If an association's or company's demographics fit a tech savvy profile, there it likely isn't too hard to encourage meeting attendees to use new apps. What if attendees aren't yet comfortable using mobile apps?
I have worked with companies that run the gamut from a high level of comfort to nervousness to go anywhere near new technology. When I've facilitated team building or workshops for which the time allotted has been a lot shorter than desired, I remember thinking, "I'll just share the rest of the content through social media." After carefully collecting articles, videos, and infographics to share, I've run into scenarios in which, out of a group of 50, only 4 were even on Twitter. These have not been isolated incidents and one happened this year.
So what do event planners do if they want to use an app and have a paperless meeting or conference and yet a sizeable number of attendees won't even go anywhere near social media yet alone an app? Here is a painless process for helping attendees become comfortable in using apps.
- Promote that app.
Give the group a early heads up. Communicate the fact that the aim is to go paperless.
- Communicate strong benefits of switching to an app. State the benefits in terms of what they will do to enhance the attendee experience.
- Reassure the group that they are already using apps every time they make a deposit at a bank machine, purchase a movie ticket at a kiosk or check-in at the airport. Some airports like Toronto and Montreal have switched over to virtual immigration officers.
- Provide updates about the app early and often through intranets, text message, email, and posters.
- Continue promotion on-site at the event.
- Make it fun. Get valuable prizes donated by sponsors. Have a name that app contest. Enter names into a draw when they first download the app, use it for check-in at the event, complete a feedback survey, etc.
- Encourage participants to bring their own devices, within their zone of comfort.
- Prepare the environment.
- Provide charging stations for devices.
- Provide extra table space or laptops and tablets.
- Provide plug-in adapters.
- Provide support.
- Create a demo zone to show attendees how it works.
- Have a pre-conference breakout to provide a hands-on app training session.
- Set up an app support desk.
- Provide tables in each breakout where attendees who require further support can obtain assistance. I have used this model for sessions in which some attendees required language support. The translator sat at the table with the attendee and signaled me when he needed to provide explanations.
- Staff breakout tables with younger workers who are tech savvy and give them an opportunity to hone their leadership skills as reverse mentors (rotnems).
- Lead by Example
- Encourage speakers and facilitators to use the app during their presentations and breakout sessions so that attendees can follow along.
- Have a run-through or dress rehearsal for speakers and facilitators to provide coaching.
Apps are here to stay. The key to encouraging attendees to use new apps is to ease the transition and provide as much support as they require to become comfortable.
What strategies have you found most useful for when introducing new apps and encouraging attendees to use them.
Written by Anne Thornley-Brown