5 ways to implement a successful mobile app at your next event

There’s nothing better than wrapping up an event with a feeling of success. I mean, what is the point of all the hard work and months of planning if there isn’t at least some success story to be told?  This past July, I was fortunate enough to experience many success with my association’s convention.

 The Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE) had one of the most highly attended out-of-town conventions in its history, and  I was honored  to present  one particular  triumph- the successful implementation of an event mobile app. The convention app offered many traditional features like a social function, attendee roster, schedule of events and so forth. We also decided to implement a scavenger hunt along with city specific information for attendees. Nothing out of the ordinary right? While our app was full of engaging features, it was our planning and promoting that brought such success. And, we were able to track that success easily.

Here are five things that I learned while implementing ISAE’s event app:

1. Plan your app with the attendee in mind

This may sound like common sense, but this piece of advice couldn’t be any truer. When you are planning the features of the app, think about what the attendees will experience. Walk through your event and think of what information attendees will need or want to make their experience that much better. The one thing I learned this past year was that you CAN customize your app based on the individual event, so  add in maps of the city, coupons and discounts for sponsoring venues or whatever your the attendee’s heart desires.

2. Develop a timeline starting 3-6 months out

Planning is key for a successful app, but even more so is understanding the timeliness of certain functions of an app (this goes into my next point as well). For our event app, we started with a proposal to a mobile partner and had a plan in place 4-5 months out from the event. The data and design work started two months out (where attendee imports happened later to provide a more updated registration count), and our final design approval, data update and testing happened weeks before the event. Of course, there is no set timeline to follow to the “T”. However, take into consideration my next point…

3. Allow enough lead time for app testing and availability for download

One of the biggest mistakes I made my first time around was not estimating enough time for app availability in the Apple Store and Android Market.  While there was really no issue when submitting the app to Google, Apple however took a little over two weeks to approve. This can cause a problem if you are ready to launch but there’s no access. (Note: this is not to say that all approval time for Apple is two weeks, that is just how long it took us to get availability for download, so plan ahead regardless).

4. Promote your app

You can’t really expect to gain a lot of downloads or engagement with your app if you aren’t promoting it. Add promotions to your event communications and push on social. You can be creative and run contests for app downloads and even promote on-site downloads by adding promotion copy to event scripts. Either way, get your attendees engaged with the app as soon as it is available. I also like the idea of an “app teaser” communication leading up to the availability to download, but that may just be me.

5. Monitor your results

What good is implementing a mobile app if you don’t plan on tracking how successful it was? One of the great benefits of partnering with a mobile app company is that they can easily provide you with analytics (specifically user data), during and after the event that will hopefully provide the positive results you were hoping for. 

Whether you have seen a success or  failure when implementing a mobile app (or maybe you have yet to take the plunge), always remember to focus on the  plan, development and promotion of your app.

If you would like to see the specific stats and takeaways from the ISAE 2013 Convention App, view our infographic here: http://www.isae.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Mobile-App-Presentation.png