You need an Event App for your Events: Here’s How to Choose the Right One

Molly Falco

If you’re running an event in 2022 you have to have an event app. There’s no real alternative to this, other than a zillion annoyed attendees saying, “It’s 2022, how is there not an app for this?” And let’s face it, that’s not really much of an alternative.

91% of event organizers found that having an app resulted in positive event ROI. I suspect you don’t need much convincing on that point. So these days, we’re no longer asking if, but which.

As event apps have become ubiquitous, so have event app providers—widening the field and allowing you to select exactly what and how much you need in your mobile experience. And making it way, way harder to choose.

We broke down a few key factors in choosing which event app makes sense for your situation, whatever it may be.

White label or branded universal

Here’s the big issue: Back in 2017, Apple decided that it would no longer approve apps that were made from a template, i.e. white-label apps generated and uploaded by any of the major event app providers.

For most providers, the solution was to offer branded sub-apps within one universal app. That means that your attendees download the provider’s app, and then navigate to your app within it. This doesn’t interrupt the experience much, but does add an extra layer to the process. And it involves a step that doesn’t necessarily represent your company’s brand.

If you prefer to have a fully white-labelled app, some providers may be willing to hand-off the app files created within their system, allowing you to publish it in the App Store on your own. This is basically a loophole in Apple’s rules, but it comes with some key downsides.

First of all, this option usually has a big price tag. More importantly, the provider can’t control what happens after the files are handed off—they can’t navigate the publishing process, help with any bugs, or jump in if something goes wrong. This puts a lot of responsibility on you, and unless your team has pretty significant technical chops, it may not be worth the risk.

All in all, having your own branded app within a universal app is simpler and more cost-effective, as long as you’re willing to give up that tiny fraction of control. We think that’s worth it.

Event information or networking?

Before you come at us with pitchforks, yes, we realize that many of the best apps have both event info and networking built-in. Our own event app combines agendas and speaker information with 1:1 meeting scheduling. We get it.

But it’s worth choosing an event app that was designed primarily to do your preferred thing, to ensure that your greatest need is your app’s best feature.

This is particularly true when you’re using an app that’s associated with your event registration or marketing provider—for example, Cvent’s Crowd Compass or Swoogo’s Attendee Mobile. Because apps are secondary products for event reg and marketing tools, you’re probably going to have the best luck using an app that was designed to work hand-in-hand with your event management software. This ensures your analytics are combined and that you’re not stuck filling out all of your information twice.

If you’re looking at standalone apps, the products are often designed to do a lot more. Our friends at EventMobi, for instance, include your event guide along with gamification, polling, networking, analytics, etc. This level of robustness comes from being a tool dedicated to creating the best general mobile event experience, rather than linking to particular brand of software for optimal specific performance. It’s all about your priorities.

Polling, surveys and gamification

Some add-on features you may want to consider when choosing your event app are polling, surveys and gamification.

Polling and surveys allow you to capture lots of information about your attendees and how they think, what they want, and how you’re doing. But more importantly, they allow your attendees to interact and get involved with your event, keeping them engaged with your content and (hopefully) ensuring they’re getting the most out of your speakers and exhibits. Think of them as conversation starters. Again, our friends at EventMobi have a great solution for this, as do other products like Glisser and Slido.

Gamification, on the other hand, is less about conversation and more about activation. Gamification lets you set up goals and objectives for your attendees to meet throughout your event for a chance to “win,” whether that’s prizes or just bragging rights. Those objectives could be: checking in at a certain number of booths or sessions, scheduling a minimum number of meetings, finding your preferred partners, etc. These kinds of goals allow you to move your attendees around your show floor without you having to literally herd them. After all, they’re not cattle. Creating a game is a much better way of ensuring circulation.

The payoff of gamification mostly comes from sponsor or exhibitor satisfaction, which is an excellent selling point when you’re trying to attract more of them to your event next time. Exposure, exposure, exposure. Doesn’t somebody say that?

Like polling and surveys, gamification is more often found in standalone provider apps. But if you think they’d be great features for your event, it’s worth asking if your software provider’s app includes them. 

Attendee data

Data collection and analytics aren’t always the sexiest features to look for in your event app, but we’d argue they’re one of the most important.

One of the best things about event apps is the sheer wealth of information you can gather from them. Some apps are designed with data at the core, like Certain’s Touchpoint, which is built explicitly for attendee tracking. Apps that lean more to the “fun” side of attendee engagement often have fairly robust reporting as well, though the onus may be on you to sort and analyze that information.

The need to collect and report on attendee data can be a strong argument in favor of using a provider app instead of a third party. While both options may collect and report data from your event, it’s often simpler to have all attendee information in a centralized location. This makes it easier to sort the data into the reports you need, versus pulling some information from each location and doing your own sorting and analytics.

Some registration and marketing software providers may not have their own app, but instead a partnership with a third-party app. If the tools are integrated, this type of arrangement can be a great bridge between functionality and in-depth reporting. Before choosing this kind of setup, make sure to clarify which company will be supporting you through event set-up, whether both companies will have support available day of event, and how the tools are connected from a data-sharing perspective.

Wrap up

It no longer makes sense not to have an event app in 2022. Providing attendees with an intuitive, interactive digital experience that seamlessly integrates with your live event is a requirement. Here’s how to choose the right one:

  • Decide if you prefer a fully-white labelled app or a branded universal app.

  • Look for event apps that offer networking and gamification capabilities.

  • Decide if you need to track attendee engagement and analyze attendee data all in-app.

Finished? Ready, set, download.