There are a list of things to consider when developing an event app. When should you contact an app provider? When should you launch your app — and how should you promote it? If you’re new to event apps (or a seasoned vet tackling a new project), the process begins with big questions. At MeetingPlay, we’ve launched successful event apps for all sorts of clients, and learned a lot along the way. Here, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions to demystify the process and help you anticipate a rough timeline for your next event app.
1. How far in advance should a meeting planner contact an event app company?
The short answer: it depends on your meeting. Big meetings begin a few months in advance, while smaller meetings sometimes bring in an app company just 30 days out. Our advice: bring in an app company sooner rather than later — the further in advance your app partner is on board, the more they can help you meet your goals and deliver recommendations you may not have considered. As an overall guideline, we would suggest 6 months, but a minimum time frame is usually 60-90 days out.
Consider the whole process from sales to event. For one thing, it can take a while just to reach a finalized contract. Once conversations start, you’ll want time for new ideas for features, content, and marketing to develop, adding value to your app along the way.
2. How long before the app is ready to launch?
We suggest at least 60 days for the process of event app design and development.
3. How far in advance of the event should the app be launched?
It’s always good to get your app done ahead of time, but be wary of launching and promoting the app too far in advance of your event. You don’t want attendees to download the app and then completely forget about it. We typically advise clients to launch their app 1-2 weeks prior to the event. However, sometimes there are reasons to launch sooner: Apps that include matchmaking or scheduling may want to launch further in advance so that attendees have time to answer networking questions and sign up for the breakouts (or appointments, etc.).
Launch your app early if you have something specific to communicate, or something that will catch their eye. For example, you might want to encourage more posting to the activity feed, or allow time to use another feature. But without a specific reason for users to go into the app, we don’t recommend an early launch.
4. What pre-event marketing should be done to promote the app? When should this promotion begin?
To start, make sure you are sharing information that will be useful. If the content isn’t meaningful, people will ignore it. Useful info might be event-specific rather than app-specific, such as travel info, including any special rates or early-bird discounts. Other types of useful information: content that drives excitement about specific features, including matchmaking, gamification, scheduling or pre-event surveys.
We recommend starting to let attendees know that there will be an event app in any pre-event email blasts up to a month before launch so that attendees are excited and ready to download the app as soon as they get the launch email.
5. When should a meeting planner start notifications within the app? Any suggestions on what to say?
Nobody will receive messages or notifications unless they’ve downloaded the app, so make sure you message post-launch. To build excitement, we recommend notifications in the few days leading up to an event, but don’t send too often — people will be overwhelmed and start to ignore them.
6. What should be done to promote an app on site/at registration?
We’ve seen clients include a link and download instructions on signs around the registration area to promote app usage. If there is on-site kiosk registration, download messaging can also appear across the screens during check-in. It’s also helpful to have your app provider’s event staff on-site to help people use the app and answer any questions they may have.
This event app building checklist should help you get a handle on your app and the timeline involved. If you are looking at things to consider when designing an event app, please check out this post: What Should I Expect From the Event App Design Process. As you evaluate event app providers, keep in mind that dedicated account management is a big time saver. Many of us at MeetingPlay are former event planners and hospitality professionals, and we’ve learned from experience the benefit of experts that get to know your business, your event, and your needs.
If you want to discuss your event app in greater detail, we’re here to help.