How To Balance Mobile Event Apps & Paper Programs

Posted by Matt Milloway on Apr 30, 2015

Attendees are increasingly expecting to use mobile apps at conferences, meetings, and trade shows, yet many event planners and organizers are understandably hesitant about completely forgoing the use of paper programs. Any change to the way an event operates needs to be handled with care and the transition from paper to mobile is no exception. Consider the following tips to better manage the change to ensure attendees are on board with going mobile.

Transition in Stages

Start by severely cutting down on the size of paper programs to not only experience an immediate reduction in costs, but give people still wanting a paper program more incentive to try out the mobile app without making it a requirement. For example: provide a simple directory of exhibitors in the paper program and point users to the mobile app with a QR code or branded url to access full exhibitor information like company biographies, addresses, and so forth. Also note the mobile app provides an interactive version of the static exhibitor map printed in the paper program. Attendees are thus given multiple incentives to try the mobile app for a better experience. Those who still aren’t on fully willing to commit to mobile might opt to manage without, but the seed has been planted and every attendee knows the mobile app is available.

Additional cuts might be made to the paper program the following yea—again with highlights of the mobile app experience scattered throughout what remains of the paper version. A transition handled in stages serves to subtly nudge attendees closer and closer to a mobile-only experience, as opposed to implementing a vastly different requirement from one year to the next.

Utilize One-Page Daily Event Highlights

Even the most digital-friendly of events might still benefit from a minimal use of paper. Acknowledge the rare attendee still without a smartphone or tablet and give everyone at the event a useful overview of the day’s happenings with a one-page printout available each day near the registration area. The one-pager might only highlight the big keynote speeches of the day—as well as other reminders and logistics, but still helps bridge the gap between traditional paper programs and mobile apps. Branding for the mobile app can be printed on the page as well or next to the stack of papers with a sign letting people know everything is available on the app. Take a paper count at the end of the day to see what kind of traction paper products still receive with a goal of moving away from paper entirely in upcoming years.

Ask Attendees About Program Preference

A simple way to cut down on printing costs and inform people about the mobile event app is to ask attendees at the time of registration whether they want the program via mobile or paper. Perhaps charge attendees for selecting the paper program and point out the mobile version is available for free. Not only do event planners and organizers know how many paper programs to print in advance, the question reaches everyone who registers and serves as a great promotional tool for going mobile.      

Promote the Environment

Regardless of the strategy used to roll out a mobile app and replace paper programs, the environment factor is worth promoting every step of the way. Simply put; giving attendees a digital-only version of the event program cuts down on paper demand and saves trees. With concerns over the environment becoming more and more relevant in recent years, establishing a position that recognizes an important environmental issue only serves to boost respect from conference attendees and those keeping track of the event around the world. Utilize the app to talk about reduced paper usage and promote going green. Encourage others to do the same.

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