Taking the Mobile Event App Leap

By Samantha Tankersley • March 18, 2014

Samantha Tankersley
Samantha Tankersley


In keeping with these technologically-savvy times, one of our clients recently decided to test the effectiveness and adoption rate of a mobile event app at its largest annual conference.

To Generation X’ers like me, the mobile event app is a no brainer:


  • Handheld device in hand at all times – check
  • One less program or paper to carry around – check
  • Ability to share what I’m doing on social networks instantly – check


  • When choosing a vendor, think about how much of the app will need to be customized and how large of a budget you are willing to spend.
  • Organize your app similarly to how your event is organized..
  • Launch your app ahead of the conference to give attendees time to download and explore.

But, unlike other associations using mobile conference apps, this particular trade association had no consistent demographic at its conference. Trade show and educational session attendees included men, women, corporations, agricultural industries and all age groups 25-65.

Additionally, in spite of the annual increasing attendance for this conference each year (3,000 and counting), the hosting association’s membership numbers continued to waver around 300. Our association management company hoped to bridge the attendee-to-new-member gap by using the app to increase visibility of the annual conference and the association’s role as the host.

The Challenge: Develop and introduce a tool during this conference that would prove effective and worthwhile to attendees and generate membership for the association.

The Result: 12 percent adoption rate (about 360 downloads), 22,000 page impressions, a game plan for continued success and improvement next year, and a few tips for you association management companies out there who might be taking on the same challenges.

The mobile event app development process

  1. Find a vendor to host and create the app. The vendor we used was helpful and efficient, and though they have the capacity for a $50,000 event app development, they catered to our (significantly smaller) budget with ease. Some tips: Make sure your host can quickly and adequately respond to your needs, and that the database you will use to input information is easy to use.
    Reader note: Talk to Naylor for information on subsidizing the cost of your event app and generating non-dues revenue.
  2. Decide what is most important to your event. We wanted to make sure that the app was clear and concise with regard to this conference schedule. This event had 11 mini-educational conferences that were being held concurrently. We used the app to divide the mini-conferences by their central topic, and made sure each topic was further defined by day for maximum simplicity (e.g. education—organic production—Friday sessions). This app had the capacity for business card sharing, individual contact storage, meeting scheduling, social sharing and document uploading for each session. Since this was our first time using the app, we decided to make this a tool primarily for scheduling and logistics.
  3. Pick and promote your launch date. We decided to make the event app launch date a month before the conference. We met the launch deadline, and began recording downloads almost immediately; however, we could improve on promotion for next year. Stay tuned for more on marketing below.

Marketing your mobile event app:

  1. Start early and actively. As much as I hate to admit it, one side-bar advertisement to “stay tuned for our new mobile app launching soon” doesn’t inspire much anticipation. Use exciting and engaging promotion materials to prep for this new tool. Send “save the date” notices. Use this pre-conference time to tell how it will meet the needs of attendees and to get your board of directors and membership on board to download and share about it.
  2. Integrate your other strategies. Are you using hashtags for your event? An Instagram or Flickr account for photo sharing? Link them within the app for ease of access and to encourage increased activity.
  3. Look for opportunities to generate revenue and membership. Don’t forget the potential for generating sponsorship revenue through this app. Many event apps these days have splash pages or banner ads available to sell to sponsors. We also sold the push messaging feature—similar to mass texts—to add exposure to our advertisers.In addition, we used the app to make specific promotions for current members: Exhibiting members were recognized on the trade show floor by color coding, we sent out push messages promoting membership services, and we used a banner ad for self promotion.
  4. Open doors for feedback. In our post-event survey we asked if members downloaded the app and what they thought about it. We received several responses and ideas to think about before next year, like having onsite app helpers and using more features.


We are already in the planning stages for this same event in 2015, and intend to use this event app again. Though our adoption rate wasn’t phenomenal, the attendees that used it were extremely pleased.

So we’ll do this another year, increase advertising, market earlier and one more year into the age of technology, we as a company will remain relevant and (hopefully) see an increase in usage rates.

Samantha Tankersley has been with Association Services Group, LLC, located in LaGrange, Ga., for almost three years now, working in communications and marketing for several client associations. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelors in Agriculture Communications. ASG serves 11 client associations and is the only Georgia-based AMCI accredited firm in the state.