June 2019

Ten years after “There’s an app for that” became a household phrase, there really is an app for just about everything, including things the folks at Apple probably hadn’t thought of when they coined the slogan.

Not only are apps everywhere, they’ve become more versatile – and so have their users.

This is especially true of event and conference apps. Once considered an expensive extra, they’ve become as essential to many associations’ event plans as name badges and sponsorship packages.

If you’ve used a conference app, you know what’s in them: the schedule, presenter bios, venue map, attendee list, sponsor and exhibitor information, and the all-important post-conference survey. Depending on the event and the budget, the app might also have functions for rating presenters, voting on “people’s choice” awards, and earning points in a scavenger hunt or similar game.

Today’s event-app builders and conference planners are finding new and creative ways to use the technology literally sitting in the palm of attendees’ hands to enhance their conference experience, including:

Interactive education. Through the conference app, presenters can immediately tailor their content to their audience. The app designer QuickMobile tells of an association that encouraged speakers to use the conference app’s survey function to ask questions during their presentations.

“Speakers put up a question, allowed attendees to select an answer through their event app, and then let the results load on screen,” Grace Cheung writes on the QuickMobile blog. “The answers were anonymous, but the audience could see which ones got the most responses. This opened the perfect avenue for speakers to discuss the results, allowing them to address attendees’ questions and clarify their understanding.”

Apps can also facilitate peer-to-peer education by helping attendees find others with expertise in an area they want to learn about – and for the holders of that expertise to find prospective “pupils.” More on that below.

Next-level networking. Enhanced profiles make it easier for attendees to connect based on common interests. The app builder Whova has a feature called Matchmaking, which facilitates connections based on profile content. The app prepopulates attendees’ profiles with basic information and invites them to add more. It then suggests connections for each attendee based on that data – people who attended the same university or share a hobby, for example.

Conference attendees can make both professional and personal connections through Matchmaking and similar functions, although we haven’t been able to verify whether they have facilitated any actual marriages.

Go-go gaming. Scavenger hunts and similar contests have been part of conferences for decades as a way to encourage attendees to visit and interact with exhibitors. With the advent of smartphones, the competition went digital. Attendees scanned QR codes at each exhibitor booth to verify their visit and earn points in the game. Conference apps have made “gamification” easier and more versatile; attendees can now score points by snapping a selfie at each exhibitor booth – perhaps with a distinctive prop – or by capturing virtual-reality creatures in a Pokemon Go-style game.

Emergency management. We hope you’ll never have to use this function, but it’s there if you need it. Cheung writes on the QuickMobile blog about an association that found itself in the middle of an emergency at the conference venue and needed to ensure all attendees were accounted for.

“First sending out push notifications to all attendees, the event planner asked everyone to use the event app to check-in, as they had at the beginning of the event. Attendees also had the option of sending a message to the event planner if they needed assistance,” she writes. “The check-in function had been updated by the support team, and allowed attendees to demonstrate to the event planner that they weren’t in trouble — and luckily, no one was.”

Have you found an “off-label” use for your conference app? We’d love to hear about it! Do you need help brainstorming app ideas for your next conference? ADG’s events team has worked with a variety of app providers and can offer some guidance. Feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. anytime.