Every year hundreds of dogs are paraded around the floor at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. According to meeting technology alpha dog Corbin Ball, nearly 100 mobile conference and event guides are paraded around the meetings marketplace.
They’re all the same, right? Four legs, a tail and one wet nose. Agendas, maps, attendees lists, speaker bios and social integration. Well, a 90-pound Lab wouldn’t be too happy in a small apartment, and that Shih Tzu wouldn’t be much help in a duck blind. With some honest self-evaluation and thoughtful insight, that new little conference app in the window can be your new best friend.
Working specifically in the meeting registration and technology market, my team and I have experience with a good number of apps and have demo-ed countless others. With so many options, it’s impractical to give you a comprehensive side-by-side-by-side comparison and choose a clear favorite. So, this column is meant to guide you through a crowded field. I wouldn’t tell anyone what centerpiece looks best without seeing the whole layout, just as I wouldn’t recommend an app without knowing your attendees’ needs.
In a 30-minute demo, a good sales rep can appear to part the Red Sea via iPhone. That’s not a bad thing (hopefully the magic will carry over to the end user), but the trick is to see past the pretty demo and determine if your specific needs are being addressed. Consider these questions.
Can it fetch?
Fetch data, that is. One of the most important considerations in choosing an app for your meeting are the systems you already use. If the event’s registration system offers an app, that might be your best bet. Most major registrations systems have an app that’s native to their environment. If they don’t, they can probably recommend one or more external apps with proper integrations. If any data automatically transfers (attendees, sessions, speakers, surveys), you’ll save valuable time.
That Yorkie’s bow looks pretty, but she didn’t tie it herself, did she?
Here’s where honest self-evaluation comes into play. Are you the dogged type who’s comfortable with technology and wants to be hands-on? Or are you better suited to working with the app vendor or a third-party professional? There is no in-between. If the app is poorly executed, you’ve only bought a 57-pixel square logo on a few people’s phones. Sure, they’ll see the logo on their way to Facebook, but the event app will be a flop.
Is it social?
There seem to be two angles from which to approach an event app: social or informational. Not to say they’re mutually exclusive, but some focus strongly on connecting attendees and others focus on delivering information and feedback. Consider your audience here. After all, that’s who’ll really use it.
Is adaption an option?
Perhaps adoption is an option, or should I say “adaption?” Native apps can have some really cool features, but they can also come with a really uncool price tag. However, it’s becoming expected that information be accessible on mobile devices. The event website and a social media push are already in the blueprint (hopefully). If a purebred native app is not in the budget, an adaptive website can deliver information like speaker bios, schedules, maps and agendas to any size phone, tablet or computer. The trade-off: A responsive website can’t use the phone for pictures, GPS, scanning barcodes and other tools.
There’s no clear best in show when it comes to mobile event apps. As this relatively new market continues to grow and evolve, the best of the best will move to the front of the pack. Until then, demand is high and many companies are trying to establish themselves as top dog. Hopefully we’ve helped find the right fit for you.
You all have app experiences, don’t you? Please share them, including best and worst, in the comment section below.