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January 20, 2014

Our Apps Series Continues: Boosting Attendee Engagement

Earlier this month, event technology company QuickMobile released a white paper that looks into the future the mobile event app industry. The paper, “Seven Predictions for the Mobile Event App Industry in 2014,” shares the company's forecast on how the industry will advance into the next stage of market acceptance, moving from early adopters to early majority, as apps become commonplace at events around the world. 

The first prediction analyzed app availability, accessibility and security; while the second looked at the role social media will play in event apps. Here is the third prediction with insights from QuickMobile founder and CEO Patrick Payne.

Prediction #3: Mobile Event Apps Transform the Engagement Spectrum

In 2014, mobile event apps will need to work harder to earn the attention of attendees and other stakeholders.

“There is a difference between providing an event app with a schedule and a list of speakers and an event app that has people using it in ways that are more powerful than basic utility features,” Payne told International Meetings Review, describing the first type of app as “utilitarian” and complaining that they offer a low level of engagement. “Now, we have a tool that lets people answer questions in real time. Planners can react and modify the agenda or content based on what people are requesting and how they answer questions.”  

Examples of interactive elements can include: 

Gamification: Apps should have game-like tasks and activities added to promote desired behavior and increase interaction. When designed properly, gamification can help meeting organizers accomplish several objectives. First, it can motivate people to get out and participate in the event: visit certain booths, connect with certain people, create and share content, attend key sessions, etc. Second, it can help draw in younger audiences who more naturally gravitate to gamified activities. Third (and where appropriate), it can drive new revenue streams through sponsorship of activities and prizes. 

“It’s amazing in terms of how it gets people to use the app and get more involved in event,” Payne said about gamification. “It’s not about just making people use the event app. It’s about getting people to have the right behavior at the event.” As an example, at one event, the planner wanted to guarantee that attendees would get to workshops on time, so a game was added to the app. Before the workshop began, a QR code was set up outside the door, where attendees could scan it and get points. Once the session began, the code was taken away and the points were no longer available. “People changed their behavior,” Payne said. “They wanted those codes.”  Payne said that apps with gamification elements see a tenfold increase in engagement. “It gets people using the app in new ways than just looking at a schedule.” 
Insight: In 2014, real-time polling and Q&A will become common practice, forever replacing the microphone and a show of hands or a paper-based survey as a means of involving the audience in a discussion. App-based surveys will offer more timely and more specific ways of gathering meaningful feedback, taking advantage of the immediacy that only an app can offer. Meeting organizers will be able to leverage the knowledge and expertise of the assembled audience to gain better understanding of the event participants.         
Video and rich media: Mobile event apps will offer opportunities to deliver media content to complement the event and share information. Furthermore, Payne said, much of that content can be contributed by attendees in terms of photo galleries.         
Before, during and after: When properly embedded into the event lifecycle, mobile apps provide a unique platform for engaging with  audiences before, during and after an event. Payne believes that organizers will begin to tap into the app as quickly as possible, blurring the lines between launch, opening and closing. They will enable ongoing conversations with and between attendees, speakers and organizers.

Furthermore, Payne predicts that organizations that do not address the increasingly sophisticated demands of their attendees will see declining attendance or participation. 

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