Choosing a mobile event app provider is a big decision. You’re entrusting a core piece of your strategy to an outside entity, and you need them to deliver. A one-on-one demo is one of the first steps in how to choose an event app - it's your best chance to get a feel for a provider and how you might work together .
To get the most out of the demo, we recommend entering with a clear idea of what you want (as clear as possible, at least, depending on where you are in your process!), and a concise list of questions so you can walk away with the information you need to make a decision. Many of us at MeetingPlay are former planners ourselves, so we’ve been on both sides of these conversations. We’ve pulled from our experience to give you 7 essential questions to ask when choosing an event app.
Which features will help reach my event goals?
When we receive an RFP at MeetingPlay, it usually includes a laundry list of required features. While this is definitely a good starting point, what we often find is that this list changes following a discussion with our team. Our recommendation: communicate your event goals, and allow the provider to take a consultative approach where they can gain an understanding of the event's purpose, and then suggest the right features and customization options. App providers bring more than just technology to the table. A good provider brings experience, knowledge and wisdom — all of which will help you choose the right features for your goals.
Is the app customizable?
Before the demo, it's important to know the difference between configurable and customizable. We define a configurable app as one that allows you to adjust and rearrange a limited number of options, such as colors, logos, and copy. A customizable app is much more flexible. It allows you to build and design the app interface and unique features to a much greater degree.
If you think you'll want to customize aspects of the app specific to your event, make sure the provider can provide this flexibility. To get a sense of how they define customization, ask for specific examples where they’ve had to customize an app for a client, and judge for yourself.
Often, we talk to clients who found out after working with another provider that their app was configurable. When they asked about customizing certain things, they got a lot of “no” responses. The app was adaptable, but when it came down to execution, they didn’t find the versatility they needed.
Is this an all-in-one solution, or multiple apps?
Some providers include all of the required features in one app, and others work with other vendors to deliver multiple apps. Having one app solution means one admin, and just one system for the planner to learn and use throughout the event. You also want to make this easy for attendees — the more steps they have to take, the less successful your app is going to be. We recommend one solution and one app.
Can you integrate with my registration provider (or other tools)? And is this a one-way or two-way integration?
Most app providers will be able to integrate with other systems, but it's important to make sure. You'll also need to know if it’s a one-way or two-way integration. One-way integration means, for example, that if a change is made in your registration system, it’s updated in your app. However, if a change is made in the app, it will not be reflected in the registration system, as the technology only works one-way. Two-way integration means information is exchanged seamlessly across platforms, e.g. a change in the app is reflected in the registration system and vice versa.
What type of support do you offer?
A typical app provider offers an easy-to-use CMS (content management system) and a support team to help when needed. It's important to know what level of “support” this actually means, because you don't want to end up taking a ticket at a help desk at a moment when you need some real assistance. In our experience, providers that emphasize support and account management are worth the investment.
At MeetingPlay, our clients simply have to provide the event content, and we manage all of the development. We also provide training on the CMS and are just a phone call away for any questions. When thinking about an app, account management might not be top-of-mind. But once you’ve worked with (or without) it, the value quickly becomes apparent. A good account team asks the right questions, listens to your goals, crafts a plan with the features you need, and provides direct access before, during, and after the event.
Some app providers also have travel directors available during your event for an incremental fee. If you think you’ll find this helpful, it may be worth finding out if this is an option and the provider’s cost.
What are your typical app download rates?
This simple question will tell you a lot about the provider. And when you ask, it's good to have a frame of reference in mind. Don't worry, we've got the research covered! In a recent survey of meeting planners we conducted with BizBash, we found the typical range of app downloads to be below 75%.
The numbers in this chart aren’t comparable to what we typically see at MeetingPlay. Our clients tend to see download percentages in the 80s-90s.
The provider should also be able to share suggestions on how they ensure high download percentages. For more on this topic, check out whitepaper, created in partnership with BizBash, "Tech-Savvy Planner Secrets: How to Make the Most of Your Event App."
How long does the app take to build?
App development timing varies depending on your needs — a very simple event app can go live in as little as a few days. For most apps, you should plan 45-90 days out, depending on the complexity of your event and product. Timing is everything, so in the demo, make sure you’re on the same page as your provider. For more on creating the right timeline, check out our blog post on design process timing.
Come prepared with these questions (and know the answers you want to hear), and remember to always keep your own event goals in mind. Go with the provider who listens, understands your goals, and has demonstrated experience launching successful apps. And if you’re on the hunt for a great app provider, we’d love your next demo to be with us!