(And what can I do about it?)
The use of apps within live events often assumes delegates will use their own devices - sometimes referred to as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). One result of this BYOD approach means lower uptake rates than organisers hope.
Firstly, if you have recently held an event and experienced low uptake rates for an app, you are not alone. I have met a great number of event organisers who have experienced it. Outside of technical issues, this is the most common problem. Secondly, while you will be feeling responsible for a low uptake rate, the responsibility actually lies, in my view, with the app provider. However, as it’s your job on the line, here are five reasons why uptake can be low and some suggestions for how to work improve it.
What’s In It For The Delegate?
The biggest way to improve uptake for an event app is to ensure the app does something for the delegate which could not be done in another way. Simply migrating content which you used to put on paper does not count! You have to make the app a genuinely beneficial part of the delegate experience. I believe that one way to achieve this is by allowing the delegate to participate in a dialogue with speakers and fellow delegates in the conference - to share meaningful ideas with peers and leaders through the app.
The biggest turn off for a delegate using an app are difficulties connecting to venue WiFi. This includes requiring a username and password more than once (even if it’s printed all over the walls), or having to use one particular WiFi instead of another. But there are other issues: requiring any changes to phone settings, or requiring the user to overcome any security hurdles before accessing the app.
There’s nothing worse for an event organiser than being stuck in the middle between an app provider asking for one thing and the venue WiFi provider offering another. Crystal will always take responsibility for delivering the WiFi ourselves.
The Provided Device Alternative
At a recent event, a client used a BYOD solution for the 2016 event having used Crystal provided iPads in 2014.
In 2016, the average delegate participated in one vote and visited the app once on each day of the conference.
In 2014, the same delegate voted 12 times, shared 9 free text ideas in group brainstorming, liked 20 ideas, took 10 notes, sent 5 delegate-to-delegate messages and was on the app every hour. Same audience.
Same event. This level of uptake is not always desired - but if it is, providing devices is often the only way to achieving universal engagement.
Is The App Central Or Peripheral?
Some events could run perfectly well without any app - they are logistically simple (accommodation and event take place in one place), they are low on interaction (mostly presentations) and the audience know each other (so networking via the app has limited value). In these instances, other than digitising the agenda and delegate list there is little value for the delegate in using an app… and the usage statistics will reflect this.
Ease Of Use Is Essential
The most essential element to app uptake is ease of use. Your app provider should lead on ensuring this - both in terms of managing the delivery of the right WiFi solution, providing devices if required and in planning the delegate journey with you.
The second essential element is to ensure that, before commissioning an app, you have identified a meaningful role for the app from the delegates’ perspective. If these criteria have been met you can expect high uptake.