You know it, I know it, we all know it: if your organization is not embracing mobile technology at every turn, you’re missing out. Attendees are beginning to expect mobile and social elements at events, from conference apps to branded hashtags and more. There is so much you could be doing, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here are some quick tips to bring you to the mobile-age for your next event.
Have you ever tried to access a website from your mobile device, and found that it had extremely small font, didn’t all fit on your phone screen, or even didn’t load correctly? That’s probably because it was not built with responsive web design. According to research firm Neilsen Norman Group, Responsive Web Design is defined as: “a web development approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it. RWD is one approach to the problem of designing for the multitude of devices available to customers, ranging from tiny phones to huge desktop monitors.” When a site is built with responsive design, it’s much easier to read and navigate from any device, from smartphones to tablets to PCs. So unless your website is responsive, your users might be getting very frustrated when trying to access your site from mobile devices – which is understandable.
If your current website is not responsive, you are not only providing your attendees with a poor, frustrating user experience but also hurting your searchability on Google. Starting in 2015, Google started prioritizing those websites that were mobile friendly – even when searched on desktop – and lowering the result ranking of non-mobile sites. This means that if your site is not responsive, you might not appear in search results on Google.
If you’re thinking that your attendees aren’t accessing your website from mobile devices, think again. Statistics show that nearly 57% of online traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets. Attendees are accessing agendas, speaker bios, directions and more while on the go, and if they can’t find that information easily, they will get frustrated.
Of course, we know that social media is a must in every aspect of event planning, from the lead-up to marketing to during event to recaps and beyond. It all helps to keep an engaged audience and member base, and encourages networking and loyalty. We could devote a whole blog series to utilizing social media for your next event, but instead here are a few tips to keep in mind throughout the process.
- Use it as a first point of contact. Before attendees can even register, start building excitement through bits and pieces of information. Reveal the entertainment, announce registration opening dates, post pictures of behind-the-scenes planning – every part of the planning process can probably become a social media post.
- Create an event page on Facebook through your organization’s Facebook page. Share and promote the event on your organization’s page and encourage active members to do so on theirs. Post exclusive updates in the event page, including pictures and logistical information. Use it as a hub for questions and feedback.
- Develop a custom hashtag that can grow with you. For example, if your organization’s name is the Minnesota Red Squirrel Association, don’t use #MinnesotaRedSquirrelAssociation. Instead, come up with something easy to remember and updateable, perhaps like #MNRSA18. It’s memorable, meaningful to your group, and can update each year for new conversations.
- Put that hashtag to good use! Encourage attendees to interact during your event on Twitter by using the hashtag. You can follow along with conversations and chime in too by following that hashtag. Rewards users for using the hashtag by announcing at the beginning of your event that one person who uses it will be randomly selected to win a prize at the end. Hashtags also work well on Instagram but are trickier on Facebook due to privacy settings.
Are you hAPPening?
Look at your phone. What apps do you have downloaded? Maybe Facebook, Weather Channel, a mobile banking app, a fitness tracking app, Twitter, Instagram, Uber… we live in apps, don’t we? It’s the language of mobile. So if you’re trying to ensure that your next event is as mobile-friendly as possible, wouldn’t it make sense to have a presence in this space?
As with anything, the most important thing to consider when determining if you should invest in a conference app is your attendees/target audience. Are they using apps frequently? Will they download an app just for your conference? If the answer is anything “probably” or greater, an app could be a great fit for you.
The other thing to consider is how you will incentivize people to download the app. Is there some information that you can house only on the app that they cannot access elsewhere? Will you offer a prize to someone at random who downloads the app? Can they score deals on next year’s registration if they use the app? It’s often valuable to have a strong “why” when trying to encourage download.
And the big question is: budget. Apps are not inexpensive. They are costly – both from a monetary and a time-management standpoint. How can you partner with another organization or a sponsor to make it more affordable? Is there an organization you can perhaps “lease” the use of an app from?
At The St. Cloud Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, we have the Visit Greater St. Cloud app (available for download here) that houses events, things to do, restaurant ideas, deals and more. We also offer the use of our app to clients that qualify – for free. You can include transportation information, hotel block information, agendas, social media info, and more all in your own custom section of the app, and it’s only accessible to your attendees. Plus, we do all of the app management, from design to upload to the technical side – which saves you time and money in the long run. Ask the CVB or destination you are working with if they offer something similar, because it could make the possibility of an app more realistic for you.
Call me, maybe?
Mobile is no longer a fancy ideal that “we’ll get to if we have time.” It’s a necessity, and if your conference is not considering the mobile implications of everything you’re doing, you’re missing out on a large opportunity to engage your attendees and make sure their experience is unforgettable. If you have any questions about mobile websites, social media, conference apps or anything else, feel free to reach out to the team at Visit Greater St. Cloud. We will be waiting by our phones for your call! (or text) (or email) (or social media mention) (you get the picture).