When was the last time you used the "Potato" button to cook a potato in your microwave? Or the "gum massage" cycle on your electric toothbrush? Do you use your car's entertainment system to look up nearby restaurants on road trips, or do you just pull out your smartphone, instead? What about all those fancy cycles on your washer and dryer? Do you even know what they do?
Technology is full of bells and whistles that users neglect, ignore or just plain forget about. Sometimes, that's because they don't really need them. Often, however, it's because they never knew they existed in the first place.
That's especially true with meeting and event apps, such as EventMobi, Cvent's CrowdCompass, DoubleDutch, All In The Loop, Bizzabo, event2mobile and Eventbase, among many others. While most meeting professionals use them for just one purpose — sharing schedules, agendas and basic event details — the truth is: They're loaded with valuable features that many meeting planners have yet to discover. Here are 10 of them, the benefits of which have the potential to transform your meeting if you're not already using them:
Check-in desks at many meetings and events are discombobulated and disorganized. Attendees arrive, only to find a staff person frantically rifling through a stack of papers to find their name on a written list and mark them "present" with a checkmark, a highlighter or a strikethrough. It's not the most efficient system, nor does it make the best impression. Some apps offer a clean and streamlined alternative: a check-in feature that lets you easily and quickly check attendees off as they arrive using your smartphone.
2. Live Feedback
The most effective events are the ones where attendees feel actively engaged and involved. Meeting apps can help meeting organizers engineer a more interactive experience with live Q&As and polling that establish a direct and real-time connection between speakers and their audience.
3. Push Notifications
Speaking of real-time engagement: Did you know many meeting apps let you communicate with meeting attendees via push notification? Maybe your keynote speaker is about to take the stage. Maybe there's a big giveaway taking place on the exhibit floor. Or maybe there's been a last-minute change of venue for evening cocktails. Whatever it is, you can send an alert directly to attendees via their mobile device.
Some apps enable messaging not only from you to attendees, but also from attendees to each other. Features like instant messaging, discussion boards and digital contact exchange make it easy for attendees to network by introducing themselves, sharing ideas and trading contact information. If you set up beacons, apps' networking features can even be location-based.
Of course, attendees aren't the only ones who are interested in networking. Exhibitors and sponsors also want to connect to your delegates. Many meeting apps offer tools to help them do so, including banner ads, splash pages, appointment setting and lead scanning, all of which give vendors means through which to engage your audience. Plus: They can generate extra revenue for your events, too.
At their best, meetings aren't just informative. They're also fun. Planners who want to make their meetings as entertaining as they are educational can use some meeting apps to "gamify" their events. Using the app as an interface, planners can create friendly contests, challenges and competitions that drive attendee behavior by dangling rewards in exchange for certain actions or activities. The outcome is good results for planners and, just as important, a good time for attendees.
7. Activity Streams
Social media can be a powerful way to showcase meetings and events, and to build virtual communities around them. Many meeting apps leverage "activity streams" to automatically aggregate social media posts and photos from your meeting in ways that allow attendees to view, like and comment on them from within the app. As a result, your event's social presence is not only activated, but also amplified.
Meeting venues can be difficult for attendees to navigate — especially cavernous hotels and convention centers. Your meeting app may be able to help, as many of them include interactive maps and wayfinding that give attendees turn-by-turn directions to their next session. It's a great way to help attendees feel less stressed and better served.
Another app feature that can reduce stress and amp up customer service is the chatbot, which uses artificial intelligence to enable automated conversations with meeting attendees who have questions about your meeting or event. Whether they want to know who's speaking in what room, what time lunch is at or how to get to their next breakout, they can ask the chatbot 24/7 — and get an answer instantly, without human intervention.
10. Metrics and Reporting
One of the most powerful things event apps can give you is feedback. Thanks to built-in reporting tools that provide valuable metrics both during and after your meeting, your app can help you determine how your meeting is performing so that you can make adjustments. Looking at page views, for instance, can help you determine which education sessions are most popular, while looking at survey responses can give you a sense of attendee engagement. If numbers aren't where you want them to be, you can make changes to next year's meeting — or if you're monitoring results in real time, even to this year's meeting as it's happening.