Soon, says David Weil, mobile apps for events will be the kind of ubiquitous technology that makes us look back and say, "Remember when we didn't have these? Wow."
Weil, vice president of event services for Chicago-based association management company SmithBucklin, has seen app use spread quickly among clients. "It just started bubbling up, big-time, about a year ago," he says. "I would say probably 20 percent of our clients are getting into it now, but there's also just more awareness across the board."
These are the event-specific apps attendees can access from their mobile devices, and which typically provide a wealth of event information: schedules, speaker lists, attendees lists and the like.
"Planners are coming at this from all different levels of expertise," says Jessica Levin, CMP, president and "chief connector" of Seven Degrees Communications, a social technology consulting firm based in Edison, N.J. "They're intensely interested in this."
In fact, mobile app development was the number-one hot topic at the Social Tech Clinic booth that Levin and business partner Midori Connolly oversaw at the Americas Meetings and Events Exposition, held this past June in Baltimore.
The interest has spread just as rapidly among meeting attendees who have used apps as it has among planners who want to provide them. "Attendees will soon be asking, 'Where's the mobile app?' " says Weil. "It's just really going to be standard operating procedure at some point in the next two to three years."
It was attendee demand that convinced the New York City-based Cardiovascular Research Foundation to create an app for its annual conference in 2010. "We'd been thinking about app development," says Johnnie White, CMP, executive director of meetings and educational services for the foundation. "But to be honest, what pushed us to actually go with it was that a couple of other conferences some of our attendees had gone to had apps, and those attendees kept telling us to do this."
Following is a look at the phenomenon and how planners can best integrate apps into their events.