the American branch of Lumi, a global event app developer that offers some of the most advanced audience-response technology on the market. Lindsay Martin-Bilbrey works as the director of marketing at Pathable Inc., an award-winning event app developer that was founded by a team of seasoned technology specialists from Microsoft and Intel.

Here are the tips they shared for using technology in your meetings:

Keep it simple.

There are countless app developers on the market, from college students to global corporations, and choosing the right one depends on a planner’s objectives. Though some might be tempted to reach for an app with all the bells and whistles, planners should focus on providing a simple and effective product.

“You can spend a lot of hours in the developing process,” said Law. 

He advised planners to take their time outlining their main goals, locate the appropriate developers and then rely on the experts. Marketing agencies are usually a great place to start, since they can help planners find the best developer to accommodate their plans and price points.

Market the app in advance.

Once planners design an app, the next step is creating incentives for attendees to use it. Attendees need to know how to download it, what it involves and how it will supplement their event experience. 

“Most clients have learned that you can’t just create the app and call it a day,” said Brown. “But if you tell attendees, ‘This app is how we’re going to provide questions to speakers during presentations,’ or ‘This involves a game where you can score points and potentially win an iPad,’ then you’ve given people a reason to download it.”

According to Martin-Bilbrey, it is ideal to begin promoting the app three to six weeks in advance, working it into the email marketing campaign that typically precedes events. The emails could provide a quick-start guide or snapshots of the app’s key features so attendees feel comfortable using it. This is also a good opportunity to supply an incentive, such as saying the first 100 people to download the app will get a chance to win a free dinner at a local restaurant. For one event, the hosting company sent out a humorous video of its CEO trying to set up the app while others in the office made helpful suggestions.

“It was funny and relatable, and allowed attendees to see it as another great tool,” said Martin-Bilbrey.