The Intersection

Apps 101 with the AALU

The key word in mobile app is “mobile” — meaning designed for smartphones and other portable wireless devices, of course, but also self-contained and unencumbered.

That’s been the experience of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU), which three years ago introduced an app more or less as an adjunct to its conference program, and has evolved it into something that’s much more. “We turn it into a digital archive,” said Grant Lebens, AALU’s assistant vice president for meetings and events.

Convene spoke to Lebens in late-February, in the middle of AALU’s preparations for its 2014 Annual Meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C., next month — which will feature the fourth iteration of its mobile app, now available in Apple, Android, and web-based versions. “It will be a live app we use pre-meeting,” Lebens said. “We’ll probably launch in mid-March. We’ll have our full schedule of speakers up, we’ll have our workshops up there. Probably 21 days before the meeting, we’ll put up as-prepared slide decks for each workshop.”

AALU will also post speaker videos and other promotional materials in advance of the meeting. People will be able to sign up for sessions, create their own schedules, and communicate with other attendees — functionalities that will continue through the meeting itself. And afterward, Lebens said, “it’s a fully live, on-demand archive for a year after the meeting.”

That level of convenience is at the heart of the app experience. “It’s about making it as easy as possible for attendees to engage with each other, or your speakers, or your staff, or your sponsors,” said Matthew Donegan-Ryan, director of mobile strategy for CrowdCompass by Cvent, speaking as part of “Viva La Mobile App,” the latest video from The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV Presentation Services. “It’s so much easier to reach out using a mobile application. If I’m reading about a session or I’m enjoying a session, it’s easy for me to post a message to social media or follow up with an email to the presenter or connect with another attendee…. If you make life easy for your attendees, they’re going to use these things that you’re offering them.”

In the beginning, AALU simply was looking to reduce its paper trail. “We handed out so much paper in the meeting it was ridiculous,” Lebens said, “and we realized that’s not the way the world is going. We try to put as much material on the app as possible.” AALU still issues a tote bag with materials at registration, but it’s “a more iPad-basedbag.”

Over the next several years, “we’re looking at moving to a mobile app that is all-encompassing,” Lebens said. “We’ve got our feet wet for the past four years, we’ve learned a lot, and now we as an organization are expanding our knowledge side. We want to be able to develop and sell knowledge products [through the app] to people that are both members and nonmembers of AALU.”

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Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.