A survey conducted by the IMEX Group and QuickMobile in 2014 showed that 60% of planners had used a mobile app for a show at least once in the last two years. This is fairly robust research and among the tech savvy delegates at Tech Fest in London we recorded only a slight increase with 64% of our attendees responding similarly. That’s an interesting figure that explains in part the boom in the number of mobile app providers.

It’s a top line figure and I want to look at why its only 60%. This figure doesn’t really tell planners or event tech companies enough but thankfully our detailed questionnaire will allow us to do this. From a very broad spread of planners forty one filled in the detailed section on mobile apps at Tech Fest in June 2014.

See value, not percentages

As event consultants we look at the use of technology with the end in sight. We only recommend, use and support the adoption of event technology when it actually adds value to the organiser and or the attendees or other stakeholders. Engaging in new technology can be an onerous task for an organisation and their stakeholders so we have to make sure the time, money and effort put into understanding and learning the technology has worth.

So in order to delve that bit deeper we asked a few more interesting questions:

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 15.42.15I wonder if you are surprised by exactly how low the “less work” score was? So only 2 out of the 41 planners who answered found that using an event app created some slack for them. Helping planners create time to be creative is one of the areas we like to focus on when supporting event companies to implement technology. So we were very disappointed that the app was either saving them no work (43%) or adding more work (51%).

To understand why the app wasn’t adding more value look we listed 9 specific uses plus an “other” for a standard event app. When you list the applications of the application, as it were, there is a lot of potential to help support the planner to free up some time as well as of course add more value to the attendees.Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 15.41.12

On a positive note it is good to see that over 85% were using the app to list programme and speakers details with over 60% using it to list exhibitors and list sponsors. However displaying information and messaging attendees (with 64% were doing this) is a pretty basic use of an app and perhaps explains why there isn’t more of an impact in the amount of time the app is saving.

This is clear evidence that at the moment many planners have a Mercedes Benz of an event app but are driving it like a golf cart.  A more strategic use of even the most average of mobile event app should allow the planner to manage their event much more efficiently. But this isn’t happening. Even with the app is being used to list valuable on site information it looks like most planners are adding a digital element rather than replacing the paper version (which is of course adding more work)

And here in lies the problem for tech providers and for planners: we are putting in a lot of work but not getting that much from the use of the app. And which planner out there wants to sign up for more work?

Value from the attendees is where value should be measured

Of course all of the above could be seen as superfluous though if our delegates, guests, exhibitors, visitors derive a huge amount of value from the app. So of course we asked about that.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 15.47.47With 40% saying it added a lot to the experience we are starting to move close to positive territory for the app. Not where we’d like to be (with almost 60% saying it added only a little) but at least we are getting there. The thorny issue is of course was there something that the planner could have done that would have added as much, or more, to the attendees experience that would have cost much less? And with your mind now on money…..

Cash in the bank?

The final interesting section of our questionnaire of tech savvy planners looked at how did the mobile event app do in terms of generating revenue. We didn’t ask if it generated profit (this would mean a return above the cost of the app plus the time dedicated to set up and run it) but simply if it generated any revenue. A whopping 63% responded that it generated no revenue at all. With only the one planner stating that a lot of revenue (and we can joyfully presume that meant actual profit) generated from its use.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 15.42.05

App challenges

Laid bare we can see the challenges that the #eventtech industry and #eventprofs together must solve. We have to look at technology and demand that it adds as much value as it can. We have to dedicate time to understanding the potential an event app has. We have to work with suppliers, who in turn must dedicate more time and resource to ensure we are using the app to its capabilities. We have to challenge it to do many things all at once. In most circumstances Event Technology (including our mobile event app) must be able to:

1. save planners time to allow them to be more creative

2. measurable improve the experience for our attendees, guests, exhibitors, sponsors and visitors

3. generate some revenue, or at least cover our costs

With an ever increasing list of suppliers for mobile event apps 2015 will be a big year for the mobile event app. A big one, an interesting one and as you can see from the above, a very, very challenging one.

If you are an app developer or planner with a view please post a comment.

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Published On: December 9th, 2014 / Categories: Innovation, Technology /