API Development

Five Features for a Great Mobile Events App

In October 2012, we at Appcelerator held our annual CODESTRONG mobile developers’ conference.  This year’s CODESTRONG packed in over 600 mobile pros with an additional 5,000+ watching via uStream for three days of developer workshops, a charity hackathon and, of course, the occasional goofing off.

Being a mobile company, we created a CODESTRONG event app to help attendees better navigate the ins and outs of the conference. But even if you aren’t organizing a mobile conference like we did, it’s still pertinent to give attendees a handy way to know what will be going on at your event. And since “conference brochures” never survive much longer than a few hours, a mobile app is your best bet at letting your audience know what you have in store.
Creating a mobile app may sound like an intimidating endeavor to some event organizers, but there actually are only a few simple features you need to give attendees a great, useful mobile experience.
1.  Real-time schedules

Chances are, scheduling at your event won’t be finalized until the very last minute.  So, rather than have all your print-out pamphlets be rendered useless by the slightest delay in start times, you can have your conference sessions updated in real-time on your event app.  If something ends up getting pushed back or rescheduled, your attendees can know right away via push notification – much easier than a bullhorn!

And to take things a convenient step further, your app should include a “My Schedule” feature where attendees can input what specific sessions they want to attend.  Large, multi-faceted events like SXSW and the Coachella Music Festival and have incorporated personal scheduling into their mobile apps to help attendees stay organized and not get overwhelmed.
2.  Social Media Integration
If people aren’t talking about your event on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, it’ll almost be like it never happened.  So, make sure that it’s really easy for your attendees to talk about what’s going on at your event.
For starters, designate a Twitter hashtag for your event (ours was #CODESTRONG) and be sure to have it everywhere – on your posters, door signs, PowerPoint slides, etc. – so your attendees will know to use it.  Not only that, but take things a step further by allowing one-touch posting from within your event app.  That way, your attendees will be encouraged to talk about it more, which will probably make their followers wish they were there too!
And you can get creative too.  Hold a raffle at your event that attendees can only enter by posting about it under your given hashtag (more tweets = more event entries!) or answering an open question on your Facebook page.  Again, it’s all about encouraging attendees to talk about your event – so, make it worth their while!
3.  Live Video-Streaming
Not everyone will be able to attend every single session at your event – but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to!  By incorporating live video-streaming into your app, you can make that possibility for them, so they can watch session feeds even if they are running late or had to step out for a minute.
On top of that, live-streaming video will allow your event to reach a much larger audience than what the conference walls can hold.  For CODESTRONG, we had over 5,000 people tune in to our uStream feed from all over the world, which was great for not only getting our brand name out there but also keeping our global user base in the loop with the latest news that we were unveiling at the event.
Live video-streaming will put more eyes on your event – and that’s something you don’t want to pass up.
4.  Maps and Geolocation
Chances are your event will be held somewhere that your attendees are not completely familiar with.  Not too many people can successfully navigate a cavernous conference hall on their first try.
So, to help make things easier for your attendees, include convenient maps of your venue in your event app.  If your venue is big enough, or if your event spans multiple venues across a city or neighborhood, don’t hesitate to add GPS to better help people find where they want to go.  The easier it is for attendees to navigate, the happier they will be – and happy attendees make more successful events!
5.  User Feedback
Don’t live in a bubble.  Your attendees’ feedback is invaluable to crafting the best experience possible for them, and possibly putting on an even better event next time around.  So, make sure your app lets users easily communicate with you – and try to ask a couple quick real-time questions to them from the app.  It’s always polite to check up!