How to find the best event app in 2019 for me?

how to evaluate event app features

The paradox of choice – Too many event apps

Did you know that there are over a hundred different types of event apps currently available in the market? Typically, having a lot of choices is great, but with this much choice, the life of an event planner gets much more complex!

This article aims to help you get through the event tech noise and find the event app that’s best for you. Event apps are not a one-size-fits-all since your events and team are all unique. So, figuring out which vendor or internal solution is the best for your needs and event success is key.

Most industry insiders agree that mobile event apps are pretty much a must nowadays. Currently, close to half of event organizers already regularly use an app at their events and conferences, and adoption is growing at 30%+ per year.

To determine what type of event app is best for you, let’s first take a look at why the majority of event planners are currently using or plan on using a conference app.

What exactly are you hoping to achieve by leveraging an event app in the first place?

For that, you have to ask an even higher level question…

What makes corporate events tick?

Although there are many reasons why event planners want to leverage technology there’s one recurring theme we hear when we talk to our customers. You ever thought or asked yourself what truly motivates attendees to show up at an event?

According to IAEE, “The Decision to Attend Study”, results show that the top drivers are education (92%), destination (78%), and networking (76%).

Not surprisingly, education and a destination are at the top of the list. Who doesn’t want to learn on a beach when it’s freezing outside? Education and destination will take you there, but one key ingredient is missing.

Across all generations surveyed, 76% of respondents said it’s very important that events provide them with opportunities to network and make connections.

Networking opportunities are especially important for Millennials, with 84% reporting it as a driving factor. The younger generations look at attending events as a way to grow their network and look for job opportunities.

If you fail to deliver on those three promises, your event experience will suffer and your event attendees will never come back. There may be many reasons why you should use an event app however ultimately, you need to care about one thing: Attendee satisfaction. This will translate into your event success today and a higher likelihood of successful future events too!

While the ultimate goal of using your event app is to drive event success. Here are other key reasons why you may want to use an event app:

  • To increase attendee engagement
  • To generate new revenue streams
  • To simplify information distribution
  • To save on costs by eliminating paper and consolidating providers
  • To meet the newest demands of your event guests
  • To deliver event analytics
  • To increase exposure for sponsors and exhibitors
  • To offer better problem solving for attendees
  • To improve customer service
  • To help differentiate against competitors

The drivers you decide to select will also serve as the basis of how you will define the KPIs to measure the event success. For instance, you will use a survey event app tool to measure engagement and satisfaction delivered to attendees via the event app during and after the event.

The above list will also help you figure out which are the key features that you will require in the event app itself.  As an example, if one of your drivers is to eliminate paper costs then make sure that that you have all the materials digitized and uploaded it to the event app including speaker notes, presentations and other supporting materials.

Now that you’ve identified your event success goals during your event planning phase, how do you go about selecting that perfect event app provider?

Top 3 things that will impact your decision to pick an event app provider

  1. Cost / Budget
  2. Technology
  3. Integrations

Let’s take a closer look at each of them individually:

Cost / Budget

Many studies agree,  that event planners still see the budget as one of the major drivers in working with an event app provider.

With hundreds of event app providers and price tags ranging from FREE to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, where is the happy medium?

The true cost of free

You may have a natural tendency to gravitate towards vendors that have the lowest price point.  Be careful.

You can find free event apps out there but you need to know there are many hidden costs associated with that option. Typically, these are providers that provide little or no support for your team, so your members are solely responsible for the development and deployment of the app. Free apps also tend to lack the customization features you may require to ensure the app reflects your brand and deliver on the best user experiences. Free apps also tend to be more buggy and chances that the technology will fail you and your attendees is pretty high.

People costs: Do you have the right people on the bus?

When you select an event app provider make sure to ask questions related to what level of support you may require in order to build out your event app. To put it in perspective it takes one or even two people on your team fully dedicated for approximately 20 hours prior to the event to get the event app built. If this is your first app, you most likely need to double that estimate due to the steep learning curve. If you don’t have available resources on staff, you will need external help! Typically that’s provided by the event app provider.

Platform costs: Intuitive platform and robust services/support team

Ensure that the platform contenders are intuitive and easy to learn for your users, especially if you don’t have tech-savvy power users. Speak to the event app provider to see if they have services designed to help you build out the event app prior to the event. Also, check that providers have a full-fledged support team that you can reach out to at moments notice. Do they have 24/7 availability, easy to use knowledge base, self-directed training, in platform support to help users navigate the features? Once you’ve observed a demo from your shortlist, ask for a free trial. Demos are informative and done by pros who can do them in their sleep. See for yourself if the platform is as easy to use and works as expected.

No money: Build a business case

In many cases, event apps are considered to have a negative impact on budgets. And, for the most part, it’s true there is a cost associated with that investment. However, you need to challenge that thinking. Event apps, in addition to being a cost, can also present new opportunities.

They can:

  • Lower your event costs (elimination of paper guides) and consolidation of your tools
  • Generate new revenue sources – in-app sponsorship packages.
  • Some of our customers save over $10,000 per event just by providing all their presentation materials virtually and eliminating paper costs. Many of event app platforms now include live polling, survey, chat, announcement features all within the app.  Many customers now realize they can consolidate some of those tools, into one app and drive considerable savings.
  • If you have event sponsors, ensure your event app provider allows for sponsorship opportunities within the app itself.  

If you still need to persuade some internal stakeholders to obtain a budget, here are some additional ideas.

The cost of not changing

Another hidden cost that nobody really talks about is the risk of losing attendees if you do not drive better engagement and satisfaction rates at your events. Event app technology is designed to engage the attendees not only by providing them with functionality that allows them to access documents see what is taking place but more importantly there are engagement tools like live polling, mobile surveys,  appointment booking features to help drive the engagement and better education.

In absence of that, you’re risking that the engagement is going to be lower than anticipated and the attendee will just choose to spend their time elsewhere.

Now that you have your budget, let’s get you that right app, shall we?

Event app: What are the key features I should consider from a technology and service perspective

This is a good spot to revisit your event goals. If the primary goal of your event is to drive engagement and satisfaction here’s a list of features that you should definitely consider adopting at your future event.

Show guide/event agenda – This is a must feature and the majority of providers offer it.  As the name suggests, this is where the user will find the event schedule, personal agenda items, show guide, event map including room information etc.

Networking – Ensure the event app has networking features. This could be the ability for attendees to connect using the app, leveraging features like appointment booking,  in-app push notifications with crucial event information. Also, look for an app that has in-app chat feature enabled or integration with social media accounts. Some will even have AI chatbots to help find the most useful information, although I would argue this feature can also contribute to lesser networking.  

Engagement – Now that you enabled your users to network with their peers, make sure you drive their engagement during the event by giving them a voice. Real-time live polling, for instance, is a fantastic tool to engage them during sessions, allowing the presenters and users to have a closer relationship. Poll results can be presented live during presentations and the presenter can cater their presentation based on the audience inputs. Another critical feature to drive engagement is gamification. Develop games in the app, to engage your attendees and influence their behavior and learning through fun, friendly challenges that reward activities and actions. And don’t lose an opportunity to collect ratings, feedback with during and post-event surveys. These mechanisms are a must-have especially if you want to collect critical event analytics.

Working with event app providers

The product features are important but you want to make sure you align yourself with an event app provider who you know will support you in achieving your event goals.  

Let’s face it, people want to work with people. Especially those they like. We will always prefer to work with someone who we respect, trust and even admire. The same goes for selecting your event app provider.

You can ask event app providers a hundred questions like: Do you have a knowledgeable support staff available 24/7?  Does your support or professional services align to my event’s success? Will you go above and beyond leading up to, during and post an event to deliver value when using the event app? Will you work with me to submit my app to the app stores? Will you ensure that I’m GDPR compliant? Needless to say, all vendors will say, YES, or at least they should.

That’s where you need to hear from your industry peers! Rather than asking the vendors the above questions, (knowing the answers), go to review sites like G2Crowd to get an unbiased view based on hundreds of customer reviews. If you can’t find any or are only a few, ask the vendor to provide you with real case studies, customer testimonials or even customer references ideally from peers closely resembling your profile and event needs.

Integrations – Let the data flow

Event planners don’t have it easy!  Those that leverage event technology, will on average work with five different technology platforms, anything from online event registration, event apps, email marketing, CRM, polling, ticketing systems to name a few. And the challenge? Many of those tools, don’t talk to each other.  Essentially, the planners are forced to manually extract data from one tool and reconcile using tools like Excel before importing it again in another tool.

The data incompatibility is or will be a huge headache for you! But there is a better way. That’s where integrations come in.

But before we discuss this further, let’s see what an event software integration actually is.

Think of it as a connector between two tools or systems (typically not coming from the same provider) that allows sharing data with each other.  Eg. (EventBrite registration + EventMobi event app)

This allows for changes in one system to be reflected in another automatically without manual uploading/importing on the part of a human.

In order to develop a sustainable event tech system that is easily replicable between numerous events, you will need to ensure your tools have been integrated. And, it’s quite rare that anyone event management platform will offer up all those tools in one package.

That’s why the vendors’ ability for you to integrate your disparate tools is another important consideration when selecting an event app. Does the provider offer up pre-built integrations you can use? Do they have a team to help you set up new integrations with the most used tools to ensure that compatibility? Do they have a list of most sought after integrations to showcase their success with it? Learn more about integration considerations.

The magic bullet

I gather, by now, you get a sense that there is no such thing.  The concept of the best event app is quite fickle. One event app will be perfect for your competitor but terrible for your next event. You have to figure out what are the most important considerations when going through that selection process.

The winning formula is:  Your and Your Users’ Needs + Product Fit+ Vendor Fit= End User Happiness.

I do hope however the above will serve as a bit of a starting point and provide you with some food for thought.

Need tips on how to budget for an event app? Watch our webinar How To Get Approval for Your Event App


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