Meeting Innovation: Conference Mobile Apps and the Chicken-Egg Dance

Chicken EggWhenever several hundred or more are gathered for a B2B event, if there's no mobile app, people notice. They also start to wonder about how current and relevant this conference experience might be.

At this stage of the game, most conference and tradeshow organizers are either preparing to launch a mobile app or they're several cycles deep into perfecting their strategy. If you're not there yet, you can catch up - Cvent's Mobile Application Marketing Playbook eBook will help.

It's interesting, but many conference organizers are so hyper-focused on the tech side of mobile apps, they miss the content piece. Your mobile app platform needs to be strong, but keep in mind - it's a vessel. Without valuable content, results will falter.

As I watch our conference community embrace and deploy mobile apps, I've noticed a few "chicken egg" dances going on, too. A few instances where the conference organizer struggled to determine which comes first.

Chicken-Egg Dance #1: Technology or Content First?

As you explore mobile app platforms, you'll often hear impressive stats from vendors about number of downloads at client events. Those download stats are important - without downloads, the game is over.

But it's what happens after the app is downloaded that will determine the success or failure of the mobile app experience. As your attendees open the mobile app for the first time, you need to make a good first impression. If they see helpful information within easy access, they'll be delighted. If they get hit with a barrage of ads or they have to go searching for what they need, they'll lose confidence. Some may never open the app again.

Technology (fast and easy) and Content (helpful and valued) are both important. Make sure you've signed on a strong and capable mobile app provider that can deliver what you need. But push comes to shove, content must come first. Invest time to map out a smart content strategy and identify content that will be appreciated by your audience. Assign one champion who will gather and screen content from a multitude of sources. Drip out content, piece by piece, so each time participants open the app, they see something new.

When you're clear on content and mission first, the platform decision comes much easier.

Chicken-Egg Dance #2: Attendees or Exhibitors/Sponsors First?

Who must you strive to please most of all (or first) with the mobile app? Your exhibitors and sponsors, or your attendees?

I've posed that question to a number of people in the industry. Most people say: Both. I believe most people are wrong. Serve too many masters and you'll serve no one exceptionally. You'll wind up with lowest common denominator results.

The strength, vibrancy and future success of your conference rests largely on attendee satisfaction. Sure, your exhibitors and sponsors are important, but without happy attendees moving about the show floor, what's the point? Encourage exhibitors and sponsors to pull back on the sales pitch and share high-value content that helps attendees solve their biggest problems. Whitepapers, case studies, videos, etc. The mobile app platform can be a goldmine, but only if you're loading content that's valued by attendees.

Do you agree with my "which comes first" calls? What mobile app roll-out strategies are working best for you? 

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