Jenn Heinold, CEM, is show director for Access Intelligence, whose 31-year-old SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition annually brings approximately 12,000 satellite-communications professionals from dozens of countries to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
One of Heinold’s rules of thumb is: “Attendees will tell you what they want, if you look at the data.” In 2010, the data was telling Heinold that SATELLITE attendees wanted to access digital content while they were at the conference. During the dates of the meeting, “about 8 percent of [total website] traffic was coming from mobile devices,” Heinold said, “which meant that attendees were trying to access our website from the event floor.”
So the following year, Heinold created a mobile app for the conference, working with the Toronto-based company EventMobi. The basic app had a single sponsor and included floor plans, a schedule, and a searchable database, along with a video tour. It was used by 10 percent of attendees, which Heinold said was fine for the first year. Because the app supplied precise information about the attendees who used it to access information about the sponsor, the sponsor also was happy.
But for this year’s conference, Heinold and her team wanted to see how an app could be used to engage larger numbers of attendees. One feature offered by EventMobi – polling – seemed tailor-made. SATELLITE already was using an audienceresponse system (ARS) in a few handpicked sessions where attendees particularly valued immediate feedback from their peers, such as financial forecasting. Heinold moved the polling function from an AV-based system to the app, and the strategy worked – the number of people who downloaded the app quadrupled. Attendees liked the fact that the polling system allowed them to answer survey questions in advance at their own pace. And an unexpected bonus, Heinold said, was that the polling process ran more smoothly in the sessions.
The app also expanded SATELLITE’s sponsorship opportunities. Instead of offering an exclusive sponsorship for the app, Heinold created new packages that included sponsoring Wi-Fi in the session room where the polling was taking place, as well as sponsoring the app feature itself. Ensuring that Wi-Fi was robust, Heinold said, was key to making sure that the Internet-based app would function well.
The package benefited everyone. Attendees “definitely appreciated the Wi-Fi – and that made the sponsor happy,” Heinold said. Equipment costs went down, because SATELLITE didn’t have a “per-clicker” rental fee for an ARS. And not only did sponsors cover the full cost of the enhanced Wi-Fi, SATELLITE 2012 made a small profit.
For SATELLITE 2013, one sponsor has signed on to be the official Wi-Fi provider for the whole show. The mobile app sponsorship has also sold out.
And Heinold has more plans for keeping the app-user trend line moving up. For 2013, she said, “we’re thinking of equipping volunteers with iPads to act as ‘app ambassadors’” – to show attendees how they can fully use its features.
A mobile event app not only can enhance the attendee experience, “it will also open a world of revenue opportunities to you,” EventMobi President and CEO Bob Vaez writes in a blog post about sponsorships: “Post-event, you should receive a full analytics report from your mobile event app vendor telling you which exhibitor pages received the most views, how many page views each company received, the number of unique visitors for each of them, and other valuable information that may even be attendee-specific, depending on the design of the app. Analytics help you prepare for your next event, and help your sponsors devise new marketing strategies.” Read Vaez’s full post at convn.org/eventmobi-tips.
EventMobi has created an e-book about how mobile apps can create sponsorship revenue, available for download at convn.org/app-ebook.