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Event experience | 10 December 2019

Mobile Event and Conference Apps: The 2020 Guide

Bizzabo Blog Staff

Mobile event and conference apps have now become a pillar of the event experience. In this guide, we will explore event app best practices for 2020 and beyond.

An event app allows attendees to more effectively network, keeps everyone aware of the latest event updates, and most importantly, provides a rich dataset that event organizers can draw insights. Given an event app’s versatility, it’s no wonder that 91% of event organizers stated that adopting a conference app resulted in positive event ROI.

Although it is clear that mobile event apps are prevalent in the event industry, the constant improvements in technology and the shifting landscape of mobile apps in general require organizers to stay up to date with the latest news and best practices.

This guide will cover the spectrum of what organizers need to know about the event app. Readers will learn the full range of event app capabilities and how they can best leverage them to achieve event successTo help you keep track of mobile events and conferences apps, we’ve put together this step by step guide:

  1. What is an Event App
  2. What is a Networking App
  3. Determine if you need an Event App or Networking App
  4. App Store Guidelines for White Label Apps
  5. White Label App vs Branded Universal Event App
  6. How a Mobile Conference App Enhances the Event Experience
  7. How to Increase Event App Adoption
  8. How to Leverage Event App Data
  9. Event App Data Security and Privacy

What is an Event App?

An event app (otherwise known as a conference app) is a mobile application dedicated to enhancing the experience of attendees at a live event. While different event apps offer different features, common features are a digital event agenda, one-to-one messaging, attendee profiles for networking research, speaker profiles, sponsor pages, and social media integrations.

What is a Networking App?

A networking app is slightly different from mobile event and conference apps because they focus solely on event networking. Although such apps serve a very important purpose, most conference apps today offer a networking platform in addition to other functionalities. Understanding the event app as a holistic solution will ensure that you take full advantage of its capabilities. 

Determine if you need an Event App for your Next Event

Now that you understand the difference between an event and a networking app, it’s important to choose the right mobile experience for your event. A networking app is a great add-on when facilitating connection between attendees during the event. An event and conference app offers a more holistic event experience with additional features like a digital agenda, profiles, and one-to-one messaging. To help determine if an event app is right for you, take a look at our checklist.

Event App Checklist:

      • Attendee size exceeds 100
      • You Event type is a user conference, summit, roadshow, or flagship event
      • Attendees are given the option to connect prior to the event
      • The event agenda includes multiple sessions and tracks
      • The event is a single or multi-day event
      • Real-time notification during the event are important
      • You have enough lead time to promote your app before the event

If you checked off more than a couple bullets in this list, it might be time to review event and conference app options with your event management solution. 

Our mobile app is that beacon of light that people use while they are on site. They were able to select sessions that they were interested in, find out the current flow, and things, and areas that were open during the program.”

—Karen Merritt, LinkedIn

App Store Guidelines for White Label Apps

In the app industry, Apple and Android are the gatekeepers. The rules that these mobile operating system providers establish for their respective mobile app stores can end up redirecting an industry—as was the recent case with Apple.

At the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced a set of sweeping guideline changes. During the conference, Apple announced that they were tightening up their app review process by rejecting apps that were created through a template form. The most important sentence in the guideline read as follows:

Guideline 4.2.6: “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.”

Naturally this alarmed a number of different industries that used templated apps as a core part of their business model. The guideline particularly affected the event industry as many event technology companies use templates to create event apps at scale for their clients.

Many feared that this new guideline would upend the white label event app creation process. As a result, many app providers scrambled to figure out exactly the extent to which Apple would be enforcing the new anti-template rules.

For a while it seemed that universal apps (which we’ll cover later) were the only safe solution. Back in December of 2017, Apple released an updated version of Guideline 4.2.6. The full section read as follows:

“Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app’s content. These services should not submit apps on behalf of their clients and should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences. Another acceptable option for template providers is to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or ‘picker’ model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event.”

Whereas the initial guideline lacked specificity, this new revision painted a clearer picture as to what extent templated apps will be accepted.

Given the updated version, it seems that white label apps are not off the table so as long as the clients submit the app through their own Apple Developer Account. So it is fair to assume that the App Store will not be overly strict on templated event apps—as long as they are unique and original to a certain degree.

White Label Event App vs Branded Universal Event App

As an event organizer, it is important to know the differences between the two to help inform the decision of choosing the right conference app solution. The differences between the two event app types can be summarized as follows.

Templated White Label Apps

With templated white label apps, clients get a great branded experience and access to a variety of modules, but at the cost of uniqueness in both design and functionality. Per Apple’s revised guidelines, the app will only be accepted if it is submitted through the client’s Apple Developer Account.

The implication is that event app companies must hand over the templates, modules, and framework with which a client will design the app on their own. Many event software providers, including Bizzabo, now offer white label app options that are compliant with App Store guidelines.

Branded Universal Apps 

Apple’s revised guidelines makes clear that an acceptable form of templated apps are aggregate or “picker” models in which numerous different profiles exist in the same container app. This is otherwise known as a branded universal app.

Just like a universal remote might be in charge of your home entertainment system, a universal app aims to be your one-stop-shop for events. Clients download the universal app which then contains their specific event or event series.

It is within the container app that clients can create and display their unique branded event app without having to completely create one on their own. A branded universal app does well to abide by the Apple guidelines because it steers away from overcrowding the app store with templated apps while giving clients the freedom to showcase their unique event brand.

To have a better understanding of this particular app solution, here is Bizzabo’s new branded event app in action:

How a Mobile Conference App Enhances the Event Experience

The value of an event app is bringing the entire event experience to the attendee’s device. This makes it easier for attendees to know what sessions or speakers are coming up, which sponsors are exhibiting, and who they can meet to make a professional connection.

While mobile engagement is rising year over year, it isn’t always easy to understand the impact of an event app for your overall event strategy. That’s why Bizzabo surveyed several customers using the Ultra Branded App. The results were surprising:

  • 50% Increase in Mobile Adoption from Attendees
  • 51% Increase in Sponsor and Partner Visibility
  • 42% Increase inAudience Engagement
  • 84% Increase in Community Engagement

Event organizers that Bizzabo surveyed saw dramatic results in attendee engagement with the addition of am event app.

Curious to learn what sets event apps apart? Let’s review the unique benefits of leveraging event and conference apps. 

1. Networking

Connecting with other professionals is one of the main reasons why the event app came into existence. An event app not only facilitates meeting with others but helps attendees identify other attendees to meet and network with. Visually pleasing profiles and an intuitive messaging system are key ingredients for a strong networking solution within the event app.

Profile view of Bizzabo's branded event app

Profile within Bizzabo branded event app

2. On-Brand Experience

Delivering a seamlessly branded experience for attendees is key to a successful event. Look for event apps that allow full control over colors, images, logos, and messaging in order to deliver a fully branded app experience that connects the energy of the live event to each attendee’s device.

3. Polling and Surveys

One of the most valuable aspects of an event app is the data that can be collected from attendees. The most straightforward method of collecting this data would be to initiate polls and surveys to attendees in real time. This can be done during workshops, prior to the event, and even after the event. An event app provides a way to ask immediate questions to attendees and receive responses that will help shape your future event strategy.

Corbin Ball's thoughts on polls and surveys with an event app

4. Personalized Agenda

With so many different sessions and workshops going on at a conference, it can be difficult for attendees to keep track of it all. An event app solves this problem by giving attendees the ability to build their own event agenda by simply adding the sessions they want to attend into their personal schedules.

5. Sponsorship Opportunities

Modern event apps can also help event organizers in securing event sponsorships by providing sponsors with a prime opportunity to expose their brand and services to attendees. This can be done through individual sponsor pages, special offers that are sent through push notifications, or sponsored polls and surveys.

How to Increase Event App Adoption

The benefits of an event app cannot be realized unless the app is widely downloaded and actively used by attendees. The following tips will help increase app adoption rates. 

1. Articulate the Value-Added

Before planning any specific campaigns surrounding app adoption, take the time to properly form the messaging.

Yes, you want as many attendees to download it as possible, but why should they? What is the specific value-added that they will receive by engaging with the app?

Clearly positioning the value of why and how an app will elevate an attendee’s event experience in your messaging is necessarily no only to persuade them to download the app, but more importantly, to gain their trust and have them encourage other attendees to download the app as well. The power of referrals can really help with event app adoption.

2. Turn Attendees into Advocates

Once the messaging is taken care of, it’s time to create specific ways for attendees to easily advocate on behalf of the app and thus facilitate event app adoption.

Make it easy for attendees to promote your event and app by providing easy-to-use sharing buttons with pre-populated text. Attendees can then inform their networks that they’ve joined the event networking community and that their fellow attendees should too. Remember, your speakers have the power to amplify your message as they tend to have strong follower bases. 

3. Create a Dedicated Email Campaign

Email will be one of the main points of communication with your attendees. Send a series of emails to every registered attendee with a clear call to action to download your event app.

You can space out the emails sufficiently to avoid overwhelming your attendees. Educate attendees on why and how the conference app will enhance their event experience.

Also, be sure to keep clear and concise messaging in these emails. If you bury your attendees with a barrage of links and information, the call to action to download your event app will be lost.

4. Devise a Social Media Strategy

To really ensure that all event attendees are aware of your event networking community, consider launching a social media campaign. Incentivize attendees to download the app by offering a prize to the first 100 community members. Also consider creating a shareable download link so that people can quickly download the app.

Showcasing your conference app through social media platforms is a good way to show potential event attendees the added value they will gain if they choose to attend the event. By publicly promoting the mobile conference app, you are positioning your event brand as one that is embracing tech solutions that enhance the experience.

How to Leverage Event App Data

As the event organizer, the most valuable aspect of deploying an event app is the data that is collected. Because attendees use the conference app in a range of different functionalities, each piece of information can be pieced together to help the organizer better understand the impact of their event. Insights such as the most popular sessions, peek times for sent messages, and profiles with the most views are all key data points that paint a bigger picture.

event-app-guide-white-label-app-dashboardSource: Bizzabo

Obtaining rich event data and drawing actionable insights are possible when multiple datasets are integrated with the conference app. Integration is imperative when leveraging data because it gives different platforms the ability to communicate with one another.

This is especially relevant for event apps because attendee behavior on the app can be directly linked to their information in your CRM or marketing automation system. The more data points that can be connected to the same contact, the better idea you will have of how the event impacted that particular attendee.

For more information on integrating event data, click on the image below to access our free ebook on event data integrations.

Event App Data Security and Privacy

As discussed, an event app can be a mine of data on attendee behaviors and preferences. This data can in turn inform future decisions and event strategy. However—to paraphrase Uncle Ben from Spiderman—with great data comes great responsibility.

Organizers must go to great lengths to make sure that the data they collect is secure and available on request by users.

With the introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, data security and data privacy has become more important than ever. This new EU protection regulation helps ensure that organizations are handling personal data in a secure and transparent manner. GDPR not only applies to companies who operate out of the EU but also to companies who sell to, hire, or engage with EU citizens and its organizations. For more information on GDPR, visit the official GDPR website.

To become better acquainted with data protection methods, here are some best practices surrounding event data security and transparency. (Please note that this blog should not be referenced for legal advice. For proper legal guidance, please refer to your legal team.)

Opt-in Process

As event app users, attendees should be fully aware of the data they are sharing. There should also be processes put in place so they actively choose to offer their info. Some platforms are designed so that collecting data is the default and that users must actively opt-out if they no longer want to their data pulled. This results in a poor user experience as the process feels less transparent than it should be.

Make sure your event app data collection includes an opt-in process that requires active engagement on the side of the attendee. This way, both organizer and attendee are fully transparent right from the start.

Understandable Language

When it comes to legal rhetoric, it becomes very easy to get lost in the jargon or simply tune out confusing and convoluted language.

In order to avoid this sentiment among your attendees and other event stakeholders, take the time to breakdown your basic data policy in a way that can be understood by the average person. Doing so will be much appreciated by attendees and help to establish your event brand as one that places attendees’ user experience as a high priority.

Send a Detailed Email Summarizing Your Policy

According to The Event Success Formula, email is one of the most effective ways for marketers to communicate with their audiences. Attendees will appreciate if you create a separate email that summarizes, in layman’s terms, your data and privacy policies because they can then refer to this email on separate occasions.

Thoroughly explaining the details of the policy and how attendees will be affected are great ways to build trust with your audience and let them know that you have their best interest at heart. 

Wrapping Up: Your Mobile Event App

Modern event and conference apps have the power to provide attendees with an intuitive, seamlessly branded and convenient digital experience to go hand-in-hand with a live experience. To prime up your event to be mobile ready, here are the main things to keep in mind:

  • Determine if an Event App or Networking App is the right fit for your event.
  • Consider using a White Label App or Branded App Experience for your Event App.
  • Understand how an Event App enhances the attendee and sponsor experience.
  • Increase event app adoption by turning attendees into app advocates.
  • Leverage event app data in a way that is aligned with data and consumer privacy regulations.

Going into 2020 and beyond, we can expect further advances in branding, personalization and data-based insights.

Learn how an event app can fit int your overall event strategy in the Event Stack guide.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 18, 2019 and has since been updated.

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