Mobile apps are no longer just an attendee value-add, but instead a tool that helps show managers and event attendees stay connected between events. Here, Jenna Richardson, senior meetings and events manager for Make-A-Wish America and a speaker at Expo’s Tradeshow 365 Marketing Summit Nov. 21 in Chicago, explains to ExpoAssociate Editor Arti Patel how quickly and effectively a mobile event app can transform a single show into a year-round experience.
EXPO Magazine: Most nonprofits have a very busy events schedule. How have you used mobile apps to engage your community across multiple events?
Jenna Richardson: It allows us to do real-time messaging. It allows us to give people information, change things up and engage with them without having to rely on paper, copying and all those things that take a lot of extra time when you’re on site at the event.
EXPO: Your transition away from paper has been pretty measured, right?
Richardson: We are fairly new in the mobile space. We used it for two events and that particular mobile app was very basic. We just wanted to get our feet wet and gauge the response from our attendees who were pretty heavy paper-based. All the information you need at the event was paper-based, so we had to take baby steps.
EXPO: What’s your advice for event planners that are just getting started with mobile apps?
Richardson: Look at and understand all the features that the mobile app can offer and then figure out what are the core things you really want to do your first time out. I wouldn’t recommend trying to go completely full force at once because it’s a lot, especially if your events are not already in that technology space.
We’ve got some people who are like, “I might carry all this technology, but I really don’t want to engage with it to this level.” Start on a basic level just to get them using it and comfortable and then just add stuff step by step. I think that helps to keep the excitement and keeps people from feeling overwhelmed and scared to use it.
EXPO: What’s the latest add-on to your event app?
Richardson: We’re capturing evaluations on our sessions in real time without having to do all the manual backend labor of pulling information from hard-copy sheets, putting it into an excel spreadsheet and figuring out all the calculations. We’re really excited to be able to put that into our mobile app this year and have every single session have an electronic survey people can take as soon as they’re done. That’s a huge thing for us.
EXPO: What other event app changes are you planning to add or are you experimenting with now?
Richardson: Allowing our attendees to communicate with speakers through the mobile app and ask questions. The one that we’re building for this year allows for a check-in feature for every session. Our attendees can post, similar to Facebook, any questions that they have for the facilitator who can then answer. It also allows them to follow up with people after the session in a much more organized way
The other huge thing is the really fun stuff. We’re excited that people can post their pictures directly through this app. All of the photos will come into me on the back end so that I can utilize those for promoting [events] without having to ask people to send us their photos.