It’s no surprise that attendees are using the iPad more than ever at conferences and meetings. Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the first quarter of 2012, according to apple.com. The device is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing mobile technology products in history.
The platform of the iPad makes it a perfect choice for meetings. The at-a-glance aspect, screen size, ease of use, portability and speed of device all contribute to its popularity.
“The increase in iPad usage at our clients’ events is dramatic,” said Wendy Phillips, vice president of sales and marketing for Gather Digital, a mobile event app company. “In May 2011, the iPad represented 0.8 percent of mobile device usage at our corporate and association events,” she said. “In May 2012, iPad usage had risen to 36.5 percent.”
Because of increasing iPad usage, meeting planners are becoming more interested in event apps that are native to the iPad. “Planners know their event attendees are using iPads more and more,” Phillips said. “And they want to give them a native app to offer the best possible experience.”
Having a conference app that is native to the iPad takes advantage of the faster syncing capability, the enhanced graphics and the larger screen size. Going native also allows the ability to seamlessly use other applications, such as email, as part of the conference app.
Dr. Virginia Schmith, a clinical pharmacologist and chair of pharmacometrics with the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, generally attends three conferences per year and prefers using her iPad when an app is available. She appreciates the note taking feature that some apps offer. “Many times you have to write a trip report,” she said. “Taking notes in the iPad is faster than writing notes.” Schmith used an app recently that also organized the notes by session and allowed her to email them to herself for printing or saving to her desktop computer. “And the name of the session automatically shows up in the notes. It probably saves an hour’s worth of time,” she added.
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, a meetings technology consultant and speaker is enthusiastic about the potential for iPads and tablet computers at events. “The instant-on, intuitive interface with screens large enough to manage documents, makes iPads and other tablet computers a natural for meetings and tradeshows. They provide benefits for all parties involved: attendees (rich media, interactive conference programs, networking and way-finding tools); exhibitors (for interactive kiosks, easier lead exchange systems, appointment scheduling and survey tools); hoteliers (an intuitive, portable sales tool); and meeting planners (paperless conference binders eliminating the need to carry around 4” thick, 3-ring binders full of paper).“
Ball feels that “mobile technology will likely change events more in the next five years than technology has in the last twenty years. We are in the golden age of app adoptions for events. Very soon, if you do not have an app for an event, attendees will wonder why the event is so behind the times.”
A good native app will allow the planner to have control of content, including images, text and corporate branding. It should also offer sponsor opportunities within the app, high attendee usability with options like messaging, one on one meeting functionality, immediate schedule updates, maps, customized my schedules, note taking ability and a social media aspect, according to Phillips.