131 event mobile apps reviewed. Quickly choose the best mobile app for your event. In this article you will also find tips, templates and workflow to make sure your event app is a success. Free PDF included.
Event planners that rave about their event apps and how much it added to their event generally do two things very well:
- They know why they are getting it.
- They have a solid plan in place.
This post will help you nail both of these elements, by walking you through a step-by-step process.
But you’re probably just wondering “how do I find the perfect event app?”
Event apps are changing so fast. Look at the last 12 months alone - massive changes.
We know that it can be baffling to accurately compare the hundreds of app options on the market (particularly when you have no time to spare!).
To make it easy for you, and save literally hours of research, we have gathered 131 of the best event apps on the market. We have summed up the research in two tools:
- The Event App Bible. We are at edition 6 of the most referenced guide to event apps in the world. This is a free PDF download. Get it now.
- An online comparison tool to immediately input your requirements and get a list of apps that can provide what you need.
We also share:
- The Research: Are Event Apps Still a Big Deal?
- First Thing’s First: Do You Really Need an Event App?
- 8 Steps to Evaluate How an Event App Could Add Value to Your Event
- Making the Right Choice: How To Select Which Event App Will Deliver
- Issuing a Request for Proposal to Event App Providers (use our free RFP template)
- Taking the Plunge: 7 Key Criteria to Compare your Shortlisted Event Apps and Make the Final Decision
- A project timeline download (Excel) to plan and manage your event app program efficiently.
Download it, save it, read it...
The Event App Bible 2018: The Essential Event App Action Plan
Every year since 2013, EventMB has spent considerable time and energy creating the go-to resource for event apps. The Event App Bible is the most popular report for event planners about understanding, choosing and implementing mobile apps for events.
And of course, the 95-page report is completely free to download.
Within the report, here is just a sneak-peek into what you can access:
- The real story about the Apple Guidelines and what it means for your event app.
- Trends, changes and innovations having an impact now (and opportunities for the future).
- Detailed guidance around your event app and the General Data Protection Regulation (this is HUGE).
- The tricky questions you need to be asking your event app provider.
Now, let’s take a look at the data to see where the land lies and what event planners really think about event apps.
In January 2018 we conducted one of the largest pieces of event planning research ever completed. With 2,400 contacts and over 1,000 respondents.
Within the survey, we asked specific questions that pertain specifically to event apps. We are happy to release the results below.
If you would like a copy of this research to publish it on your website, you can request it here: State of the Event Industry Research 2018.
Event App Adoption Will Continue to Grow
Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said that they currently use event/conference apps. A further 26% said they were considering using them, indicating probable growth in the near future. We conducted a similar survey in 2017 with over 300 eventprofs, which also gave a similar result: 75% said they would provide an event app for their attendees in the next 12 months.
Event Apps are Still Relevant For Almost All
When event planners were asked if they thought event apps were still relevant, almost all (91%) thought they were. A very small minority (9%) believes the opposite to be true.
In essence event planners recognize the value of event apps but there is potentially some confusion around recent developments.
Cost is Important in Choosing an App Provider (But There Are Other Considerations)
A majority (67%) agreed that cost is a factor in choosing an event app provider but almost equally important are using modern technology (60%), integration (58%) and support (57%).
Uncertainty Remains Over Apple’s App Store Policy Changes
Less than a third of event planners surveyed (30%) said that they were aware of the changes in Apple’s App Store policy. When asked if the changes would affect their use of event apps, 70% said that they were unsure.
We can help make everything clearer.
Enough of the big picture stats, let’s get back to your specific event needs.
If you would like a copy of this research to publish it on your website, you can request it here: State of the Event Industry Research 2018.
We are not going to gloss over it. Opinions from eventprofs can sometimes be divided, as some of these quotes highlight:
|“Event apps done right save time and money. They simplify communication to and from attendees.”||“Survey results show our attendees would not use one.”|
|“Event apps are one of the best inventions for networking and productivity in the event planning space.“||“They are not used, no traffic.”|
|“Attendees loved the mobile app at our conference.”||“We have tried event apps three times. The use was dismal. The App was pushed quite hard, but just not utilized. The cost could not be justified again.”|
|“We've eliminated paper programs and rely strictly on an event app now. The change has saved us a ton of money, we can make instant changes if the schedule changes and attendees seem to love it.”||“Tried apps - the cost vs the return was too low.”|
|“It makes an event more interactive, alive, real and interesting for attendees, they are IN the process, not separated from what is happening. Our experience is positive.”||“It is difficult to get executive buy-in.”|
Some event planners raise uncertainty whether an event app can add enough value to justify the expenditure. Others rave about them and see them as an essential component to every event they plan.
Who do you believe?
Is it a problem with event apps?
Or a mismatch when choosing the right app solution and implementing it well?
Event planners probably know their event and the audience better than anyone. Often you will have a “gut feeling” whether an approach, such as implementing an event app, is the right fit, or not. Although more often than not your intuition may be correct, this is not sufficient to get others, who may be much more skeptical, on your side.
Even if you are certain that investing in an events app is right for your event there could still be resistance and reluctance from your boss, your client, the board or the rest of your team before you can implement an event app strategy. For the best chance of success, you need to take the time to research and present all the evidence.
This section gives a framework for how to make your case and confidently address some of the most common concerns raised. Going through this evaluation process should mean that you can have all the answers ready and can come to an informed decision everyone is happy with.
The event planners that have the greatest success with event apps follow this 8-step process to make the right selection and purchasing decisions.
Step 1: Establish Your Business Need for an Event App
Just because something exists, or because it works for others, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Thinking that an event app is a cool thing to have, or wanting one because your competitor had one at their event, are not solid objectives and motivations.
Before investing time and money into selecting an event friendly app, make sure your reason for doing so is in line with the overall objectives of your event.
If the main driver for wanting an app is one of the following, the right event app solution could help:
- To increase engagement in sessions, through live polling and Q&A
- To meet CSR objectives to reduce environmental impact
- To deliver rich, real-time, event analytics
- To provide a revenue stream as an enticing sponsorship opportunity
- To increase exposure for sponsors and exhibitors and their products
- To offer better problem solving and matchmaking between attendees
- To improve customer service and support to attendees
It’s important at this stage to clarify all of your key objectives. These will be essential for creating a business case outlining the need for an event app and gaining the buy-in from your client or boss.
Step 2: Determine Your Event App Budget and Resources
Do you know what budget is available to invest in the event app? Knowing your numbers enables you to focus on the event app providers that offer suitable apps within your price bracket. This helps you to narrow down the options using our online event app selection filters.
Also, consider the bigger picture such as staff time and extras such as WiFi costs at the venue. You don’t want to waste your investment by not having enough staff, time and resources to allocate to the app.
Although there is likely to be a cost for the app, does it also offer significant potential savings and opportunities to generate revenue?
Know your figures:
- If you haven’t created a full event budget download our free template so you can work out how much you can invest in your event app.
- Using the event app selection tool linked above you can specify to only show apps within your price range, whether you need a free event app, an event app under $1k, $1-5k or over $5k.
- Identify how using an event app can save you money (e.g. not printing your event brochure), offer potential additional revenue (e.g. securing an event app sponsor) and automating processing to cut down on staff time (e.g. reducing manual appointment setting).
Step 3: Learn From Past Experience For Better Decision Making
Have you ever used an event app before? If the answer is yes, now is the time to look back at past data to see what you can learn from when you have used event apps before, and what you would change if you were to use an event app again?
Things to reflect on:
- What did your attendees think of the app and how did it affect their experience? Look at user feedback.
- Did your app help you meet business goals? If not, why not?
- Were there any technical hitches or setup problems? Could they have been mitigated?
Step 4: Know Your Audience to Assess the Likely Adoption Rate
If you have used an event app previously at your event you should have access to really useful data including who downloaded the app, what devices the app was accessed on, how well the app was used and what the most visited content was.
If not, you will need to be a lot more creative in trying to get a clearer picture about your audience, particularly if this is a brand new event, rather than a repeated, established event.
Gauge how tech-savvy your delegates are, consider:
- When you send out email campaigns what percentage are accessed from mobile versus desktop? Is this higher or lower than other events/markets you work with?
- What do you know about the audience demographics? Do you have an idea of the age range of those attending?
- Is there an active social media interest, following and response? At past events was interaction on social media high?
These are of course only indicators, but hopefully, it could start to give a clearer picture of how receptive or not your audience may be.
Step 5: What Integrations Do You Need Between Systems?
It’s important to consider how your chosen event app will integrate with other systems such as your CRM and registration software. This could be a dealbreaker because lack of integration can mean lengthy juggling data inputting processes that will have to be performed manually. You want to minimize workload - not increase it!
What you need to determine:
- List what data needs to be transferred or sync between your event app and your existing software. This information will be essential when you are talking to event app providers.
- Check if your existing software/hardware have an API (Application Programming Interface) that will allow it to connect to an event app.
- Do you already have event information recorded on your registration site or event management software? Or within a CSV file? If so you want to avoid having to input the same information into the event app all over again so note this as a deal breaker when exploring your shortlist of apps.
Step 6: What Type of Event App Do You Need?
It will be helpful to try to understand and refine the type of app that you need, so that you can better focus your search. Do you want a web-based or native app? If you want a native app, would a container app of highly customized build best suit your needs? Container apps are more affordable and much faster to be approved (according to our research). Highly customized apps are easier to find in the App store and offer more branding opportunities. From a time perspective, if turnaround is really short a container app or a web-based (runs in the browser) will be live faster than a native app will on average.
Things to consider when choosing the type of app you want:
- Lead times. If lead times are short, you should consider a container app, chatbot or a web-based app instead of a custom native app to save time waiting for approval.
- Cost. On average you will pay more for a custom app build than you would for a web-app or container app model. If price is the number one factor, there are many free and low cost (under $1k) app options available (search for these event apps in the online tables).
- Quality. Because native apps have to go through an approval process, the overall quality of the app has to meet a minimum standard and it can also give some extra functionality, requesting permissions to interact with your phone features.
Step 7: Be Specific about the Event App Contribution
In step 1 you listed the business case for having an event app but now you should focus more specifically on how an event app could help you to deliver on each specific objective. Here are some examples of wider event objectives and how an app may contribute:
- Event objective: To grow your customer base and increase customer loyalty.
An event app is one of the ways potential attendees can evaluate your event and whether they should attend, before even booking a place. It is also a way to cement your brand and company personality. This could be particularly true if you use a chatbot as it emulates a human relationship and communications.
- Event objective: To be seen as the top innovator and thought leader in your industry.
Using a groundbreaking app or chatbot could help to differentiate your event from competitors, but most importantly it could also offer greater feedback and insights from those attending through polling, Q&A, surveys, reporting, content curation, data analytics, etc. If you use a chatbot you should have access to the chat log history to see the specific questions attendees are asking your bot. By having your finger on the pulse and access to this privileged and insightful information you can gain a better understanding of your audience and use this data to your advantage, for example when programming content for next year’s event or deciding what to invest in.
- Event objective: To create more business opportunities for attendees, sponsors and exhibitors.
The app may be able to offer intelligent matchmaking, 1-to-1 appointment setting, lead retrieval, and to offer more robust statistics which can help recruit new revenues (e.g. exhibitors and sponsors) in the future. For example, you may be able to analyze footfall and movement across the venue, the number of leads generated by each exhibitor, the number of downloads of content, the number of clicks on sponsor banners and so forth. If your app has chatbot capabilities the bot may be able to specifically highlight people you should meet at the event and could even set up a meeting for you.
Step 8: Measuring Objectives Through Your Event App
Think about the opportunities an event app will give you to measure data more scientifically and determine how well you have delivered on your objectives. Particularly look ahead to the future and aim to gather data that will help you to sell your event to sponsors, partners and attendees next year.
Useful stats and information which your event app can gather include:
- The adoption and engagement rate before, during and after the event, including the amount of user-generated content such as photos, videos, social media updates
- Click-through rate to content from sponsors
- Exhibitor contacts collected through the lead retrieval tool
- Connection requests, private messages sent and appointments scheduled via the app
- Poll results, questions submitted, session ratings, surveys and feedback
- Chatbot query log
By following the 8-stage process above you will be in a good position to understand if an event app is worthwhile and feasible for your event and what you need to get out of it for it to perform and meet your needs. You have, in essence, created your own mobile event app strategy to guide which app to choose. Starting to look at the different providers and event apps on the market is usually where confusion kicks in though. In fact, the offerings are so numerous and diverse that it is almost too much to take in.
Don’t let the selection process grind you down. With our help, this should be a dream! Simplify your decision-making stress by following these next steps.
We know that there are a lot of fantastic apps out there but we also know that trawling through individual websites and feature lists of hundreds of apps is not realistic for a busy event planner. You need to make an informed decision and fast. This is the reason we created a mobile event app comparison to quickly identify which of the 131 event apps could be right for your event.
The complete listings with details of all 153 features we covered are available in our online tables. These dynamic tables allow you to search and filter the apps that meet your specific requirements, budget and event type (for instance find the best conference apps or a social event app). If you are looking for specific functionality there could be an app out there that can provide it for you and this is the fastest way to find it.
How To Use the Online Event App Comparison Tables
The tool allows you to select the type of event, the budget available to invest in an event app and the features that are important to you.
Any providers that meet your criteria will be displayed. Tick one or several boxes to broaden or narrow your search results if it returns too many or too few results.
From the list of options displayed you can then click for more detailed information about each provider, including the minimum to maximum cost, office locations, links to product reviews on EventMB, specific information about the app and the provider website so you can request more information.
Once you have a shortlist of potential app providers you are interested in you are likely to need a more formal quotation detailing the exact costs and what precisely is included in each package. At this stage, it is usual to issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) as this can be the most comprehensive way to get very detailed information back, in a format that allows you to easily compare responses.
Are you keen to issue an RFP to app providers but not sure of the right questions and information to ask for? We have prepared a handy RFP template which you can adapt and send to the providers you are most interested in to turn around responses in super-fast time. If you have very specific questions you want to ask, no problem, just build on the comprehensive list of questions and structure that we have already created for you.
When the responses to you RFP are in you will easily be able to make comparisons between the apps on your shortlist. You are equipped to make a fully informed decision. It is likely that this final decision will come down to these seven things:
Price and Cost to Keep you Within Budget
For event professionals using an event app for the first time, price is a major factor influencing the decision.
While price usually drives overall costs, it’s also good practice to look at the time needed to set up the app and what support is available from the app provider.
If you need an event app but don’t have much to spend:
- Start with a small investment in year one and progress to larger app programs later on.
- Investigate free and low-cost apps first. ‘Freemium’ models, where you can get started for free and then upgrade later, provide a low-risk way to get started.
- Don’t just consider the app price. Look at the full picture before making a decision, that includes delving into the features, trying the product, finding out how information can be imported/set up and carefully evaluating the support you will receive, such as a dedicated project manager.
2. App Provider Location and Support When You Need It
Another factor influencing app program decision-making is geographic location and the support network of the app provider. If this is the first time you are going to use an app for your event you will want the app provider to be readily available in your timezone to contact for troubleshooting should anything go wrong.
The same is true if you run a very complex app. Having the provider at hand will help to ensure that everything goes to plan.
- Consider a supplier that operates in the same timezone as your event.
- How is support available - by phone, live chat, email? Do they give any guarantees for how quickly the response team with respond?
- If the provider is local, they may be able to offer more hands-on support and even attend your event if you wish.
- Is there a language barrier? If the supplier doesn’t speak your language, or you don’t speak theirs, support may be hindered.
3. Features that Deliver More
Features usually are the strongest decision-making factor in the app selection process. By matching features to pricing most consumers usually have a clear idea of what they are getting.
Get the features you need:
- Don’t just look at the features, look into how precisely they are implemented. A feature can be offered very differently between different providers.
- More features does not necessarily mean better - cut out the noise and concentrate on what you need.
- If you are set on a feature that isn’t offered or not offered in the way that you want it to be, find out where it is on the development roadmap or if it can be accessed through a higher app package. Extra features may be available as bolt-ons. Many app providers also offer custom development and so if you have found the perfect app, bar one feature, it might be worth finding out if you can pay for a custom development.
4. App Provider Credentials to Soothe Your Worries
Some event and meeting professionals give substantial weight to the credentials of the app provider. Usually, this is one of the most detailed sections of the app Request For Proposal (RFP). Obviously, trust is important but don’t overlook some of the startups entering the market if they are truly the best solution for you. In those cases where you are comparing companies and the technology provided is exactly the same, huge price discrepancies are not justified by reputation alone.
Always do the following:
- Visit the app website for case studies and demonstrations of features.
- Check client references and testimonials.
- Search social media for a less curated, real-world opinions.
5. Peer Reviews to Back Up the Hype
Ask app providers for case studies and evidence from events similar to your own. Can they provide testimonials, proven data and reviews? This body of evidence can be revealing and useful.
Reassure yourself before contracts are signed:
- Ask the app company to put you in contact directly with previous clients who have used their app and are willing to have a short, private conversation with you/your boss so you can find out the low down and discuss any specific concerns.
- Don’t forget to check how the app is rated in the app stores too.
- Talk to an attendee that has used a similar event app from the provider first-hand.
6. Live Demo to Ask Those Last Tricky Questions
Every app provider should be able to invite you to have a demonstration of their product. This usually happens online and is the best way to understand the capabilities and potential that an event app can offer and navigate around the back system. If possible encourage your boss and wider team to join you for the demo of the product too.
To get the most out of the demo:
- Have a list of questions and concerns which the app provider needs to cover.
- Walk through elements including the setup process, how to make updates, the back system and what the attendee experiences.
- If a lot of variety and customization is possible, ask to see a number of different setups to help inspire your own app setup.
7. Testing It First Hand to Be 100% Convinced
All providers should be able to recommend a similar event project using their platform which event planners can download and test out. This is useful in terms of appreciating the navigation and customization, however, this won’t necessarily give an insight to any live event capability such as polling and live Q&A.
To find an app that delivers:
- If you attend an event yourself and are impressed with the event app they are using, find out the provider and enquire for further information. This is particularly useful if you are able to test first-hand functions such as slide sharing, Q&A, polling, lead retrieval and location-based notifications in a live event environment.
- When creating your own app some providers also offer a test version or a 14-day free trial so you can see exactly what your app could look like, before committing to any payment.
- If all else fails, get everyone together in the office and try out the app together. It might not be the same as testing it in a large conference environment but the feedback from multiple users will be extremely useful in highlighting user experience issues.
It isn’t easy to create a specific timeline for implementing an event app. Lead times, your event requirements, demands and timescales can be different for container, custom build, native, web-enabled, hybrid apps and chatbots and also vary by provider. Every event is different and every app has unique features and nuances. We have however tried to look past this and create a basic project timeline as a useful starting point.
The plan is an outline for your events when you do have the time and resources to invest fully in your mobile app program. We have based this on a 12-month lead time as you may have for an annual event or large event project. This chart can of course still act as a starting point for when you are working under much tighter time constraints and for when time needs to be saved, corners cut and quick decisions made for it to happen. The project timeline is downloadable in Excel format so you can adapt to your unique circumstances to plan and manage your event app program efficiently.
Investing in any eventtech, such as an event app, needs to be a well thought out decision rather than a nice to have, a gut feeling or keeping up with your competitors. By undertaking this evaluation process you can be certain that it is the right move for your event, attendees and stakeholders. You might have only one chance to sell an event app to your boss, client or board so by going through this detailed analysis you will be well prepared to give all the answers.
If you made it this far, you should be well on your way to finding the perfect app for your event - if you haven’t already found it, that is. If you need more advice, don’t forget to download and read the Event App Bible.
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