Using a mobile app for events? How to promote it right!

As a speaker, I’m always thrilled to see that a conference or meeting is using a mobile app to connect with attendees and offer helpful event information. It can eliminate the need for promotional conference totes, folders and, most importantly, reams of paper. Score one for the planet!

Just one little problem… getting attendees to use it.

Using a mobile app for corporate meetings, events or tradeshows? How to promote it right!

During the Q&A segment after one of my presentations on social media, I had a gentleman ask the question, “Exactly who are you and how are you qualified to talk about social media?” Awkward speaker moment! I informed him and the rest of the audience that session handouts, speaker bios and the entire education and show agenda were available in the show’s mobile app and that I thought this information had been relayed to show visitors and attendees. Apparently not. After that incident, I talked with the show’s education manager, and we now make an announcement about the app prior to the beginning of each session.

At several other sessions, I had multiple comments about the lack of handouts, even when I informed them of how to access it anytime they wanted. One glitch in the system was the wi-fi situation. In some convention centres, Internet bandwidth is limited or expensive. Regardless of the quality of the mobile app, if one cannot access it, it’s pointless.

So am I suggesting that you avoid using a mobile app for events? Absolutely not! This is one of the greatest innovations in the conference and event industry. The keys to success are education and accommodation.

Here are tips to help promote your mobile app:

  • Inform attendees about the app early and often– With all confirmation materials and messages, make sure information on the mobile app availability is big and bold. Emphasize that it is available for downloading to a mobile device prior to the event so that onsite downloading issues can be avoided. If applicable, tell them clearly that no session handouts will be provided onsite and encourage them to download and print in advance. Make sure a huge button on every page of your event website links them directly to the app.Here’s a new promotional product category to help promote your event’s mobile app: removable adhesive decals and “skins” for mobile devices with your logo and a whole lot more. Send them along with any mailed pre-conference materials and have them readily available at onsite registration, too.
  • Provide a mini session handout onsite – Do not regress and slip back into printing reams of handouts that will probably be discarded as attendees exit the building. But do consider an abbreviated handout that includes the web address of the mobile app and/or complete session handouts for downloading afterwards. Attendees will likely make notes on it, retain it and check it out when they get home.
  • Be patient – We are still in a transition phase with using this technology. Many attendees are still of the generation that became accustomed to receiving handouts during their school years and early careers. It may take a few years for people to get on board.

About the Author

Heidi Thorne is a promotional products marketing expert and speaker who has a background in the tradeshow and hospitality industries. She is also editor of the Promo With Purpose Today blog ( and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business, available through major online booksellers or at

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