How to Choose an Event App in 2016

(Editor’s Note: For a comprehensive guide to choosing an event app, check out The Event App Buyer’s Guide. This free eBook will walk you through the process of evaluating an event app – plus provide you with the Event App Scorecard to give you an objective way to rank your options with a numerical score.)

Shopping around for a new event app company–or thinking of switching? I hear a lot of similar-sounding concerns, questions and needs from teams like yours that are looking to choose an event app.

In this guide I’ll walk you through some of the topics you might want to cover–and maybe some you hadn’t thought of yet.

Why are you shopping around?

New to event apps? Most of the planners I’ve spoken to are moving to mobile for one of the following basic reasons: to save money, because attendees are asking for it, or because they see their industry moving in that direction and don’t want to be left behind. (Often a combination of the three!) If you’re just getting started, this article will help you decide what’s important to you in an event app.

Looking to switch? If your current event app company isn’t fulfilling your needs, read the sections below to find questions and considerations to help you compare event apps and choose your next partnership.

Want to learn more about why planners are choosing event apps? Check out the event tech report.

1. What type of support and education does the company provide?

You need to know you’re not alone.

Good support:

Solid support means a quick reply time, an open-door policy regardless of how much you’re paying, and a productive solution loop. Have you ever had fantastic support? It can smooth over the sometimes-inevitable bumps and leave you with a smile on your face. Great support is super important–both for your sanity and to your end result.

I’ve heard many stories about partnerships that put too much stress on the event planner due to long response times from customer service.ideal support choose an event app

Ideal support:

Look for education that goes beyond troubleshooting when you choose an event app. App use is evolving, and to get the most out of yours you will need to change the way you think about marketing, how your attendees interact, what you can learn from the data, and much more. You’ll benefit greatly from choosing an event app that gives you helpful information from the very beginning.

  • Help with app promotion for your industry
  • Tools to help your organization/team adopt mobile tech
  • Guidelines for selling app sponsorships

What features do they have, and how are they packaged?

Your app feature package should be tailored to you.

Good feature set:

Most event app companies share a basic set of core features: the ability to build and publish apps with schedules, maps and event details. Beyond this, you’re looking for features that you’ll actually use. Look for a company that has aligned your needs with your budget–meaning that rather than choosing an arbitrary payment tier, your event app cost fits in right around what you were expecting to spend and gives you all the right features.

Ideal feature set:

Look for the features that really matter to you. During the sales process, all of the event app features might sound snazzy. Let’s talk about how you can identify which ones are right for your situation.

What your venue can handle:

Find out which features work with and without a wifi connection. (Note: The question of an event app provider offering a ‘native app’ versus web-based HTML5 is no longer a concern with the major event app companies, as most apps are capable of being used without an internet connection.)

But some of the features in these apps cannot work without connectivity, and this is a discussion you should have in the sales process. Can your venue support the robust connection needed to support live polling? Shared photos, social media, live RSS feeds and other features may also require a solid (and sometimes expensive) wifi connection. Can the app company advise as to what type of connectivity is needed for all features?

What your attendees are asking for:

We’ve learned that people go to events to network and connect, and features that support and foster networking are in high demand. But what does “networking” really mean to your audience, and how does that translate into an event app feature?

Realistically, will your attendees prefer to engage by exchanging contact information? By commenting on a shared photoset? By messaging within the app–which carries the risk of messages being lost or forgotten after the event (since they are stored in the app, not on a device)?

Finally, the user experience in an event app matters–a lot. A poorly designed app, or one that doesn’t work properly, will frustrate attendees and turn them against you. They may even take out their frustration in a public forum.

how to choose an event app - choose a good one

A bad event app can be a disaster scenario.

What your team needs to be successful:

Think about both sides of the coin. When you choose an event app provider, you’re really shopping for two products. You have your app, which is accessed by users on smartphones, tablets and the web. You also have the content management system or “build tool”: the portal where your team logs in to build apps and make changes.

The user experience in the content management system is important too: a well-designed CMS means your team feels more comfortable making changes and your app is more likely to be up-to-date. A difficult user experience on the backend, by contrast, may lead to your team not using the event app tool to its full potential. If it’s hard to change the meeting room for a session, it might not get changed.

how to choose a good event app

A good app can greatly enhance a conference.

Who are an event app company’s customers?

Great case studies will inform and instruct.

Good customers:

Household names and lots of them! You can learn a lot about a company by reading their case studies and testimonials.

Ideal customers:

Look for organizations that look like yours! Event apps aren’t always one-size-fits-all. There are a few things to look for when evaluating the customers of a given event app company:

Vertical and size. If you’re an association with an annual conference of 2500 people, does the company have customers who look like you?

Needs. If you really need session attendance and capping because you can’t predict interest in your sessions and you need to be strategic with your venue, look for a case study–not just a feature list–that shows a real company using the app in that way.

Team. You may be a lone wolf running the app all on your own, or you may need multiple authors with secure logins. Look for stories of real-life people who managed the app in the way your team would handle it.

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