Going green in 2016: How we ditched paper and went mobile at our association meetings
Meeting season is winding down here at AMPED and aside from our usual awesomeness, I am pretty proud of our success in transitioning most of our clients to paperless meetings. Gone are the program and abstract books, restaurant lists and printed maps. We moved all of that information (and more) to mobile or web apps. Andoverall, the feedback from attendees was positive. Here is what I learned along the way:
Native vs. web apps: Three clients utilized a native mobile app that was downloadable via app stores. The upside to this is that, generally, once these apps are downloaded to mobile devices, attendees are able to access the schedule, speakers, maps, etc. without Wi-Fi or eating up their data plans. That said, providing strong Wi-Fi is crucial for a paperless meeting, especially for those attendees who download onsite or if the app houses external links.
One of our clients used a web app that was built for mobile devices and was provided free of charge through their abstract management system. This app was not downloadable and required Wi-Fi to access. It offered many of the same features of a native app, but was a little more complicated to access regularly. As this client had not originally planned on going paperless, this was the most cost-effective alternative to a native app.
Scheduling: All of our apps offered a personal scheduling tool, which is (in my personal opinion) one of the biggest benefits of moving away from a printed program. Allowing attendees to schedule their participation at the meeting and view it all in one place is more convenient than taking a pen and circling sessions in a program book. Whether this feature is solely housed in the app or connects to the calendar on the user’s phone, attendees are able to receive reminders and enter in personal meetings or events that are not listed in the formal program.
More information, less space: There is a limit to the amount of information we can print in a program book before it becomes excessive; with a mobile app, we can include it all and it remains compact and robust without taking up a lot of storage space on our attendees’ phones. The app we used for our client Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS), housed session titles, presentation titles, authors, bios, photos, abstract texts, presentation slides and/or electronic posters. Imagine trying to carry a print version of that!
The social network: Event mobile apps provide a method to easily engage attendees and allow for networking — directly linking to social platforms, offering a photo gallery or incorporating an in-app newsfeed. Our client Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) used a mobile app with a newsfeed that promoted discussion and photo sharing, and a way to measure the most “influential attendees” based on their activity.
Doing it live: In event planning, there are ALWAYS last-minute cancellations and requests. The beauty of a mobile app is that it can be updated in real time and eliminates the cost of printing a program book that might be outdated the moment it gets off the press.
Easing the transition: Some attendees still prefer something tangible. In lieu of a full program, we designed a “pocket program” with a very high-level schedule of the session titles, names, and rooms that fit in the back of the registrant’s badge sleeve. Attendees really appreciated this as an alternative and loved that it wasn’t bulky.
After working with four clients, three platforms and two mobile app vendors for this transition, I learned so much from going green in 2016, and am excited to grow and improve the process for 2017!