Getting participants closer to your conference by choosing the right app solution

Tom Henneken
Mar 13, 2020 · 7 min read
image credit: envato.com

I visited several trade fairs, business congresses and conferences over the past couple of years. Almost everywhere you see the same scene: thousands of printed schedules, information flyers and event maps. All of you who already joined similar events might know, that this paper chaos is impractical and rather annoying. The article will guide you to the find an easy, modern and eco friendly app solution for your event, that will have a huge impact on the event experience for your customers like attendees, speakers and exhibitors (for a better understanding: participants).

First, why do I need an app at all?

If your conference, business congress or trade fair counts 500+ estimated participants and you therefore count yourself to the bigger player in your area as well as in your working field, your event program might extend to a whole day or even a few days in a row — this also could lead to run several schedules at the same time.

Usually all participants will have access to a printed version of the schedule, the conference plan, the speakers, the exhibitors and so on as — well as an online access to pdf files of all needed information. Why should I use an app instead?

It’s inefficient. That’s why you’ll need an appropriate app solution in 2020. Especially if your event has a tech context, you’ll need an app that stands above all!

Use resources wisely

Seriously. The minority or your participants will ask for printed info material, because no one wants to navigate themself through a crowded event by a printed map anymore. Don’t waste your resources in analog solutions. Don’t print thousands of analog flyers or booklets, who will find their way to the trash bin. If you count that conference by conference and year by year it’s a huge waste of resources. An app solution is a more eco friendly solution to inform your participants about all necessary schedules, plans and interesting speeches.

Let me show you, why it’s smart and efficient to invest in a digital, reusable and handy application and why it don’t have to be expensive.

The user journey

Over the past months my partner and I have been to several german conferences with a high startup or tech focus. All of them were very well organised, peppered with pretty nice speakers, topics and contents and also most of the locations where a very good choice. But beside that, there was one thing playing an extreme important role over the conference days: the conference app.

Let’s jump right to the beginning of the participants journey from buying a ticket to the actual conference day: after getting interested in your conference and finally registering or buying a ticket, the next step for the participant is usually not an additional newsletter registration or directly the the trip to the conference itself

Goal of the conference is networking, getting in contact with other participants and making most out of their time and money invest, so participants want to get into the conference details and contents first to prepare themselves for the conference day.

The big question that you have to keep in mind is: what does the participant expect from conference experience and how are we going to meet his needs and expectations? And that’s an excellent opportunity for you to shine!

Conferences can be kinda different, but there are some core interests and informations all participants share and need

  • where will the conference be?
  • when will it start?
  • where do I probably find hotels?
  • who will participate (like other attendees, sponsors, speaker ect.)?
  • how do I get in contact?
  • are there any workshops or masterclasses beside the speeches?
  • what will be interesting for me and where can I find it?

A solution to inspire your participants

Why not offering a great pre to post conference experience for your participants by offering a platform where everyone can meet their own needs and interests?

After finalizing the booking process, guide your participants to the download of your app and the customization of their conference experience! There is no better way to develop a strong bond with your participants. The app will stay on their mobile devices from the download on until the end of the conference or even longer — you won’t get closer to your participants.

Don’t lose the connection to your participants, their needs and data to external platforms.

This enables whole new possibilities, which will make the application worth every penny it will cost.

After the installation and a smart onboarding, participants will personalise their profile with important information to reach attractiveness for potential networking. You can use the information to recommend workshops, speaker or even exhibitors. During the onboarding you can also offer much more personalisation of the conference to the user, like different categories or interests. Interests can be used to recommend fitting contacts to the participants (for example recommend participants who are “looking for development” to connect with participants who “offer development” through various pre-set selections). In combination with a chat function, you’ll get an active networking opportunity on your app, even before the conference starts. Use native device features like AR (augmented reality) for tuning the exhibitors booths!

Participants will build a connection to the conference on a whole new level.

Besides that already very advanced features, there are some low hanging fruits like participants will be able mark speakers or exhibitors as favourites and can be PUSHed with reminders right before a new speech, masterclass or workshop will start. Use the app to spread news based on key happenings and highlights! Use the onboarding to collect opt-ins to newsletter and get statistics on what is and was important to the participant!

There are numerous possibilities!

The feature stack differs a lot between different app solutions and is of course depending on the budget. The most common options are a non custom app, a generated custom app and a whole custom app.

A non custom app is an existing platform/app, where you can set up your individual conference within. Those non custom apps can already have pretty strong features and you have several ways to fit the appearance to your needs, but you will reach the borders pretty fast. If you only have a small conference, to brand the app as your own isn’t important to you or you don’t have bigger design or feature expectations, a non custom app is a good choice for you.

Pros

  • the cheapest solution you can go with
  • strong base functions
  • very fast setup
  • widely supported

Cons

  • non exclusive app, you share the same application with all other customers
  • custom functions or modules are often not possible or expensive
  • often realised as PWA (progressive web app) and not that performant as native apps
  • very limited influence on updates

A generated custom app is an exclusive app generated by a stack of modules through an automatic service. You can build the app with a web interface depending on your needs and export the application to the stores. The customisation is often very limited. The services vary a lot and there are some pretty good app-builder as well as some very bad ones. The jump from the non custom app to the generated custom app if often very small.

Pros

  • exclusive app
  • fast setup
  • strong base functions
  • widely supported

Cons

  • often realised as PWA
  • custom functions or modules don’t fit in the application very well or can’t be realised
  • very limited influence on updates

Third option is a whole custom app, which is an exclusively for the conference or multiple conferences developed app. The app agency can evaluate your core needs and offer you the most suitable features and solutions to meet those needs. Offers can vary a lot depending to the price. A higher pricing is no guarantee for a better app, therefore it’s important to choose the app agency very wisely and compare offers from different agencies. The agency has to be interested in your and your particular case and to be focused on the usability of the app.

If you want to use the app as a core part to your conference and add value for all of your participants, then this solution is the right choice.

Pros

  • exclusive app
  • full customised to the needs of the conference
  • often realised as native app with a usage of native features
  • full handle of the user data and statistics
  • to the project established team

Cons

  • price
  • QA (quality assurance) and privacy have to be considered
  • time to receive a store-ready product compared to the previous solutions is quite long.

Consider which role the app should fulfill for your conference! Define the use and functions of the app and weigh, how much manpower and money you are willing to invest! A valid approach is also to start with a non custom app and upgrade after you got a first feeling about what you’ll need. It is important to also consider the needs of attendees, exhibitor and speaker. If you take it serious, find a partner who fits to your project size and unfold the whole potential of your conferences!

Need support with your decision or app solution? Get in touch.

Conventions & Conferences

Experiences, advices and solutions for conventions…

Tom Henneken

Written by

Co-Founder @ fiftyfive development, Native Mobile Apps & Webapplications | www.fiftyfive.dev | hello@fiftyfive.dev

Conventions & Conferences

Experiences, advices and solutions for conventions, conferences, congresses and trade fairs mostly on B2B level.

Tom Henneken

Written by

Co-Founder @ fiftyfive development, Native Mobile Apps & Webapplications | www.fiftyfive.dev | hello@fiftyfive.dev

Conventions & Conferences

Experiences, advices and solutions for conventions, conferences, congresses and trade fairs mostly on B2B level.

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