Meetings & Trade Shows — There’s a Mobile App for That

In 2000, I made this prediction at the CIC Forum in Washington, DC: “Mobile phones will morph into ‘widgets’ (wireless Internet devices for geo-positioning, e-commerce and telecommunication).” I went on to forecast that our phones will become Web browsers, “Walkmen” (iPods were not invented yet), still/video cameras, GPS systems, e-mail managers, calendar/contact managers, micropayment systems and more.

What fueled my interest was the potential that mobile applications held for meetings. Meetings are mobile and inherently in need of mobile technology to manage event data.

What a difference a decade makes! All these predictions have come true, and mobile apps are now the hottest line of software development. There are hundreds of direct applications for events, trade shows, associations and venues. Here are several of the significant ones.

MULTIPURPOSE CONFERENCE APPLICATIONS

These “Swiss army knife” applications provide multiple tools bundled in one application:

QuickMobile (www.quickmobile.com)

QuickMobile was the mobile application for the MPI MeetingDifferent and will be for the MPI WEC. It was also used at major film festivals including Sundance and Tribeca. Features include a full conference schedule, personal agenda building, area guide (with Frommer’s integration), search capabilities for attendees/speakers/exhibitors, integration with social media including Twitter/Facebook/Pathable and messaging. The company builds apps for the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android and mobile Web, providing greater ease of use than companies that provide only mobile Web versions.

Follow Me (www.core-apps.com)

Follow Me was the mobile app for the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, one of the largest shows in the trade show industry. Features include a full conference schedule, personal agenda builder, maps, exhibit hall way-finding (you are a dot on the map), course notes/literature pick-up, session alerts, Twitter integration, and sponsorship revenue sharing. It also builds native apps for the major smartphones (iPhone, Android and Blackberry) and mobile Web for the rest.

EventKaddy (www.eventkaddy.com — see EXPO, March 2010, p. 13)

Similar to QuickMobile and Follow Me, EventKaddy provide native apps for most smartphones. Shows include the large 2010 Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Features include full conference listings, customized attendee agenda building, attendee networking tools, interactive floor plans/maps, multimedia listings for exhibitors, digital coupons/brochures/course notes (in PDF) and conference alerts from show organizers to attendees, with extensive metrics.

EMA (www.epromeetingapps.com — see EXPO, April 2010, p. 15)

EMA provides multiple-platform mobile Web applications (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and mobile Web) including conference agenda, exhibit directory, conference alerts, hotel information, local area resources, attendee messaging and social media integration.

Zerista (www.zerista.com — see EXPO, March 2010, p. 15)

Zerista is as an online networking/business matchmaking tool, but now puts much of its emphasis on mobile networking apps. Its mobile community application Zerista Pro was used at the Mobile World Congress with more than 20,000 users. Features include mobile Web meeting scheduler, attendee directory, personal profiles, attendee matching, social media integration (Twitter/Facebook), personal scheduler, full agenda, exhibitor directory, booth locator, virtual booths, floor plans and local guides.

Event Media Concept’s Mobile Concierge (www.eventmediaconcepts.com)

These mobile Web applications provide a conference agenda, exhibit directory, conference alerts, hotel information with GPS mapping/star ratings, local area resources with GPS mapping, attendee messaging and social media integration. Mobile Web applications tend to be slower and aren’t as user-friendly as native applications built for specific phones. On the plus side, nothing needs to be downloaded for it to work.

VisionTree (www.visiontree.com)

VisionTree is a service company focusing primarily on the pharmaceutical industry. It provides mobile handsets similar to an audience polling service, which can be supplemented by attendees’ mobile phones. Features include audience polling, text Q&A, feedback forms, conference agenda and speaker bios.

a2z Inc.’s ChirpE (www.a2zinc.net —see EXPO, April 2010, p. 12)

a2z Inc. has been a pioneer in Web-based exhibit floor plan sales, mapping and management providing services for more than 600 shows per year. It also has a mobile application called ChirpE. This mobile Web application includes a full conference agenda, event alerts, exhibit guide, exhibit floor plan, social media integration with LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter and personalized agenda building.

a2z has gone to great lengths to build a mobile platform that will work well with other mobile and Web apps including strong matchmaking tools. It has also built some of the best social media integration and aggregation tools for mobile apps for the events industry.

Meetings2Go (http://meetings2go.mobi/)

This is another mobile Web-based product with agenda, exhibitor information, basic surveys, searchable attendee list, basic city guide and SMS alert sign-up.

Mission Event Software (http://event-master.com/mobile_phone_service_key_features.html)

Mission Event Software, based in the UK, has Mobile Phone Service, providing a range of mobile Web and ondemand text services for events including agendas, exhibit information, travel info, SMS messaging and SMS voting.

TEXT MESSAGING EVENT INFORMATION SERVICES

Text messaging has some advantages. It’s cheap and accessible on virtually all mobile phones. Here are two similar products incorporating this technology:

Snipp (www.snipp.com — see EXPO, November/December 2008, p. 44) and XNiP (www.xnip.com — see EXPO, January 2010, p. 36)

These two nearly identical products work like this: Identify everything of interest at an event (people, exhibit products, exhibit booths, course notes, articles, weblinks, etc.) with a unique ID code (e.g. A345B). Then text message this ID code to 76477 (S-N-I-P-P) for Snipp or 29292 (for XNiP). Then attendees can access the information collected anytime via a personal Web page at the Snipp.com or Xnip.com Web sites. This provides inexpensive, paperless and digital ways of accessing event information.

AUDIENCE POLLING AND SURVEYS

Audience polling devices are a great way of stimulating attendee interaction and finding out what they’re thinking. However, traditional keypads can be beyond the budget for many events (from $3-$12/person/day). Phone-based polling/survey systems, although not as fast or capable as keypads, can be right for some events.

Traditional survey methods are problematic. Paper surveys are inefficient in tallying and end up in landfills. Web surveys often are captured days after the event when impressions are cold, often resulting in a low response rate. Alternatively, mobile survey tools are low-cost, low in environmental impact, efficient in data collection and capture the data while the impressions are fresh.

Here are several mobile survey products:

NearPod (www.nearpod.com)

iPod and iPad applications for surveys, data collection, prize give-aways, presentation tools and metric tools with applications for meetings and trade shows.

Validar (www.validar.com)

Validar is primarily an exhibitor lead management/intelligence company. Its SMS Survey product provides text messaging surveys at events. Ask attendees questions about the keynote speaker or solicit advice on which sessions met expectations and which fell short. Attendees can respond to surveys using any SMS-enabled device, such as a PDA, cell phone or smartphone. This system has the capability to ask or answer several questions with one text message, making it a more convenient survey tool than those using a separate text message for every question.

Zuku (www.ezuku.com)

Similar to Validar, Zuku provides low-cost text messaging (SMS) polling and Q&A. Responses can be projected live.

Plug ’n Poll (www.plugandpoll.com)

Plug ’n Poll is a Dutch firm providing similar SMS polling services.

Poll Everywhere (www.polleverywhere.com)

Poll Everywhere provides SMS polling and Q&A sessions. It also integrates with Twitter and mobile Web responses, and, as with standard audience polling systems, results can be projected live. These polling questions can be integrated directly into a PowerPoint program, making it easy for a speaker to use it. Try it for free for up to 30 responses.

LEAD RETRIEVAL

Traditional lead retrieval is one-way (from attendee to exhibitor), location bound (at the exhibit booth) and expensive for the exhibitor. Mobile lead exchange provides two-way, less-expensive, digital ways to exchange contact information anywhere at the event.

DUB – Mobile Business Card Networking (www.dubmenow.com)

This app was used at South-by-Southwest 2010 (SXSW), the same music and media conference where Twitter debuted two years ago. This app works with iPhone and Blackberry (with Android and soon with Window Mobile Media) to exchange electronic business cards. It allows you to locate people near you at a conference or send your card via SMS or e-mail. This automatically syncs with your phone address book and updates contacts. It also integrates with LinkedIn and Twitter.

Bartizan’s iLeads (www.bartizan.com — see EXPO, March 2010, p. 15)

Bartizan has been a traditional lead-retrieval service for more than 30 years. Its new iPhone app is a tacit admission that the traditional lead-retrieval model is on the way out. iLeads is an iPhone/iPad app giving each attendee at a trade show a unique four- to six-digit code printed in 16-pt. font on their name badge. Those with access to the iLeads database (usually exhibitors) log into a specific event on their iPhone, type in attendees’ codes, and then can see (and record) their full contact information. There are built-in qualifier questions, seven standard action codes and an area for notes. All leads are date/time stamped and, using the phone cam, a contact’s photo also can be attached.

DIGITAL SHOW GUIDES

A primary focus for these apps are on the exhibitor information and floor plan:

Taptopia (www.taptopia.com)

Interactive maps, schedules and exhibitor info for the iPhone and iTouch sold through the iTunes store.

MEMBER MANAGEMENT FOR ASSOCIATIONS

Associations are moving to use mobile tools to provide member services. The major association management companies are expanding their product lines to include these options. Here’s a standalone one:

Voracity Solutions (www.voracitysolutions.com/products/mobilemembership)

A range of membership and association mobile Web management tools including member directory with full contact info, member photos, personal contacts, special interest groups, staff roster/contacts and member alerts.

ATTENDEE MANAGEMENT

This will likely be a hot development area whereby meeting planners will be able to access all online event registration and housing data through their mobile phones.

ootoWeb (www.ootoweb.com)

ootoWeb is one such example. Veteran designers from the pioneer meetings technology company SeeUThere have built a revolutionary attendee management/online registration product. It has full mobile integration, so planners can access all attendee/housing data from an iPhone. The registration product is free for the first month and then only $49/month thereafter with no transaction fees.

VENUE AND LOCATION CONCIERGES

These applications are designed for the venues to provide to attendees or hotel guests:

SwiftMoble (www.imswift.com)

This nicely designed iPhone app helps conference attendees at convention centers. The “myBCEC” app designed for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is a good example of what other venues could do. The app contains a full, interactive venue map, local area restaurant/services information, the event calendar for the facility (with Twitter event hashtag links), transit information (including airport departures, traffic alerts, directions, parking information and subway alerts), a wide range of information about the venue (venue Twitter feed and lost and found) and exhibitor information (utilities, AV, F&B, cleaning, etc.).

runtriz (www.runtriz.com/hotel)

runtriz is a pocket concierge for hotels. Hotel guests can order room service, view the drink menu, contact housekeeping, receive messages from the hotel front desk, schedule a wake-up call, arrange transportation and view local shopping, restaurants and nightlife. If you don’t have an iPhone, participating hotels will loan you an iTouch.

Geovative GeoTours (www.geovative.com)

Geovative provides destination marketing using multimedia GPS tours with mobile apps.

MICROPAYMENT SYSTEMS/NEAR-FIELD COMMUNICATION

Near-field communication (NFC) is a short-range (about 4 inches) wireless communication standard used in Europe. NFC is primarily designed for making quick payments. Residents of Estonia, for example, can tap their phones on a parking meter or at a rapid-transit turnstile, making an immediate and easy transaction from the ‘e-wallet’ stored on their phone. Nokia and Samsung are among the phone manufacturers that currently offer NFC and there are rumors that the next generation of the iPhone will have it as well. NFC provides great potential for meetings including lead exchange, electronic ticketing and micropayments. If the new iPhone adopts this standard, NFC will become huge in the trade show arena.

ITN International (www.itn-international.com)

ITN, a high-end registration company, is a pioneer in using NFC for events and trade shows. It provides innovative capabilities for attendee tracking, lead data collection, event micropayment systems and more.

CONSUMER MOBILE APPS WITH EVENT APPLICATIONS

Here are a few consumer apps that bear a brief mention:

Foursquare (www.foursquare.com — see EXPO, March 2010, p. 11) and Gowalla (www.gowalla.com)
These location-aware mobile applications allow people to check-in at a location to network with others and to share with friends. Although originally used in restaurants, bars, etc., these are starting to be used for events. Both were used at SXSW 2010 in Austin.

Bump
(http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bump/id305479724?mt=8)
An iPhone app to share contact information and photos.

WebEx Meeting Center
(http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cisco-webex-meeting-center/id298844386?mt=8)
An iPhone app to tap into schedule, attend and start WebEx online meetings.

Things
(http://itunes.apple.com/app/things/
id284971781?mt=8)
This one offers iPhone task management.

Google Goggles
(www.google.com/mobile/goggles)
Built for Android phones, this product holds great promise for augmented reality applications. Simply point your phone cam at a restaurant or other object, and get a link to the Web site. Take a picture of a business card and it converts it to data in your mobile contacts, and much more.

These are just a few! There are likely hundreds more meeting-specific applications on the way and tens of thousands of consumer mobile apps that can help attendees, meeting planners, exhibitors and meeting suppliers at events and trade shows. Finally, these “widgets” have become a reality and much more will come.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He can be contacted at his Web site: www.corbinball.com.