I recently attended a huge event run by Amazon at ExCeL for over 10,000 techies. It was a really useful and informative day, but one of the most interesting things for me was the event app. Amazon is a giant, a technologically advanced behemoth with huge teams of people at its disposal and the budget and means to create any type of event app they desire.
They also do a lot of research to ensure the systems they create are as user friendly as possible.
The interesting thing was that their event app was very straightforward, just showing the information that every delegate needed to know about the event.
There were no social media streams, no delegate polling and, aside from news updates, no interaction from the event organisers in the form of push messages, etc. It was actually very much like our EventReference app that is used by IMEX, so it was great for us to have our approach validated by one of the biggest tech leaders in the world - as well as IMEX, of course!
It seems that some event organisers are starting to realise that simplicity is key; that shoehorning endless unnecessary features into an event app isn’t a good thing and can even be a turn-off for the visitor who just wants to navigate the event. Take the example of social media - I’m personally not a fan of using it for B2B events. I’ve attended hundreds of events and I get so bored by the multitude of meaningless messages from exhibitors who shout: ‘Come to our stand’.
I’ve not seen anything tweeted by an exhibitor that has any sort of substance or meaning for me, so, when we developed our event app, we purposely omitted any social media feed. If a visitor really does want to follow the social media around a show, they will already have the feed on their phone, so why duplicate it?
But, despite the simplicity there was an issue with the Amazon event app. It needed an internet connection. Unfortunately, the venue Wi-Fi that day either wasn't switched on, or wasn't capable of coping with the number of geeks in attendance. Add to this a technical glitch with one of the big three mobile phone networks - and the result was that about one third of delegates (me included) couldn't use mobile data and so we had no idea what was coming up next or where we needed to be.
Because they had the app, the organisers hadn’t printed an event guide and there were only a few agenda boards around the venue - which were obviously swamped by delegates.
For the most part, information on an event app doesn't need constant updating, so a good app will download information when connected and then cache the pages, so that they are still available when the device is offline. I downloaded the app for the first time on the hotel Wi-Fi that morning. If I had been using our EventReference app, I wouldn’t have needed a connection from that point onwards.
If you are going to get rid of the paper guide and have an event app instead, please join up the dots and make sure that the app you choose can deal with the unexpected!