Three Can't Miss Digital Opportunities for Every Event

I was chatting with one of our new clients the other day. His company assists their clients with hosting very high-end, exclusive fundraising events. And to support them, we are building an event registration and guest portal application that they'll be able to use for all their client events throughout the year. I asked him how he had positioned the new application build to his internal team. He told his team “the online process that guests will be using to register for these high-caliber events will finally match the quality of the events themselves.” I couldn't have said it better.

It's exciting to partner with this company to deliver a digital product to match their top-notch reputation, but his statement got me thinking about about how important this topic is in today's competitive world. We live in an age where your proverbial book will absolutely be judged by its cover. Your site has less than 1 second to form a positive impression on your prospective customers and unfortunately, 88% of people will not return to a site if they have a bad experience. It's not fair, but it is reality. In the digital world, this means, that if your prospective customers visit your non-responsive site, download your buggy mobile application or can't maneuver your event's web application, it's unlikely that they are going to give you another shot, much less their hard-earned dollars. It's more likely that they're going to look elsewhere for what they need.

After taking a closer look at companies like our client's, this is a real opportunity to differentiate and get above the noise and competition for your customer's attention. Well...this is every organization's opportunity, but I think it's of extreme importance to organizations who must attract people to in-person events - civic events, conferences, non-profit fundraisers or for-profit competitions. Our client was right, the quality of your digital customer experience should match the level of expertise you bring to the events themselves.

The million-dollar question: Have you translated the superior quality of your organization's event or conference experience to your digital experience? With a transformed digital experience, there are three opportunities for event and conference producers to wow prospective audiences: before the event, during the event and after the event.

Before the event

Mobile experience, ticket purchasing, event or sponsor registration, travel arrangements. These are the things that your prospects EXPECT to be easy and what they hope to accomplish from your digital products. Think about how easy it is to search and buy from companies like Amazon, Southwest and Starbucks? Think about how easy it is to schedule and book rides from Uber and rent a unique overnight stay on Airbnb. These types of purchase experiences have changed the way consumers expect to purchase everything. It's actually called The Amazon Effect, and according to this Forbes article, it means that consumers today expect an “almost completely frictionless shopping process with near-immediate results.” This has implications for any organization engaged in online commerce, but can mean the difference between whether a customer chooses your event or someone else's.

During the event

Can I tell you about the last in-person conference experience I had? After making a pretty large investment in the conference ticket, the flight and hotel, I got there and inevitably had a BUNCH of questions. Here are a few: what time is the first session? What time should I leave my hotel? Who's here? Are people meeting up somewhere, because I'd love to meet the people I plan to hang out with for 2 days? Laptop or no? And, most importantly, what should I wear? I had to try to dig through my email to see if any of these questions had been answered. These are the same questions your event guests will have (and 1,000 more). In-person event communication is paramount, and a solid mobile application can do the job. This article from the AMA says it well, “Your attendees already have their noses in their phones, it’s time to use an app to your advantage and take back their attention. A mobile event app can connect your attendees with your event in new, deeper ways with only a little extra effort. It can facilitate session-level engagement, spark new interactions and direct attendees to important conference gatherings, like receptions, mixers and more.”

After the event

The value of a high-quality in-person event is without question. Events help your organization establish unique and personalized connection points that are impossible to recreate digitally. In other words, people will be able to put a real-life face with your brand name. With B2B companies shelling out 25% of their annual budgets on in-person events, it's important to make the most of the time spent with your audience. But what about after the event? The booth is torn down, the dust has settled and you've had some great conversations...what's your next step? How do you continue the conversation you had in-person at your booth or event floor? This is where technology can really aide in the experience. With a good strategy, your mobile application doesn't need to become obsolete once the attendee has left your event, or even months after the event has wrapped. Use your app to deliver exclusive post-event content, share videos from the event to keep the social momentum going, create opportunities for attendees to communicate with each other and, most importantly, get people excited to attend your next event by proving the ROI. Remind them through your post-event app communication what they took away and why it was valuable.

Even in our digital-first world, in-person events are growing. But guest's expectations are changing (see The Amazon Effect). Are you planning an event or conference in 2019? How are you creating your digital experience to match the quality of your in-person experience?

Jayme Thomason