By Sam Smith, President & CEO, Network Events, Inc.
As technology becomes a more integral part of our lives, we are no longer simply attending events. We are engaging in them on a whole new level. More than 99% of people ages 13 to 34 regularly using the Internet and about 92% own smartphones. Young people are changing the way everyone attends events.
And this goes beyond taking photos and videos of our favorite speakers and interesting trade show displays. Both staff and attendees are organizing, communicating, and uploading content in real time, making events a technologically immersive experience.
The Price of Mobile Engagement: A Costly Connection
The average event attendee is no longer simply watching the event. They are tweeting, posting selfies on Instagram, messaging their friends, and searching for facts about featured speakers and exhibitors. Not only that, but event organizers are using apps to coordinate the event in real time. This activity leads to major data usage, straining many Wi-Fi connections to their breaking point.
The Superbowl, one of the most popular events in sports, certainly highlights this consumption. During the 2016 game, over 35,000 devices used 5 TB of data. This massive spike was a touchdown for cell phone companies, adding up to $70 million worth of data. Similarly, 14,640 of the people attending the North American International Auto Show racked up 3.06 TB of data. This added up to a $2 million price tag.
Many indoor venues have the advantage of providing Wi-Fi for their guests, encouraging people to interact with the event online. The Las Vegas Convention Center just added 2,100 Wi-Fi access points to their facility. This gives them the potential to provide wireless internet to 100,000 people at once.
Mobile Event Apps Centralize The Online Attendee Experience
At this time, there are 2,042,115 apps available in the Apple App Store. 1.9 million are designed for the iPhone. While these range in function, many of them aim to help event organizers and attendees alike. From productivity apps to lead capture apps, these pieces of software are usually hyper focused on one niche topic. There are even apps that allow you to create mobile event apps.
Knowing the high volume of online activity generated by attendees, organizations have successfully implemented this technology for their events. From sports events to exhibitor trade shows, these apps have prime organizing and engagement potential. For event staff, mobile event apps can communicate with guests and perform general organization tasks using their custom apps. At the same time, guests can learn about event features, navigate the venue, and check the event schedule right on the app.
With useful functions like these, it is not surprising that 85% of event planners and organizers are using mobile apps today. This technology is designed to simplify and streamline the management of events, conferences, and trade shows.
Trade show organizers seem to be implementing this technology the most, with 86% using mobile apps to improve the experience of their attendees. So far, only about 40% of convention centers offered this same option to their guests.
Mobile Event Apps Offer More Than Just Convenience
Technology is generally pitched as a way to make our lives easier. With a seemingly endless supply of information at our fingertips, we are able to streamline, organize, and document nearly every aspect of our lives. Mobile event apps do this plus more.
In a recent survey by Messaging Professionals Institute, event professionals were asked about the most significant benefits of using mobile apps for their functions. About 16% put the guests first, citing attendee convenience as the most important use. 15% said attendee engagement was the main benefit.
Many event planners also cite administrative reasons as the top use for an event app. Knowing that the applications may cut out the need to print large quantities of programs, maps, and other informational materials, 12% said that lower printing costs was a benefit of developing an event app.
Further harvesting the full potential of this tech, many event planners are taking advantage of their informational benefits. Another 12% of event professionals say that they most enjoy the ability to gather data and measure return on investment. Simply knowing how many people downloaded the app can provide significant insight on guest engagement. This knowledge can be extremely valuable in the future, allowing the organization to make adjustments to improve these numbers.
Knowing that attendees are using the mobile event apps before, during, and after the event, organizations can also use the technology to open up additional sponsorship opportunities. Having a sponsor listed on the app itself is beneficial, as it takes less effort for a user to access their website or social pages. With this in mind, 9% of event professionals said that sponsorship opportunities were a benefit of developing a mobile app for their events.
The Future Of Events Is A More Immersive Experience
The majority of attendees are already engaging with the event in some way. Whether they are quoting a keynote speaker using an event hashtag or geotagging an Instagram post, guests are creating a trackable visual diary of their experience at the event.
As mobile event apps evolve, they have the potential to take engagement to the next level.
By developing a well-designed mobile app, event planners can create a multifaceted experience that goes beyond exhibitor trade show displays. Users can download the app before the event to check the schedule, decide what aspects of the event they want to focus on, and scope out the event sponsors. During the event, they can then navigate the many features, check to clarify information, and receive real time event news. Once they return from the event, they can use the app to reflect on what they saw during the day, possibly taking further action to engage in that interest.
All of this activity will come back to the organization as data, informing future decisions and helping to plan the next event. These engagement numbers can also be shown to sponsors, demonstrating the significant viewership that an app provides. All of these factors come together to create a mutually positive result.
Event planners and organizers can only benefit from the investment in mobile event apps. Through this technology they create an immersive experience, all within the confines of a branded application.
Sam Smith co-founded Network Events, Inc., a health and wellness event development, marketing and management firm, in 1999. He is responsible for event partnerships with television stations and professional sports teams in markets throughout country. Sam, a leading executive in the exposition industry, has been a highly rated speaker at major industry events. He has provided sales and marketing consulting and training to top associations and private exposition management organizations.