The Do's and Don'ts of Using Conference Apps

Originally written by Jenn Egroff on behalf of the Cloud Factory Conference Organizers for the Bizzabo blog on April 15, 2014.

Jeff Lawson, Twilio CEO speaking at The Cloud Factory

Jeff Lawson, Twilio CEO speaking at The Cloud Factory

When Boast Capital and the Canadian Cloud Council set out to find a mobile app for The Cloud Factory conference, we were simply looking for an engagement tool. Something that would help our attendees make connections and follow the conference agenda. That’s it. But when we discovered Bizzabo, we soon realized it met all of our needs and more!

The Cloud Factory conference brought together 550 of the brightest executives, entrepreneurs and investors in cloud computing technology on April 7 & 8, 2014. The conference was hosted at the Banff Centre, a beautiful arts and leader innovation campus located on the side of a mountain in the rockies resort town of Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Out of the 550 conference attendees, 350 joined the community and 157 opted to check-in. According to our analytics page, we were impressed to discover that our attendees had exchanged over 1,350 messages to one another and had sent 257 LinkedIn connections. They used the app to keep track of leads (799, to be exact) and viewed others’ pages 2,665 times. We call that success!

Based on our experience, here are our mobile app ‘do’s and don’ts’ for conference organizers:

Conference Apps Do’s:

Beyond the obvious advice to fill in as much information into the app as you possibly can (sessions, speakers, sponsors, etc), here are some additional do’s:

  • Update your schedule as it changes (it somehow always does!) - this was very easy on our end and our attendees really appreciated it.
  • Take advantage of real-time announcements - this was very helpful for giving directions and reminding attendees to visit our Sponsor Lounge. We scripted everything in advance so we knew how many announcements we needed and how many we would have as backup to announce schedule changes. Preparing crafted messages worked well and didn’t require as much time/effort on the spot! (keep in mind, you can’t schedule messages in the system. You still have to copy and paste the messages and press send).
  • Publish signage with URLs, QR codes and be sure to tweet the mobile app download link - this may seem excessive, but everyone accesses this information differently and its better to over-communicate this info to encourage engagement.
  • Use interactive polls - we used this new feature to help us judge our Cloud Startup Showdown pitch competition. 175 audience members participated and counted for 50% of the final award (alongside our VCs input, of course)

Conference App Don’ts:

  • This is a bold statement, but there is no need for paper schedules - we decided to save paper (and time) and rely on our Bizzabo app. Our program changed daily (don’t you love it when speakers cancel last minute?) and we could easily communicate those updates on our mobile agenda and website. Some attendees still prefer paper and will ask for it, but its time to change past behaviours and move to the cloud. (They throw out the paper agenda after anyway!)
  • Forget to sync the website and mobile app - we fell into this trap. When there were last minute changes, we forgot to update both our mobile app and the website simultaneously. Not everyone will use the app (unfortunately), so make sure you still update your website too. 
  • Forget to announce your custom community code- we decided to keep our community private to attendees only and sometimes the attendees would register for the app with a different email address than they had registered for the conference with. Since this information wasn’t always consistent, its best to remind them about the special code so that they will always be able to access the app.
  • Assume people will download the app when they register for the conference - most people didn’t download or join our community until a day before the conference (we understand that they are very busy folks!). Make sure you have lots of on-site promotional material so that your attendees can easily download the app and join the community on the spot.

If you have any other do’s and don’ts that you’d like to add, please share them with us below.