Making a Conference New with Mobile
How AIE is using Guidebook to bring its annual conference to a new level
For the past three years, a team of passionate educators have been expertly transforming the face of the former Texas School Improvement Conference into its current incarnation as the Advancing Improvement in Education (AIE) Conference. One of the group’s innovations has been taking its conference program mobile with Guidebook.
With the mobile guide, attendees can see sessions, create personalized schedules, interact with venue maps, and receive push notifications directly from organizers. Attendees can even find presentation materials linked right within the app itself.
Making the leap to mobile
What started out as an extra offering for AIE’s attendees ended up completely replacing the paper program altogether. AIE first offered a mobile guide to its attendees in 2012 alongside its paper guide. Attendees were accustomed to the paper guide, so most continued its use when given the choice. But due to a printing mishap the following year, the AIE team was left offering only the mobile guide – with no real guess as to how their attendees would respond.
A member of the AIE team stated, “We took a leap and it scared us, but we found minimal resistance.”
With the implicit approval of their attendees, the AIE crew decided to take their mobile app to the next level in 2014. They adopted Guidebook as their new mobile event app provider for an upgrade in features and to gain even greater control over the content. The AIE technology team knew that being able to make changes as an administrator was key.
“The DIY aspect was important. With our schedule, there are so many last minute changes that if we asked someone else to develop this for us, they would just laugh.”
Thanks to AIE’s progressive initiatives, their attendee app approval has rocketed from the 70% range to a hearty 91% of their attendees approving of the app this year. This has exceeded the entire team’s expectations, especially considering they weren’t sure how willing their attendees were to adopt mobile technology in the first place.
As the conference grows, they’re able to reduce printing dramatically with each successive year. The team now questions if it’s even worth continuing to develop printed supplemental materials. Considering they used to spend over $20,000 on printing alone, going mobile has been a huge budgetary win.
Complete control adds event value
The ROI is more than monetary, now the team is saving time too.
“One of the things we noticed immediately from having the app is that we can make changes to the programming very quickly and easily. If we had a no-show, a last-minute change to a session title, or a change of presenter, it was very frustrating to print a little addendum. It’s super cool to make the changes live.”
From a technology standpoint, making changes onsite is helping make AIE a better conference.
“The most successful change we made was when a presenter didn’t show up to their session. Based on a session that was previously full, we decided to repeat it in the cancelled session’s place. We made the changes in the app, and the repeat session also had great attendance.”
Guidebook has made responding to immediate feedback at the conference very simple. The staff noticed that one of the room names seemed to be confusing attendees, and they were fielding countless questions about the location. The team quickly relabeled the room in the app, and the situation solved itself.
“Within seconds, the questions stopped.”
Attendees embrace the tech
This year, AIE had 2,500 attendees. App downloads came in at 2,609, with over 3,000 unique web views of their guide, making for a 100% adoption rate. Not printing a physical guide can certainly lead to exceptional download rates, but adoption was bolstered by excellent promotion on AIE’s part, as well.
The pre-event communication plan involved an email campaign that drove significant downloads before the conference. In addition, an informative video detailed how to acquire the guide and some of its benefits. The video was easily accessible via social media and AIE’s website, and left little to the imagination about how to go mobile. At registration, staff members were standing by to assist attendees with loading the mobile guide onto a number of devices.
Satisfaction all around
Attendees themselves had positive reviews of AIE’s mobile guide. 93% said they referred to it “often” or “very often.” One attendee even remarked in the feedback survey, “I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I attended, and I LOVED the Guidebook app.”
AIE discovered through their survey that attendees appreciated the guide’s personal organization feature most. The highest rated feature in the guide was the “My Schedule” module, which allows attendees to create individual schedules from a list of sessions.
The team is more than happy with AIE’s choice to go with Guidebook.
“We had a lot of really great compliments this year about how user-friendly it was and how it was easy to navigate.”
With Guidebook, AIE is able to communicate better with its attendees, place materials at their fingertips, and engage them before the conference ever begins. The enthusiastic, progressive AIE team is truly making a difference in Texas schools by helping teachers and school leaders access transformative resources with a savvy, empowered, and forward-thinking conference.
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