Look out over any audience—movie theater, classroom or keynote session—and you will see the ghostly glow of a mobile phone screen reflected on someone’s face. While sometimes distracting or disruptive, smartphones present a tremendous opportunity to harness and engage an audience in real time.

There is no doubt that mobile devices are here to stay and that mobile is on the rise amongst the business class. Not surprisingly, two out of three business travelers carry a smartphone or other device, and 84% use apps for business when they’re on the road. How can they not? It’s addictive: 70% of professionals check their phones within an hour of getting up, according to Harvard Business School’s Leslie Perlow.


Meeting planners can leverage this mobile compulsion by creating useful apps that turn the potentially disruptive technology into a constructive tool for audience engagement before, during and after events. This is something we’re already doing, since apps manifest themselves in all areas of our industry today – most commonly:

Through a dizzying array of social media channels - available to encourage conversation and resource sharing among attendees. From Facebook event pages to a fully branded slide-sharing platform, event-specific social networking apps build mobile communities around common causes.

For soliciting instant feedback - apps that give us more ways to discover what attendees are thinking. I’ve already talked about using survey tools and audience response systems to measure meeting metrics. But how about soliciting feedback by inviting attendees to participate in contests, drawings or other competitions?  This idea was recently illustrated with PCMA. The company enticed attendees to use the company’s mobile app to earn points toward prizes once tasks were completed.

As a personalized, digital filing cabinet – an app that can be branded, customized and deployed for multiple events has the potential to maximize return on engagement. Zerista says the best mobile event apps work with the event portal, where participants can upload the bulk of their information via a web browser, then personalize their experience within the app.

Keeping all this in mind, here are a few noteworthy apps our colleagues are talking about:

Pathable lets attendees build their profiles and agendas via a desktop browser, which then is instantly accessible on their smartphones. It allows searching and browsing for sessions, speakers, exhibitors and attendees, as well as receiving alerts and meeting requests.

Poll Everywhere asks the audience questions in real time, and lets you post the answers live on the Web or in the speaker’s PowerPoint presentation. Choose a plan to determine audience size, custom keywords and other features.

QuickMobile’s multi-event platform scales to hundreds of branded events that can be individually configured.

Presdo Match culls information from LinkedIn and registration data to build searchable directories. Attendees add additional information to enhance their connection profile.

ACTIVE Conference Mobile Event App, part of a cloud-based event management platform, allows attendees to interact, schedule meetings, download session content, and tag and share interests.

NiceMeeting turns the mobile device into a second screen where attendees can view the presentation live or in preview mode, append paperless notes, question the speaker and chat with other attendees.

ChirpE, integrated with a2z’s Expo and Conference Management platform, lets attendees create personalized walking maps of the show floor, among other features. Revenue-generating tools include mobile microsites for exhibitors.

What are your go-to mobile apps that meeting planners (and attendees) shouldn’t live without?