I finally upgraded to a memory typewriter which helped a bit but the true miracle occurred in my life when I used a computer for the 1st time in 1988. Oh how I pondered the possibilities. Storing registrations in a database, printing badges right there off my computer, making changes with ease. I didn’t think it could get better than that and despite those initial thoughts, the capabilities continued to improve year-by-year.
By 1998, I had worked very closely with my former employer’s internal IT Group to develop an internal system that contained the 5,000+ medical education meetings we planned annually. From registration profiles, to lists, to specs & menu planning, to task management, the system was armed and full-proof. That being said, working with the IT team in development and maintenance of the software was no small feat. Now don’t get me wrong, IT people are extremely knowledgeable and without them, we wouldn’t be the technology based society we are today, but they don’t always speak the same language as us normal folk, which really made it challenging to reach all the goals for the system we had, in a relatively efficient amount of time and in a relatively cost efficient way.
During this same era, many vendors were out there creating online registration tools, diagram software, evaluation summary software, and polling tools. Albeit these tools were definitely moving our industry in the right direction, they were also very costly, so having planners move with them was a gradual transition for most, but eventually we all got on board.
Now fifteen years later, we live in an even faster paced era. An era that puts some of the tools created just 10 years ago to rest. It is now the age of the App. “There is an App for that.” We hear that phrase at least once a week in conversations we have with friends and colleagues. Smart Phones and Tablets have taken our world by storm and not only will event planning never be the same, sadly neither will other paper based industries moving forward.
I stumbled into the on-site event app phenomena in late 2010 when I was asked by a client to create an app for an event we were planning for military veterans. He said he wanted an app that stored the agenda, presenters, sponsors and map. So I started my quest to spec and price this app through a few IT developers, and the language barrier between me and them resurfaced itself again after 15 years. I could tell the work on my end for communicating my needs was going to be quite intense and the costs quoted were even more intense.
We decided to disband the app for that event because of those two reasons, but the mere idea itself put me on a mission to find developers who could create a software I could use to load information into, thus creating the on-site apps myself. I did an intense amount of research, interviewed some very credible planners and made sure I tried so solve all their problems by being able to offer an on-site app with all the “must-haves” and more importantly assure them they would be working with professional planners who spoke the same language as them. Lastly, the whole idea was to take the work off them, because most event planners don’t have any added time in their day to become app developers or learn the IT language most app developers speak when trying to develop the tool itself.
By late 2011 my mission was accomplished. I had a software that my planning team and I could use to help all our planning partners create a customized app in as little as a few hours for any size meeting or event. All our clients have to do is to send us to their information in any format, albeit a link to their event website, an email that contains a bio or a rough list of sponsors names, etc. We then go out and find and load the photos, analyze the website or the emails that were sent to us, and create a customized, branded and well organized app that contains one or all of the following components:
- Interactive Agenda (inclusive of dates, times, tracks, personal agendas and more)
- Speakers & Sponsors Bios (inclusive of direct links to websites, Twitter, Facebook pages, etc.)
- Polling & Evaluation Module (live polling or private evaluation forms made easily available can be added at a moment’s notice)
- Note taking (each app is available for 12 months after the program)
- Push Alerts to the App or to Email
- Program Materials & Other Documents (attach any document before the program or on-site)
- Mapping / Gaming / Photos
Each app is easy to find, because if the participant can’t find it quickly, they are more than likely not to use it. We provide both a link and QR Code to be used for initially loading it. Once the app is loaded, it can be saved as an app icon on any mobile device. The app then converts to a native app so no matter where the participant is, even if they are not getting a connection, they can always access the static data at any time. Once they are in an area with a connection, the app will notify them if they need to refresh it, in the event any updates or alerts were sent through, etc.
Since participants don’t have to search and find the event app in the Apple, Android and/or Blackberry stores, we find adoption is actually more than 100% these days. I say more because our analytics show participants loading it to at least two devices, versus one (i.e., both their Smart Phone and Tablet etc.).
After watching our industry change in the last 25 years, I believe employing an on-site app into a program is the best technology that has come into our marketplace since the computer replaced the old typewriter on my desk. It solves all the on-site headaches that come with last minute changes and updates and also saves your bottom line budget hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing materials, polling and evaluation tools.
Save money, save time and reduce stress, yes there is a mobile event app for that. What could any other seasoned planner possibly want other than winning the lottery and retiring to one of their favorite event destinations?
President, Quality Conferences, Inc. and Founder of QUICKCOMM. Mobi