There’s no use denying it - the world is going mobile. With over five billion people using mobile phones (over 85% of the world population!), it’s safe to say that going mobile is not a flash in the pan, but a permanent shift in the way the world does business. In 2010, more people purchased smartphones than desktop and laptop computers. Analysts predicted this would happen, but not until 2011, which only reinforces the explosive growth of mobile phones.
If you think about it, the term smart-phone is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of a ultra-portable computer that also happens to make phone calls. People check email, surf the web, update Facebook, tweet, text, pin, post and play games on their device - all before making a single phone call.
Mobile Apps and Events
With all the amazing things we can do with mobile, it makes me wonder why the meetings industry hasn’t adopted these tools more rapidly. Over 80% of meeting planners use smartphones, but only 9% of planners provide their meeting attendees with mobile apps for their events. Until recently, many planners could legitimately wait to go mobile until more of their audience had smartphones, but now the majority of conference attendees, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors have embraced smartphones and demand mobile experiences. Today’s planner needs to consider how to fulfill this new requirement and address the motives of each group.
Impact on Attendees and Speakers
For attendees, it’s about making connections and increasing engagement. Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has over half of its users on mobile, and it’s commonplace to see attendees "friending" each other right on the show floor. With mobile apps, these connections become even easier to establish. You can scan through the profiles of other people attending your breakout session, and schedule a quick meeting with a new connection with just a tap and a swipe.
For speakers, mobile makes it easy to reach the audience in the seats and also those outside the confines of the conferences. The average mobile phone user has over 700 connections through social media, and empowering the physical audience at the conference to tweet and share helps the speaker’s message spread to a vast, virtual audience. In return, speakers become more accessible by posting their bio, presentation materials and contact info right in the event app. Suddenly, they transform from a far-away figure on the stage to an engaging, approachable expert. Even after the session is over, the conversation can continue through in-app message boards, or publicly on Twitter or Facebook.
Impact on Exhibitors and Sponsors
Exhibitors and sponsors use mobile to drive interaction. Gamification, like a photo contest where attendees get points and badges for visiting certain booths, can add a new dimension to the trade show experience. It may sound silly, but virtual reward systems are a powerful way to encourage real-life behavior. Exhibitors will be lining up to take part in this new media promotion, and that only scratches the surface of other sponsorship opportunities that mobile unlocks, including banner and display ads, full page splash screens while the app loads up, push notifications and more.
Which leads to the best aspect for meetings – mobile is measurable. Can you ever tell, with absolute certainty, exactly how many people walked through the exhibit hall? You can, however, measure app downloads with total accuracy, and even report on time spent in the app, page views, comments and, most importantly to your advertisers, ad impressions. When the mobile app is the hub for all event activity, the potential exposure is huge.
For example, CoreNet Global’s event with 1,300 attendees resulted in over 44,000 ad impressions. Likewise, the National Council of Mental Health had 2,700 attendees generate over 105,000 ad views! When pitching sponsorships, you can confidently say that an ad will be seen by each attendee 30 to 40 times, and you can even push a special offer right to the notification pane of each user’s mobile device. “Maybe you’d like to consider our Platinum sponsorship…”
Why does this matter?
We’re still at the early stages of how these devices will change our events (and lives). Emerging technologies like RFID and NFC will revolutionize everything from ticketing and advertising to lead capture. GPS connectivity opens the door to “find my friends” tools, and even real-time/real-life gaming experiences. The mobile web connects us to the rest of the world, and the phone’s camera connects the rest of the world to us. And all the while, as Attendees become Ambassadors, Speakers become Celebrities, Exhibitors become Partners and Sponsors become Family, the mobile app becomes an integral part of the event experience.