I’ve attended a number of industry events recently where technology has been the main topic on the agenda and in particular ‘Event Apps’, so I wanted to write a post giving a bit of insight into what I’ve learnt and what I’ll be thinking about as I embark on my journey into event management.

The use of tablets and smartphones are starting to dominate how we work and play and apparently we are now spending more time using media and communications than sleeping! Mobile technology is growing quickly allowing things we do on a daily basis to be faster, simpler and more convenient. Smartphones and tablets keep us informed, entertained and connected and UK adults now spend on average 8 hours and 41 minutes a day on media devices (Ofcom).

According to Ofcom 44% of UK households now own a tablet, whilst smartphone take up by UK adults has also increased rapidly, up to 61% in 2014 compared to 51% in 2013.

It’s the Millennial generation who are shaping the communication habits for the future and all age groups are benefiting from the new technology as a result. Convenience and simplicity of smartphones and tablets are helping us cram more activities into our daily lives and the ease of use and portability appeal to people across generations with more and more people using mobile apps.

When we use our tablets and smartphones we’re using them to access apps, whether we’re on social media, checking our bank accounts, booking a table for dinner, checking diaries, texting our colleagues and friends or purchasing tickets for an event, there is more than likely an app that has been developed to help you do that and what may have been true 5 years ago or even 2 years ago is very different now.

Not surprising it’s the 25-34 year old age group, the Millennials, who are reportedly the heaviest users of mobile apps, closely followed by the 18-24 group, then the 35-54 year olds and lastly the over 55s.

As consumers we are becoming more and more dependent on our tablets and smartphones throughout the day, they don’t typically leave our side and that’s why we’re always checking them. According to IDC Research 4 out of 5 smartphone users will check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up! Something I’m definitely guilty of!

All in all we use mobile apps every day, so then do event attendees!

Apps have the ability to deliver relevant content and personalised experiences to event attendees, allowing them to be more engaged and more productive. For example, if you put out a printed guide everyone at the event gets the same experience, whereas a mobile app allows attendees to create their own guides and get more out of the event.

Why not use an event website?  48% of mobile users say it’s faster to find information in an app than on a mobile site with 55% saying it’s more convenient (Compuware).

There are however, a few things to consider when using apps for events. At the ‘Event App Challenge’ webinar hosted by Central Hall Westminster last week, one of the challenges discussed by the panel was that of low delegate adoption and the main reasons given for this were; no familiarity, app being too complicated, too little time, data security and fear of 3rd party messaging.

One thing to also consider is that whilst most adults now own a smartphone for personal use, for business and work many also use blackberry devices which are not always compatible with event apps, a challenge highlighted by Juliet Price from the HBAA at the Eventopedia event I attended last month. Therefore adoption of event apps for an event will be dependent on the devices attendees are using and the ease of use pre, during and post event.

Adoption will also come down to marketing the app well, your event app should be an extension of your brand and communications should begin from the offset all the way through the event process remembering to focus on the “what’s in it for me” of attendees. Your event app should help build your organisation’s image and identity, when attendees use it they’ll know what your brand is about and they’ll feel more connected to it.

It’s also important to establish a need for an event app, as it may not always be right for your event. Have a mobile strategy and plan for the long-term success of your event by having clear objectives as an organiser and being clear on the objectives of your attendees. In other words what do you want to achieve and what is the point for attendees to download an app?

An obvious advantage of adopting an app is that it will allow you to collect valuable data and input from an event, enabling you to be more accountable to your stakeholders and measure ROI and effectiveness from twitter feeds, audience response and polling. It would also allow you to tweak the event as it is running, see what goes well and what not so well and make changes for the future.

What’s the future?  Well I believe that as we become more dependent on our smartphones they will become more and more an extension of ourselves. We’re already loyal to certain brands and providers, we pick out phone covers, set our wallpaper and ringtones because we want our mobile experience to be personalised, we want it to reflect who we are and what we like. Attendees will be looking for a similar experience when attending an event and using an event app, they will be looking for personalised content and the opportunity to meet and hear from people relevant to them and they will want to share this with their peers.

The mobile revolution isn’t slowing down anytime soon neither is our interest in mobile apps. People are becoming more familiar with mobile technology and events as a result will start to become more technologically focused on networking and communication. Attendees will also come to expect, particularly for larger events, that there will be an event app that they can download, much the same as they now expect complimentary wifi in venues. Event apps will be able to tell attendees the people they should be talking to and point them in the right direction of the right people, thus making meetings happen that otherwise would not have happened. Events will become even more focused on the overall attendee experience resulting in a much more holistic approach to event management.

Until next time #Eventprofs…