by Michael Shapiro | November 20, 2013

There's a trend among meetings-technology software providers toward providing more of an "end-to-end solution" with their latest versions and upgrades. I suppose that basic concept is nothing new, but given the potential difficulties planners face in integrating all of the technology components they need, along with the relative ease with which many cloud-based software and mobile-app providers can add some features, it makes sense. Mobile app developers in particular are eager to beef up their products and show just how much those little apps are capable of.
Pathable, which has identified itself as a provider of private social networks for events, is likewise eager to convey that the platform is much more than that. Enter its latest iteration, the "event experience platform." Building on the central concept of the "year-round event community," Pathable has improved its mobile capabilities and lead-retrieval tools to create what it deems a "digital conference experience in a box," in effect providing many of the mobile, networking and scheduling tools a planner might need, and offering straightforward integration to registration and ticketing platforms such as EventBrite, RegOnline, SignUp4, Cvent and others.
Pathable continues to tout its desktop component as a key differentiator from the kind of networking solutions provided by many mobile-app companies. In other words, the ability to begin networking and to schedule one-on-one appointments long before the event, from one's office, is a key to the mobile component running smoothly and effectively on-site. Scheduling one-on-one meetings is a standout feature of Pathable, whereby one attendee can see the availability times of another and request a meeting at a particular time and place. Schedules may be exported to Outlook or iCal, and are likewise easily viewed within Pathable's mobile web app. In fact, a new "request private meeting" wizard on the mobile app allows you to set up meetings on-site as well, and easily select mutually free time and a table or room at which to meet.
Which brings us to Pathable's improved mobile functionality, which has evolved over the past couple of years. Pathable made the switch to mobile web app from native iPhone and BlackBerry apps two years ago, and with this latest iteration, which went live last weekend, Pathable offers a completely redesigned mobile web app experience. The baseline features are still there, of course: the full conference agenda, the ability to personalize your agenda, exhibitor listings, an interactive trade show map, speaker profiles, attendee directory, discussion forums and availability in 27 languages.
Features that are new to Pathable's updated mobile app include the aforementioned private-meeting wizard, the ability to edit one's complete profile from the app, a personalized home screen with relevant bulletins and one's upcoming meetings and sessions, access to handouts and decks from the main menu, support for multiple maps, a new design and more.
Then there is the long promised offline functionality of the web app. That's almost here -- it should be released between November 31 and December 15, according to CEO Jordan Schwartz. At that point, the app will download all data to the attendee's device; 80 percent of the code for the app will run on the device itself, rather than the web, and that's likewise true if you're viewing Pathable on a laptop. While a few features will still require an Internet connection, such as requesting a new private meeting or downloading session materials, an impressive amount of features do not require you to be online. Adding sessions to one's personal schedule, for example, can be accomplished while offline; based on my preview, it appears it could be the most robust mobile web app I've seen to date, in terms of what you can accomplish while you're not connected to the Internet. But I've yet to see that in action.
Pathable also touts the increased flexibility of mobile web apps as opposed to native apps: they are compatible with any device that has a modern Internet browser, they don't require downloads from an app store and they don't require a waiting period from Apple for approval, for example. What's more, they can be accessed by attendees via one-click sign in through a browser, which theoretically could increase use of the app among the less experienced with mobile technology. Pathable also offers an SMS texting option, for schedule changes and updates, meaning attendees without smartphones can be reached as well.
Pathable is putting the final touches on more exhibitor upsell features as well, which should likewise be available between the end of this month and December 15. Essentially, these new features take the pressure off of your salespeople and put the power to purchase in the hands of the exhibitors. When said exhibitors visit their pages in Pathable, they are presented with the paid option of seeing who has visited that page; they can also pay to get top-line listing in any search results. Attendees will be more easily able to request information directly from the exhibitor pages as well. Upcoming features will include the ability to highlight one's booth in the map, as well as to directly message attendees. The cost to the exhibitor can be configured by conference, and revenue is split between the organizer and Pathable.
Pathable starts at $4,250 per single event; the final price is based on number of attendees, number of exhibiting and sponsoring companies and the total number of events for which you'll use it.
I'm eager to see the latest version of Pathable in action, particularly the mobile capabilities when the offline component kicks in. Please share your experiences here or send me an email if you use it, as either a planner or an attendee.