For the first time ever, MPI did not have a print catalog for its annual World Education Congress (WEC), which took place last week in Minneapolis. For the last four years MPI has worked with QuickMobile to develop the WEC app, but a lot was riding on this year’s iteration because everyone was basically forced to get with the (digital) program.
The event tech company offers about 40 different components that can be loaded into its apps, but most planners choose about 18 to 22 depending on the objectives of the event.
To begin, we signed into the app with our MPI membership name and password. The app turned out to be entirely straightforward with a list of functions starting from the top, beginning with the program schedule. The schedule detailed each and every session with time, room, content and speaker. Directly below that, the “My Schedule” component saves all of the sessions that an attendee wishes to attend.
That might seem pretty standard, but it’s the little things like load speed and intuitive navigation that make all the difference when you’re running late to a session and you need to quickly confirm a room number or make a last minute change to your schedule.
The difference for us this time was how seamless the user experience was architected across the platform from top to bottom. By the end of the three-day WEC program, after using the app on an hourly or more basis, there wasn’t one time when we wished there had been a print catalog to refer back to.
There is still the option to print out the schedule beforehand as a backup. We did that but never ended up using it.
Over the last couple of years, we haven’t had a lot of luck with event apps at major meeting industry conventions and trade shows, both domestically and internationally. At WEC this week, this was the first time we felt comfortable relying solely on an app for all of the content information. In the past, oftentimes apps weren’t loaded with info for every single session.
“One thing is MPI has a very strong commitment to sustainability, which obviously we share, and this was the first time they said we’re going to go paperless,” said Tahira Endean, CMP/BHM, manager of events at QuickMobile. “So we really needed to make the mobile app so that all of the information is there.”
QuickMobile made a smart move to hire an experienced meeting planner in-house. Endean says she brings a fresh perspective to the event tech scene because she knows how intimidating it is for many planners concerned about relying on tech to communicate with all of their attendees of all ages.
“I’ve been a meeting planner for 21 years so I’ve worked across the spectrum—PCO, incentive, DMC—but I’ve been looking at and using tech and talking about mobile for quite a long time,” says Endean. “I do our events but then I also have a lot of input into the apps, answering questions like: What do planners really need? Who are we, what are the realities and pressures for a planner, and how can we respond to that so we’re easy for people to use. I think that’s kind of important.”
We mentioned to Endean that sometimes session content is included on an app, and sometimes not like last week at WEC. We asked her what are the factors that impact that decision?
“For a lot of associations they’ll want to take that content and use it as part of their overall marketing strategy, so they will have the app directing people to content on the website, which of course becomes trackable, and it’s good for your SEO and ways to connect with people,” she explains. “And then we’re also finding some other organizations are using the app as that place for much more content. We’ve worked with Jive Software, for example. They did this amazing game, and they actually extended the life of their app so that everything started six weeks ahead of the event. A group of attendees drove from New York to Las Vegas to Jive World this year, and they took pictures and chronicled their whole journey together, so super cool, right? And then when it ended, they left it open for two weeks for people to vote on their favorite photo.”
To learn more, there’s a case study on QuickMobile.com about that, along with webinars and white papers.
We also mentioned to Endean that it seems like event tech vendors are becoming the leading source of information and insight about the event tech industry on their blogs, which is opposite of technology in some other industries.
“We really have amazing resources, I would have used QuickMobile resources as a meeting planner before I started at QuickMobile, so really the goal is to be that thought leader within the industry, and that’s for two reasons,” she says. “One to be a differentiator, naturally. But more importantly, it’s really to keep us current and listen to what people are doing, so we’re really involved in surveys and research and working with our clients to do case studies and to see what’s working and what needs to be changed. So it’s not like: Here, we have this thing and it’s perfect. It’s we have this thing and we’re constantly innovating.”
One week later we’re still going through the QuickMobile platform because many of the sessions were recorded, which were then uploaded this week into the app. We’re going to be spending a lot of time with MPI’s World Education Congress in the coming weeks to catch up on everything we missed.
Now all we need is MPI to further develop its website and integrate a robust blog, as is planned, so we can all share in the conversation.