Once upon a time conference and meeting sales calls were about capacity, catering and room blocks. Today, however, new technology solutions such as mobile conference apps are on the top of mind for every event planner. With so many new tools on the market and questions regarding their use for a successful event, event technology has become the perfect conversation starter. Destinations and properties can use mobile offerings as a new opportunity for a different type of relationship with event planers and to add value to their overall package and offerings.
Attendee experience is the name of this game! The ultimate goal of any new technology in the meeting and conference space is to help attendees get the most out of each face to face event. In the case of custom mobile conference apps such as EventMobi, this helps attendees manage the event schedule easier, enhance networking opportunities, interact with the event using audience response and navigate their way around the event and property right from their smartphones. Mobile event apps for attendees are quickly becoming a must have for any event and this demand is being driven by both attendees and sponsors, which points to a sustainable growth in the future rather than a fad for a new tech gadget.
What is a Mobile Event App?
A mobile event app is a downloadable phone application or a mobile web application that is easily accessible from any smartphone browser. In its basic form it augments and in some cases replaces traditional printed show guides. It contains detailed information such as agenda, speaker and sponsor profiles along with maps of hotel or convention center right on attendees’ own smartphones. In many advanced event apps you can also find interactive tools such as a schedule builder for attendees, audience response for real-time polls and a variety of networking tools to help attendees increase their face to face networking opportunities.
Opportunities for Hotels and Destinations
There are inherently two distinct opportunities that are involved with embracing mobile attendee apps as part of this technology strategy. First is the opportunity to engage and educate potential clients (event organizers) looking to book meeting space and in the process forming a new relationship. The other is adding value to the overall hotel offering and building a stronger brand as well as increasing revenue.
A recent example is how Caesars Windsor has been working with their AV and Technology Partner AV-Canada to provide a free basic event app to any meeting planner that books their event at Caesar. “We need to give our self an edge on what we are doing differently. How can we make an event planner choose our property or experience something different in our venue [by offering on-site mobile event app]”, says Shelly Sechopoulos, Director of Resort and Hotel Sales at the Caesars Windsor. “We can communicate with the guest and let them know about opportunities while they are on-site with mobile event apps in addition to other available technologies such as phone, TV and digital signage. From a hotel perspective it’s an added value.” She adds by highlighting that bringing new technologies to the table also helps with the sales process. “We will start the conversation to teach event planners what they can do with mobile event apps, it’s a deeper conversation, more than a sales pitch. It explores the objective for the meeting planner and we would like to help them accomplish that. We just don’t offer beds anymore! It’s also a brand promise that we will deliver and refer excellent products, and we partner with strong brands such as AT&T for WIFI or EventMobi for event apps.”
In other words, mobile technology is here to stay and is becoming an integral part of any event. Walk into any conference and you will see delegates tapping away at their smart phones and tablets- consuming information, surfing the web and staving away boredom. Event apps are helping transition that behavior into actions that are event related, such as checking the agenda, learning about speakers and sponsors and even participating in real time surveys and polls. Now, by offering the event app as an integrated solution directly or through one of your preferred vendors, your property has the opportunity to get your brand into the hands of each and every delegate using their smartphones. Imagine the possibilities: your concierge team could load in their top restaurant recommendations geared to the conference audience, your spa could offer a discount coupon for a post conference massage or encourage delegates to try a new cocktail at the bar. Couple this with the ability to instantly track promotion redemption, adjust marketing efforts depending on the time of day, day of the week, conference type or guest demographics and get real time feedback from your guests. With just a few clicks you have ostensibly created a more robust experience for everyone from event organizers, their delegates and even your internal staff
Besides hotels a number of CVBs and tourism boards are using the shiny side of new technology tools in similar manners. Todd Gehrke, director of Group & Conference Sales at Telluride, CO Tourism Board says:” Today’s [meeting space] buyer is in need of greater value and efficiency throughout the purchasing process. Integrating partner technology relationships into our sales and marketing immediately increases our value in the eyes of potential business partners and ensures them that we understand their overall event goals and objectives.”
What is the Benefit from Event Planners Point of View?
In addition to all of the benefits to the hotelier, what if you could tell your potential clients that you had the tools to facilitate their on-site communication, enhance attendee networking, reduce their printing costs, provide a new sponsorship platform and make the overall digital experience for attendees outstanding. Suddenly, you have enhanced the conversation and are able to offer more than standard conference packages, you have added something novel, that contributes to the overall well-being of the conference or meeting. “Organizers benefit greatly when a destination offers additional marketing and event execution tools, which assist when positioning the experience to event stakeholders and decision makers. In addition having a technology relationship in place, saves the organizer time and money, by having pre-populated destination details and potential purchaser discounts.” Says Todd Gehrke at Telluride Tourism Board.
This means from the event planners point of view the technology is built into the hotel and someone has already done their research. It gives them an opportunity to experiment how audience response with smartphones work or how they can send conference updates and alerts to delegates faster and easier with mobile event apps.
How to Get Started
An important aspect of bringing technology to hotels and adding it to your marketing and sales mix is knowing in advance how deep you are going to get involved. The relationship can be as simple as a referral to a preferred vendor or working directly with the solution provider or one of your own technology partners to manage the sales and support process. You also need to make sure that your sales staff are properly educated and can confidently talk about the benefits and help event planners that are new to using mobile event apps.
If possible it would also be extremely beneficial to offer a demo or a free basic version of the technology to allow event planners experience and try a simple mobile event app before exposing or up-selling them to the more advanced features. This will help them take the experience back and share the positive result with their internal team and set the stage for a more involved and integrated use of the technology for their next event.
In terms of marketing this service to potential event planners, you need to integrate the messaging and any special offers about the mobile event app with your overall marketing campaign to get the best exposure and return on investment.
Shelley notes that Caesar will be talking about their offer via one on one sales interactions, trade shows, mail campaigns as well as Internet ads to reach the right audience looking for this type of technology and integration with the property. She further notes the core of the message is that “The technology is build into your experience that you would have at Caesar. Your event at Caesar Windsor is powered by EventMobi, book here and we will make the technology portion easy and turnkey.”
What to Watch Out For and How to Measure Success
Mixing technology promotion by Hotels is not a usual practice but it is becoming more mainstream. Some event planners have already selected a partner for their technology needs before booking space and it’s important not to have any exclusivity both with any solution provider or requiring an exclusive use of technology by event planners as this might be a deal breaker.
It is also important to closely measure the ROI for any technology strategy such as offering mobile event apps as part of the experience at a hotel. The key measurement factors will be feedback from attendees and event planners as well as tracking how many event planners opt-in to use this technology for their events.
And regardless if the event app is native or web based a relatively accessible wifi or 3G data connection at the property is a requirement and needs to be discussed.
About the Author
President & CEO at EventMobi
“Bob is a passionate event professional and an engineer with deep expertise in mobile & web technologies for conference and trade show arena. He has over 10 years of experience managing and developing some of the world’s advanced systems while working for a number of startups and Fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley, California and Toronto, Canada. Bob is currently the President & CEO of EventMobi, where he has brought his knowledge of event industry and attendee behavior to help and create one of the most widely used mobile event apps that enhances attendee experience and provides tangible value to event organizers, sponsors and destinations alike.
Before founding EventMobi, Bob was the Sr. Product Manager for Nvidia’s mobile product line (the original hardware used by Apple iPods). In 2009 after attending a major tradeshow, the combination of inefficiency in using printed show guides in one hand and the capability and ease of use of smartphones in the other led to the vision and creation of one of the first device-agnostic mobile event apps in the industry called EventMobi.
Over the past two years Bob has worked tirelessly and hands-on with each and every client ranging from corporate event planners, association managers and tradeshow organizers across three continents. Bob’s focus at EventMobi is improving attendees experience using EventMobi, as well as developing partnership with other technology vendors, hotel properties, show management companies and advertising agencies supporting corporate events, tradeshows and conferences.
** Re-published from the Hotel Business Review with the permission of www.hotelexecutive.com