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Conference print agendas face obsolescence as event marketers go mobile

As marketers of live events such as conferences, festivals and concerts turn to standalone mobile applications to distribute pertinent information, personalize experiences, drive advertising opportunities and communicate directly with attendees, print agendas may soon become obsolete. 

Marketers that tap mobile for large-scale events can often use technology to personalize attendees? experiences even more, as well as collect valuable data for future use. Brands can also find optimal advertising opportunities within these apps, as they can reach target audiences in a more streamlined manner and communicate directly with consumers via push notifications, beacons or various incentives.

?I do think print conference materials are becoming obsolete,? said Aurelie Guerrieri, North America general manager, MobPartner, San Francisco, CA. ?Today, conference apps serve many functions from exhibit hall floor plans and to help attendees manage which exhibitors that they would like to visit.

?It can also act as a personal concierge for the attendee by helping them choose and locate local dining, entertainment, and attractions,? she said.

?Also, people have become accustomed to the convenience and the ability to access information easily from their mobile phone and apps in particular. Conference attendees expect to use their own device - even at a conference.?

Advantage of mobile
Many experts agree that offering mobile agendas and schedules is advantageous for marketers. Print materials become expensive and cumbersome, and with more consumers than ever owning mobile devices, leveraging that channel is more convenient for nearly everyone.

?All print materials for conferences should go the way of the dodo bird,? said Michael Wilson, vice president of marketing at Schedulicity, Bozeman, MT. ?They?re expensive, ineffective and create a lot of work and waste.

?They also prohibit the collection of valuable data that can be leveraged to reach out to participants for follow up information.?

Once planners receive consumers? personal data, it is much easier to send feedback surveys and recaps after the event?s conclusion. Data will also be beneficial for any sponsors seeking to follow up with potential clients.

The mobile apps will require event marketers to depend on a strong Wi-Fi network and signal at the venue, as guests' usage will be at an all-time high. This may cause their effectiveness to become compromised if the network fails.

?Brand marketers who aren?t leveraging mobile at events are at a disadvantage,? Ms. Guerrieri said. ?Mobile allows them to know more about their use so they can engage with them before, during and after the event.

?It also allows them to better measure the effectiveness of their event spend and ROI.?

However, some experts believe that there is still a market for print agendas and conference materials, depending on the type of event and venue.

?The channels and marketing materials we use for events depends on that audience,? said Jennifer Piterman, events manager at xAd Inc., New York. ?At the advertising and technology events that xAd does, attendees rely on their mobile phones for everything, especially when the agenda and information is on there.

?There is something nice about having paper collateral to catch attendees? eyes and acts as a reminder. For events, the most important factor is to know your audience and how they prefer to get information and communicate and to design around that.?

Targeted sponsorships
Brands seeking to target a specific demographic of consumers have the perfect opportunity to do so via event and conference mobile apps. MasterCard recently sponsored eTail West 2015?s mobile app, ensuring that its logo was visible on each landing page.

?Brands now have a tremendous opportunity to reach their target audiences through mobile app marketing as long as they're extremely respectful of the audience and the platform,? Schedulicity?s Mr. Wilson said. ?Being mindful of the intimate nature of someone?s smartphone will always be key to success of one?s campaign.?

If a brand is unable to attend a conference, an app sponsorship can still create a presence and also help show off any new technology the brand is leveraging.

?App sponsorship is a great way for brands to be involved in conferences,? MobPartner?s Ms. Guerrieri said. ?Success may vary depending on the agreement between the conference organizer and the sponsoring brand, but there are ton of other opportunities for push notifications and beacon technology integration. 

?If a brand can truly own the app, then the opportunities to engage with attendees is endless.?

Lastly, the social media aspect throws more favor to event marketers deciding between print materials and mobile apps. Attendees appreciate having a communal hashtag to upload personal photos and thoughts, network with other guests and check back for vital information they may have missed.

?All events should have a hashtag,? xAd?s Ms. Piterman said. ?People love to share their experiences, connect with one another. 

?It doesn?t take much time short time and include it on all marketing materials, it should be a no-brainer.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York