JUN 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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J U N E 2 0 1 8 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 17 COMMENTARY Rethinking Conference Apps By Bradley Skaja Not long after Apple's App Store and Google Play opened their virtual doors a decade ago, show managers and meet- ing planners saw an opportunity to eliminate the time, expense and out-of-date information in printed program guides by replacing them with mobile apps. At the time, having an app resident on a smartphone was a logical digital solution because slower cellular data networks and limited Wi-Fi availability at meeting venues made it impractical for attendees and exhibitors to access conference information on mobile websites. Today conference apps are as common as 10x10 booths, but a backlash may be brewing. With connectivity advancements enabling easy website access by mobile browser, responsive website design improving mobile site display, and rising recognition of the limitations of the app model for meeting purposes, mobile conference apps may soon be a thing of the past. ► BUMPS IN THE APP ROAD On the user side, one weakness of the app strategy is that many meeting attendees don't want another app cluttering their phone. Those that don't mind taking the time and space required to add an app frequently have difficulty with downloads, logins and in some cases compatibility with their devices. Many users also still want printed program guides to help them navigate a convention or tradeshow, defeating one of the primary purposes of app adoption. On the industry side, issues range from user support headaches that frequently clog conference reservation desks to the extra overhead of preparing a new app for each event. App development duplicates the effort as well as the expense of building the conference website, even for managers and planners with in-house capabilities. Third-party developers have additional overhead, typically needing to write code to enable needed data integration. For smaller shows and others lacking the resources to implement often-costly integration between platforms, additional work is required to update information on both the conference website and the app when speakers, session rooms and other details change. It's a drain on both staff and budgets. ► SMARTER MOBILE STRATEGY In light of these hurdles as well as today's faster and easier connectivity, show managers and meeting planners are beginning to realize that conference apps are not necessary if they have mobile-optimized websites with seamless integration to their registration database and other back-end applications. With mobile sites, both exhibitors and attendees can not only re- trieve conference information on their smartphones via mobile browser but also get one-click access to floor plans, personal schedules and other needed pages by taking screenshots and saving them to their home screen. A tap on the resulting icon takes users directly to the relevant page, frequently enabling faster access than with an app that must query user requests to retrieve the freshest information. Mobile conference sites can also deliver the same predictive analytics and push notification capabilities as mobile apps to help guide attendees to the session topics, continuing education credit opportunities and/or exhibitors of greatest interest, based on their registration profiles and website activity. The process is facilitated by the increase in group-owned membership systems that maintain data ranging from user registration and CEU/CME participation to calls for papers and speaker schedules. This creates a single source of information that can be shared to mobile websites for smart user-specific recommendations without multiple technology integrations. ► HUNDREDS OF HOURS SAVED One group that decided to abandon mobile conference apps for all these reasons is Cambridge Innovation Institute, which manages dozens of life sciences and energy-related events every year. Cambridge used to dedicate an in-house team of 20 for a week to develop a new app for each conference but began questioning the practice because app adoption rates were very low. The transition began in the aftermath of a project integrating Cambridge's in-house point-of-sale software with a commercial booth selection application, enabling real-time floor plan updates on each conference website as exhibitors purchase booths on-site for the next year's show. Recognizing that other information could be shared in the same way, Cambridge began dropping mobile app development in early 2017 and has saved hundreds of hours in the process. It remains to be seen how many others will join the exodus, but the benefits of eliminating redundant development, avoiding wasting resources on underused assets, and generating more value from conference websites are compelling. At the very least, it's food for thought as show managers and meeting planners determine where to put their time and money. Bradley Skaja is Managing Partner at Conference Technology Enhancements (, a full-service event registration and technology company that provides specialized solutions for the convention, conference and trade show industries. n The Hyatt Regency Stonebriar Breaks Ground in Frisco, Texas The Hyatt Regency Stonebriar has broken ground in Frisco, Texas. The 18-story, 303-room hotel will feature a parking garage, a city library and a conference center. The hotel will be attached to the Stonebriar Centre mall and will feature a 54,585-square- foot conference center, including a grand ballroom, junior ballroom and additional breakout spaces as well as an 800-space parking garage. "We're fortunate to partner with Sam Moon Group, which is bringing quality and creativity to this state- of-the-art development," said Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. "This public- private partnership represents Frisco's commitment to reinvest in Stonebriar Centre, long considered Frisco's first economic engine dating back to 2000. We believe this project helps keep our successful Stonebriar stay fresh and relevant. We're confident our residents, visitors and conventioneers will enjoy the convenience of having a high-end Hyatt Regency Stonebriar, a conference center and library space connected to our mall. Lifestyles are changing and this project promotes a new way of living, visiting and doing business in Frisco." n

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