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by Lawrence Coburn | August 01, 2013
Takeaways

• Event mobile apps can be valuable data sources as much as they are attendee conveniences.

• The more opportunities attendees have to engage through an app, the more data can be captured.

• Apps provide a way to measure engagement via social media.

• For other innovative ways to evaluate attendee engagment, see this month's cover story, "Tracking Your Trade Show."
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Marketers and event managers understand the value of live events for associations and brands everywhere. They strengthen connections through in-person meetings, facilitate new business partnerships and bring people together to discuss, explore and bond over topics that define their industries. The problem is that this value is hard to measure. Too often, organizers are forced to learn what they can from anecdotal evidence, a stack of business cards and a PDF of scanned leads three days after the event. Mobile apps, however, may well provide a solution to this conundrum.

Data in Your Pocket
A growing number of events are using dedicated mobile apps, which house the event schedule and allow organizers to update content in real time. The true magic of these apps, however, is the data they uncover from attendee engagement. They can identify what's interesting and what's not, all based on participants' in-app actions.

Every time an attendee taps on an agenda item or exhibitor listing, that's a signal of interest. If that attendee "checks in" to a session, that's a stronger signal. And if an attendee checks in, posts a photo, and rates a speaker or exhibitor, that is a more significant sign of interest  in a particular message or product. Social interactions around event content only increase our opportunities to capture these interest signals.

Sophisticated mobile event applications can collect data and deliver it to organizers and exhibitors in real time. Now event organizers can see exactly how many people showed interest in certain speakers and sessions, and which exhibitors generated very little buzz. They also can view a list of attendees who are most interested in an exhibitor's product -- even if some of those potential business leads never had a chance to actually visit the booth.

Capturing Taps
Here's how that might work. We can capture every tap the event attendees make -- including who tapped and what link they tapped on. We can analyze engagement across different brand touch points and find the 50 most engaged leads for any presenter or exhibitor.
We can see that, say, 1,000 people checked in to a speaker's session using the app's check-in function. Of those, maybe 50 also checked in at the booth run by that speaker's company. Maybe 20 others reviewed that speaker, and 10 bookmarked his or her bio in the app.

All of these actions indicate significant interest in that speaker's business, and we can map that to specific attendees to generate leads. We also can rank interaction with any one speaker against the other speakers, so the event organizers can decide whether or not to bring that person back to next year's event.

Putting it to Use
Information gathered through app use can help marketing and event managers understand their show spend and plan a better event for the future. According to a CMO Council study, chief marketing officers finally are demanding more data insights into their events. The unprecedented data waiting to be uncovered from event apps begs the question: What insights are you missing?

Lawrence Coburn is CEO and co-founder of DoubleDutch (doubledutch.me), which offers a mobile conference application designed to thrill attendees, surface leads and unlock insight into your event.