Why We Should Use Apps for Conferences

4 Ways to Use a Conference App(s)

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#1 A Conference App is like an Attendee’s Assistant

Probably because I spent 2/3rds of my teens and young adulthood with a mobile phone glued to my hand, the first thing I do when I attend a conference is look up whether there is a conference app.

Like most people, I find them useful. A dedicated conference app is a great way for me to keep myself organized, and I also enjoy activity and photo streams that give me a peek into what other attendees are doing. It’s also nice to be able to find other attendees, and set up meetings or trade contact information.

Basically, a conference app gives me one place where I can (and am encouraged to) complete a variety of tasks—networking, learning, organizing—that I would be trying to do at a conference anyway.

For example, I have a Twitter, as many do. When I was at the Marketing Nation Summit, I live tweeted every session because the conference app made it easy. It helpfully auto-filled with relevant hashtags every time I opened the tweeting function.

I tweeted a lot more because of that, found myself featured on the social walls, and that helped me start conversations both on- and offline. I was participating in the discussions around the conference, networking with peers, and helping spread information about the conference—all at the same time that I was physically attending sessions and learning my craft.

So: a conference app made it easy to do some things that I had intended to do anyway, and therefore I was more inclined to do them. Incidentally, I was also probably making the event planners pretty happy in the process.


#2 Surveys Create Controlled Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing can be very hit and miss, mostly because people have different opinions, so decision-making can get stalled, fast. The problem is especially compounded when you’re trying to get something decided on the go.

Some events, such as the ProductCamp series, rely on attendee submitted topics and votes to decide which presentations will actually run during the conference. At the ProductCamp that I attended earlier this year, the majority of the voting took place the morning of the event. Although voting was available online before the event, the organizers wanted to get the opinions of physically present attendees.

In-person, ‘analog’ voting is one way to do crowdsourcing, but there are also various apps that can be co-opted into the process! For example, Doodle (every long-distance friendship group’s favourite), or VoteUp, which I recently discovered.
I have a lot of indecisive friends (I’m one of them), and an app like this helps to speed up the decision making process considerably.

For some more control over the process, a conference app or customized voting app would work well. If you can control the length of time that attendees are able to vote, and publicize the topic and duration of the surveys, it’s much easier to mobilize attendees to actually send in their opinions when you need them.

Making it easy for attendees to vote will also do a lot! If I see a notification saying that I need to complete the survey for this afternoon’s sessions by 11am, I’m very likely to immediately click the link and fill out the survey on the spot.


#3 Don’t Underestimate Live Feedback

Speaking of surveys, it’s important not to forget about gathering audience feedback. Google Forms is an easy, free option (there’s no mobile app version, yet) that everyone can access. There’s also a survey app called PollDaddy, but it does require your attendees to sign up for an account.

If you have a conference app already, you’ll be able to use the survey and quiz options for the same thing. One awesome advantage of an in-app survey is that you can push it out to collect feedback during the event. By the end of an event, your attendees will be travelling, settling back into work, and generally put off your survey for other things—so a quick survey sent to them as they’re waiting in line for lunch can be incredibly effective.

It’s also really helpful to let your speakers have some access to the polling features. They can incorporate surveys into their presentations to gauge audience interest in a particular topic, and adjust the session to fit audience needs. One of my favourite uses of in-session surveys is when presenters use it as a quiz of sorts. Because they’re not graded or anything, I find that they’re very helpful mini-reviews of the important points of the presentation.

And because the session hasn’t ended yet, I can ask the presenter questions to clarify, either by going up to the mic, or sending it in through the conference app.


#4 Accessing the Second Screen Life

The “second screen” was a phrase that was floating around a few years ago. There are various articles talking about how to use the second screen (aka, the mobile phone, tablet, or other secondary device, instead of the main one like the television) to engage audiences. There aren’t as many in recent years, but I think that this has to do with the fact that we’ve largely moved away from talking about it, and into doing it.

I don’t remember the last time I watched live television without tweeting about it, texting about it, or looking up some information about it. During conferences, one of the most rewarding things for me is to Tweet about the session I’m in, look up the speaker’s information, or see what other people are tweeting about their sessions.

There’s a combination of apps that could help you achieve this at a conference. Twitter is one, as well as document sharing services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Attendees can probably find the speaker’s bio on your event website or through LinkedIn.

When it comes to creating rewarding experiences for attendees, taking account of the way they interact with the second screen is becoming an expected aspect of conferences and other learning events. You can make it easier for attendees to access secondary information (and help them stay on topic—flipping through different apps can definitely make attention go astray) by using fewer tools that do more.

A conference app that integrates with social media channels, keeps all the documents in one place, and has attendee and speaker profile information, can pretty adequately provide all the second screen services that I usually look for on my own.


How have you used conference apps before? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, or tweet us @QuickMobile!