Let’s start at the very beginning…

Let’s start at the very beginning…

… a very good place to start
When you read you begin with ABC
When you APP you begin with, ‘what’s in it for me?’

Now you’ve got THAT tune stuck in your head (oops sorry) and images of the youthfully exuberant Julie Andrews bursting over the crest of some Alp, breaking into The Hills Are Alive imprinted on your retinas (sorry again), don’t zone out! There is a point to this opening ramble.

We all know (and mostly believe) the mobile-enabled will inherit the earth, particularly those equipped with the almighty smartphone or tablet right? That, like it or not, app culture is upon us and life will never be the same again? We also all know the stats. They’re mind-boggling! By the way, where did we go wrong that more people on this planet allegedly have access to a mobile phone than running water or a toothbrush?

The Showmanator has previously commented on the published research about smartphone addiction (Have an ‘Appy Day, March 2012) underlining the impact on our lives of these extraordinary devices. But who needs stats and expensive published research to issue what is really a statement of the ‘bleeding obvious’? Smartphones ARE changing our lives. Just imagine what your life would be like now without yours? Try sending a txt using a feature phone! It’s REALLY hard to do!

All this fanfare is simply leading up to is the point that smart people should be factoring the smartphone/tablet effect into their plans. This is particularly true of event organisers for whom the potential gains are so high. The moment is coming — and it’s not far away — when an event without an app will be a couple of kiwi fruit short of a lunchbox … like Posh without Becs … like prawn cocktail without the prawns … Etc. Etc.

SmartShow and other purveyors of assorted ‘appery’ are skilled at painting enticing pictures of happy punters connecting, collecting, scanning, tweeting and generally having a fab, high return on investment, paperless time at events while their paymasters back at HQ revel in all those extra leads and improved bottom line. All perfectly feasible BUT … and there is a significant but … this halcyon picture will not just paint itself! App suppliers provide the tools and varying degrees of support in how to deploy them successfully. But this alone will not guarantee the good times roll. App culture needs to be embedded in every facet of organizational and event thinking if everyone involved is to get the downstream benefits that should be delivered every single time an event app is deployed.

This will take some genuine shifts in thinking and behavior. The above picture really is a possibility. The numbers of smart devices in play are increasing by the minute and the tipping point where they become ubiquitous, at least in the major economies, is galloping towards at the speed of a bolting race-horse. A few bold event producers are getting behind the paperless event and no longer printing programmes and floor plans — mobile web enables even people without smartphones to access them. But too many are still sitting on the fence and offering both options (paper and digital). Taking the leap of faith to paper-free means everyone wins because it will drive uptake of the app and give event participants an incentive to experiment with and benefit from all the powerful functionality on offer via their phones.

If used effectively, event apps offer significant cost reductions for producers, exhibitors and sponsors without compromising the value of their offer. Delegates and visitors get out from under the oppression of the guilt-infused increasingly weighty ‘goodie bag’ which not everyone wants and which, if The Showmanator is anything to go by, gets dumped as soon as is decently possible. Now that airlines are charging so much for excess baggage (or not allowing it at all), forcing wads of paper on people is not necessarily a startling way to go.

The environment is the other clear winner!

But really getting into the zone takes guts! A lot of stakeholders will resist; the vested interests in maintaining the status quo are strong. As we all know, convincing people that they still get as much if not more if they open their minds to change is not always easy or popular. This is particularly true if they’ve already had a bad experience with an event app and consigned the entire genus to outer darkness.

Making sure everyone clearly understands what’s in it for them requires education, patience and an app strategy that includes an app champion who gets the medium and is responsible for the deployment and accountable for its success. The strategy also needs to put the app at the centre of the planning for the event and make it an integral part of its choreography, rather than an under-resourced afterthought.

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