If you’re planning a major conference, you’ve likely got a few key goals: get people there, get them engaged and make money for your organization.

Of these, successful audience engagement likely will have the biggest impact on future years. Providing interesting and unique experiences for attendees, getting their feedback and ensuring they have a seamless experience will build positive word-of-mouth for your event – leading to greater attendee numbers next year.

So, how do you hook your audience and make them want more? One way is through the effective use of a mobile event app. If you read just about any article listing tech trends for 2014, the widespread adoption of mobile event apps makes the list. Even if you’re a bit of a Luddite, that’s good news, because mobile apps offer an excellent opportunity to connect with your attendees.

However, like any facet of the marketing world, successful, helpful apps require strategic thought. Back when social media was a new thing, a lot of businesses got on the bandwagon without really figuring out what it meant for their operation. Apps are the same way – just having one isn’t enough. Apps can be used for a variety of reasons: to provide agendas, poll attendees, show videos, promote sponsors, integrate social media and way, way more. An app can cost you anywhere from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars to create. You need a strategy to develop an app that will not only reap dividends but will get people to actually use it.  Here are some tips for mobile event app success:

create own app

  • Make it useful. Think as broadly as possible about what resources your attendees might want, then get as much as possible of that content into your app. You can load everything from speaker bios to local wine bars to personal conference agendas. (Attendees’ age, occupation and interests should help guide the selection of your app’s content.) Timing is also key – make sure the app is available at least a month ahead of your event.

 

  • Make it cool.  Apps can provide virtual tours of an event and can highlight vendor booths that an individual might find interesting. Geo-location features can help an attendee find his or her way through a venue or nearby points of interest. These features can get costly, but try to find a way to grab users’ interest so they want to explore your app. Offer exclusive content, such as video or in-depth speaker profiles, through the app. (Be careful, though, about putting content exclusively on the app if it’s content an attendee must have. You’ll likely alienate a few attendees that may not have a smart phone or the download.)

 

  • Make it easy. Links to your app should be easy to find on your website and social media sites. Before the event, offer a short webinar or a how-to video on your website. At the event, offer stations where people can get help downloading and navigating the app.

 

  • Promote it, constantly. Your app’s information should be on the first piece of marketing collateral your attendees receive and every piece after that. All event communications, including the website, should direct people to the app. Social media can remind people of it; your event speakers can mention it.

 

  • Use it to gather input. Apps can offer surveys and polls; some events use them to gather real-time feedback on seminars and experiences. The ability to gather granular-level data is among apps’ greatest virtues to planners.

 

A useful, user-friendly, creatively designed app will add value to your attendees’ experience, and give you insightful information on their interests and needs. That’s a great way to start planning for next year.