• Event mobile apps can be effective communication tools, not simply digital show programs.
• Meeting participants can create profiles with whatever contact and social media information is most applicable.
• Use alternate distribution methods or require a login to maintain privacy.
• Allow attendees and speakers to enter their own profile information.
Event apps are a great tool for sharing conference and meeting content with attendees. But why stop there? Mobile devices constitute the perfect technology for interpersonal communication in the digital age. Consider including attendee and speaker directories in your next event app that feature customizable email, social media and privacy settings, allowing participants to connect and network with others at the event.
Such communication is made possible via profile pages, where meeting participants can share an email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, Facebook page or any other means of contact with colleagues. Profile pages might also include head shots, biographies and links to relevant sessions, affording others a complete, accessible overview of everyone involved in the event.
Many event organizers and app users will rightfully be worried about privacy issues and sharing personal information on a downloadable mobile app. While sharing contact information with colleagues at the event is useful, a majority of apps are available for public consumption via the app stores and can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone or tablet. When privacy is a concern, app developers should provide a handful of alternatives to ensure only authorized users have access to personal information.
Two such options are Apple's enterprise and B2B distribution methods. The former is restricted to employees and best suited for internal meetings, while the latter allows organizations to authorize specific users. While both methods effectively protect attendee and speaker directories from public access, make sure to pick a developer that can clearly present the pros and cons of each option.
The app might alternatively be available to the general public but limit the directories to a private area that requires a login. The login functionality can either be a generic user name and password combination for all meeting participants or unique authentication for each user -- the latter of which allows event organizers to assign roles and customize access for each participant.
All of the preceding options give event organizers greater flexibility regarding the inclusion of personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses -- data that likely would be withheld from the app if it were available to the general public. (For more on data privacy, see our cover story.)
To lighten the workload of event organizers managing the database of personal information and authorized participants, set up a registration system that allows attendees to sign up in the app and create profile information themselves. Administrators need only approve access on a case-by-case basis with simple check boxes, and assign roles to attendees. If the event organizer has an attendee database or existing registration system, many app developers can set up a data or authentication connector to the existing data.
The days of simply providing a digital version of the event program are gone. Give attendees a tool to network with colleagues and maximize their event engagement.
Rob Cartagine is the co-founder and lead software developer of AppBurst (appburst.com), a mobile application development and Internet marketing company headquartered in Florida's Palm Beach County.