Lessons in Event App Design and Promotion: Guidebook Goes to Georgia


Three of Guidebook’s finest ventured deep into the south this past weekend for ASAE’s (American Society of Association Executives) Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta. Jam-packed with a golf classic, a 5k race, keynote speakers, an award show, over 120 educational sessions, and a gigantic two-day trade show, the conference attracted nearly 3,000 attendees. Guests consisted mostly of C-level directors of both for-profit and non-profit associations.

event app design tips from Guidebook

Katherine DeLeon, Michael Chia and Alex Goldberg from Guidebook at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta.

From our point of view, ASAE’s expo was a success by all measures.  We met lots of planners genuinely excited about taking their events mobile, and had a handful of current clients stop by to express their enthusiasm for Guidebook.  However, what differed from previous events we’ve attended was how attendees used the event’s official app — or, rather, how attendees barely used it at all. Full disclosure: we didn’t have the privilege of creating the official app this year and thus don’t have user metrics to corroborate our observation. But anecdotally at least, the app’s lackluster adoption was evident throughout the two days of exhibiting. We didn’t see a single person using or talking about the app, and naturally we wanted to know why.

 Why weren’t attendees using the  app?

event app design tips from Guidebook

We first looked at the app itself for clues: was the event app design interface really that unappealing?  The picture above is a screenshot of the “Welcome” screen, which, at first glance, seems attractive enough.  But this home screen doesn’t make it obvious, for example, what to do with the app aside from “Manage [your] Schedule.”  With minimal screen real-estate on mobile devices, it is critical that an event app’s landing screen be as straightforward as possible and literally spell out its core functionality. In this case, users were forced to click-through a drop-down menu (pictured below) before discovering what the app might help them accomplish, and unfortunately, tapping a tiny gray arrow at the top of the screen isn’t very intuitive.


 Limited functionality, vague terminology

A more plausible reason for the ASAE Annual Meeting and Expo app’s unpopularity, then, may have been its limited functionality.  All the app had to offer was a schedule, Twitter feed, exhibitor list, and something vague called “Collaborate,” which turned out to be a portal to ASAE’s social network (something we, as non-members, couldn’t access). Ostensibly missing were speaker profiles, sponsor listings, surveys, shared photo albums, interactive maps, attendee-to-attendee messaging, and information on local restaurants and bars. All in all, the app was pretty sparse on features and left much to be desired from a user’s perspective.

limited functionality


The app wasn’t promoted!

The biggest underlying reason for the ASAE Annual Meeting app’s lacking adoption, however, probably wasn’t a lacking user experience, but rather lacking promotion. Anecdotally, it seemed like attendees didn’t know it existed as we didn’t hear a single mention of an official event app during our entire time there, and despite having exhibited directly adjacent to the company that developed it.


Promote your event app

While reminding attendees to download an app prior to an event is important, it’s only step one. Spreading awareness of your app with proper signage at the venue is also critical to maximize app adoption. We recommend putting signage at the registration kiosk, at the entrance to major buildings, and at well-trafficked intersections of the trade show floor.  Check out this video tutorial on how to maximize an event’s app downloads, or go here for a wide selection of assets you can use to publicize your app across channels.  If you’re interested in to talking to an expert to ensure full use of your event app, schedule a demo today!

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