Not Ready To Rip Off The Band-Aid And Go Paperless? Try A Phased Event-App Adoption For Your Next Few Events

Let’s talk about some of the major reasons why your organization may not be running toward paperless, but maybe just sort of like walking towards it and window-shopping or just waiting for a reason to absolutely have to do it. There are lots of reasons why you may be hesitant to go paperless at events, despite the many benefits—it’s green, it’s efficient, and, in many cases, it can save you money. But what if first, you learned that most of your objections could be addressed and second, you could implement a plan to go paperless in baby steps?

Here are some common objections to adopting event technology and what you can do about them.

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It’s true that not every person who participates in and/or attends events is technologically literate today, but that’s changing fast. It’s likely that because of the pace of technology in most offices and professions, you’re participants are already receiving on-the-job training in technology. The best approach for your organization may be a phased one. We talk about that below.

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As with any type of change (new venues, food and beverage choices, or keynote speakers) there is always a percentage of event participants who may resist. A great way to meet resistance is to bring it out in the open and acknowledge it in a respectful, maybe even humorous way. Give that task to the marketing department. They’ll thank you.

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Your organization may have very little budget for the technology required to go paperless. In that case, consider only the technology options that save money and/or bring in more net revenue, i.e. make it an even or net positive exchange.

For example, event apps and digital signage can open up a ton of measurable sponsorship opportunities that not only cover the cost of the technology, but generate additional revenue.

Curious how you could generate sponsorship revenue to cover the cost of your event app? Download this eBook How to Create a Sponsorship Strategy that Will Maximize Your Event Revenue

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There are a lot of technology options out there and most event planners don’t have the time or the training to manage multiple vendors. You can remedy that situation by selecting an integrated technology solution that lets you go digital with, for example, registration, a mobile event app and digital signage on one platform. This option also keeps you from having to learn, negotiate with, and manage tech support for several companies at once.

Once you make the decision to go paperless (hopefully based on some or all of the ideas above), the next step is to lay out a plan for on boarding your audience. Here’s a 3-phase approach.

Phase 1: Prime the Pump

Before you put paperless technology of any kind into the hands of your participants, do these things:  

  • Bring your participants into the planning for paperless process. Ask them how they would like to receive information, training, and assistance on the use of technologies (some vendors offer free trials).
  • For example: The Canadian Association of Midwives held a meeting with its board of directors and senior-level staff to do a full training on a mobile-event app the group was about to implement. Doing so turned association leaders into evangelists and attendees followed.
  • If technology is overwhelming for your audience, perhaps start with one type of paperless technology–registration, or an event app for example–to implement the first year. Every journey starts with a single step, right?
  • In advance of the event, prepare a list of benefits, and ask your audience members how they would prefer that you share those benefits to them. For example, with the cost savings from using a mobile app instead of a printed directory, maybe they would like WiFi in more areas. Bring examples to your most involved members and get their feedback.  
  • Reduce the number of printed directories substantially by offering most of your event content exclusively on the app. For those attendees who need a little more time to adjust, make printed directories available by request only.
  • Prepare your marketing campaign to inform, train, and excite users about the upcoming change.
  • Create a timeline for introduction of the technology and inform potential users so that they can build it into the timeline of other tasks associated with your events.
  • Avoid overwhelming your audience by spreading out the timeline for your rollout of all paperless technologies.

Phase 2: Soft rollout

For the first event in which you actually use the paperless technology, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Give users easy access to the technology. Make opting in only a click or a swipe away. Complicated logins are adoption killers. 
  • Provide onsite tech assistance through your volunteer force. Make sure all of your volunteers know how to use the app so they can troubleshoot for attendees.
  • Provide users with an incentive to use the paperless technology—a Starbucks coupon, extra drink ticket at the opening reception, or a pedicab ride.
  • Seek out feedback everywhere (maybe through event app surveys!) about how the technology roll out is working. Review everything–positive or negative–with your staff and your vendor. It could be a simple fix (like flipping the switch on an auto-update feature for adding new attendees) to deliver a better experience for you and your visitors.

Phase 3: Gather feedback & plan for next year

Once you complete the soft rollout and gather feedback about whether or not it was a success, you can consider these options:

  • Build on your success. If paperless registration turns out to be a hit the first year, use the same approach to roll out a mobile app (to replace the printed agenda) or digital signage (to replace banners) in the second year. That said, if you have full buy-in from your team and your attendees–of course it’s OK to run before you walk!
  • Reward your users for their bold step into the future. Thank them for their participation. Let them know how it benefitted your organization and the event and get them excited about your plans to make their lives easier in the future.

Your decision to go paperless should be as much about leadership as it is about taking care of your audience. In this fast-moving business and professional world, you can’t really wait until your attendees beg for a paperless option or you have to use some tough love to get their buy in. By laying out your objections, getting advice from experts, and making change happen, you can benefit from going paperless in more ways than just having less paper in your event.

What’s Next?