"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
What a spectacularly incorrect statement.
Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (which has since been acquired by Compaq, then Hewlett-Packard), said this in 1977. Now, less than 40 years later, we not only have computers in our homes, we have them in our pockets, purses, and even our jewelry. Our cell phones and mobile devices influence our entire lives, including how we interact at live events like conferences and meetings. The entire experience is different. Your attendees expect it to be different because their devices have changed how they behave.
Don't ignore this.
Don't be like Ken Olsen and discount the massive impact and continuing future potential of personal devices, especially mobile. Get to know the nooks and crannies of technology, including how it has changed your members' behavior at live events. Then put that information into action to give your members the experience they crave.
Your attendees are no longer turning to event staff as their first resource if they have questions or need information. Now, your members are used to having a computer with them at all time. They have 24/7 access to information, so they expect resources for your event to be available in the same way: anytime, anywhere.
Your event updates, agenda, conference center map and dining choices all need to be online to fit with how attendees find answers to their questions and gather information. If you don't provide this type of mobile attendee experience, then you risk frustrating your members or being seen as behind the times.
Accessibility is Key
The mobile experience you create also needs to be flexible. For instance, you can't build an event app that only works on an iPhone. You'll frustrate your Android users or those who want to browse their agenda on a Windows tablet. Instead, create a mobile experience that event attendees can use on any device, regardless of its operating system.
Pro Tip: Creating a standout mobile attendee experience that anyone can use, on any device, could improve your ROI and boost attendee satisfaction. According to research from Guidebook, 91% of event organizers saw a positive ROI from using a mobile experience, like an event app, and 88% said the experience had a positive effect on the event's satisfaction ratings.
Computers aggregate information. First you could access everything you needed via the internet in general, now you only need one website, Google. Google has started providing answers to questions, flight prices, and topic summaries on its search results page. It no longer requires people to click into a website for information because everything is right there, on a single page.
Your association needs to aggregate its information in a similar way. Blend your website, private member community, and event attendee experience into a single location that members can access with a single login and password. Then make all of that mobile-friendly.
Some of the information that should be available in your one-stop-shop includes:
Increasingly, associations are including event emails in this list as well. Your members get loads of emails every day and a lot of event communication over the days, weeks, and months leading up to your conference. Attendees don't want to dig through all their messages to find important information about your event. They want easy access to all the event emails you've been sending in the same place they go to browse the agenda.
Computers have made just about everyone more efficient. We type something once, then copy and paste it anywhere else it's needed. We even create a single Facebook account and then use that account to log in to multiple unrelated websites. What that means is that members are used to performing an action one time and getting multiple uses from the results.
Don't buck this trend by requiring your members to repeat actions. It doesn't fit with their new online behavior.
For instance, your members already filled out a profile in your association management software or private member community. In their minds, they've given you their information, so they're done. They don't want to do it again. That means they also don't want to fill in a standalone event attendee profile when there's a perfectly good profile in your online community. Uploading their picture and adding information again is just unnecessary work.
To accommodate your members and make everything more efficient, build out an attendee experience that automatically pulls information from your existing systems. Your members' event profile should auto-populate with their profile information from your AMS software, as should other sections with member information. According to research from Global Event Specialists, by integrating your systems like this, you could see tech adoption rates increase by up to 35%.
Pro Tip: Another way to make performing tasks easier and faster is to give your attendees one-click options. Provide a single button that adds or removes sessions from each member's agenda, for example. Don't make them go through a whole process just to perform one simple action.
Almost everything that was once in a hard copy is now digital. That includes greeting cards, documents, photos, books, and all your association's content. Even paper tickets are on their way out, as illustrated by the airline industry. Juniper Research estimates that by 2019, a third of airline boarding passes will be issued on mobile.
Apply that same logic to your conference. Instead of giving your attendees a paper ticket to present at registration or check-in, give your attendees a barcode that they can access directly from their mobile device, just like an airline's mobile boarding pass. Your members will no longer have to tote paper around or shuffle through their physical documents to find their event ticket.
The trend away from paper even carries through to conference notes. If attendees can take notes on sessions directly from their tablet, smartphone, or computer and have everything aggregated into a single well-organized file, that's an extra bonus. For instance, your members could take some of their notes on a tablet and some on a computer, but your mobile attendee experience will combine them all into a single document, organized by session.
Personal computers, especially those that fit in the palm of our hands and are by our sides day and night, are having a huge effect on your members and their event behavior. Your event attendees now expect to be able to access everything they need to know about your event from one virtual location at any time. They also expect the entire experience to be fast, efficient, and convenient.
To meet your event attendees' expectations, you need to embrace mobile for your event. Provide attendees with all the tools they need to learn, network, and provide feedback on your conference from their mobile devices. It will be one of the crucial elements that makes your event a success.