How to Increase Smartphone User Engagement

By Amita Patel, CHSP, May 1, 2013

Your annual conference just wrapped up, and by most accounts, you’d call it a success. Key industry experts delivered relevant, need-to-know information produced for high-impact and well-attended general sessions. The conference agenda was packed with educational workshops with more great information presented by strong speakers. Then, you read the feedback surveys: “Speaker relied too much on his PowerPoint.” “Too many sessions to select from.” “No time for networking.” Wait, what happened?

Today, the issue isn’t the content of the conference. It’s the delivery. Your attendees are tech savvy and they’re demanding a fresh approach. Audiences want to be engaged, not addressed. More than half of all mobile users have smartphones, and if your association skews younger, the number rises higher: 72 percent of consumers in Generation Y own a smartphone, according to Forrester. If you’ve been toying with the idea of integrating smartphone engagement into your events, now is the time. Build a plan, take it to the board and make the case that accommodating today’s smartphone users will create a better meeting. Here are a few things you could build into your next event to increase smartphone user engagement:

Conference Social Networks

Build a proprietary social network hub through Facebook or a service such as iMeet. This encourages attendees to connect with others who will be attending the conference as well as those within your organization.

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps can turn events into engaging and interactive experiences. Companies such as Gather Digital or QuickMobile can create a customized app for your event. With an event mobile app, you can do the following:

> Provide key information, including the conference agenda, bios on keynote speakers and details about workshop presenters.

> Allow each attendee to create a customized schedule by selecting sessions they want to attend.

> Help attendees network and send meeting requests to each other or create their own profiles to support networking opportunities.

> Link event sessions to location maps such as Google Maps using smartphone GPS.

> Integrate social networking via Twitter or Facebook. You also can tie in a custom social networking hub created for the event.

> Get immediate feedback for each conference session as soon as it concludes.

Tech-Savvy Speakers

To be successful, everyone needs to be on board. That means you need to find and recruit speakers comfortable integrating smartphones into their sessions. They can use text-to-screen technology such as iWall, which allows attendees to engage with the content from the speaker, ask questions, and essentially become part of the program by texting comments and questions that appear on a large screen. For a more basic approach, set up a dedicated phone number to be used as a request line so attendees can text specific questions to the presenter.

Mobile Contests

Every smartphone has a camera. Develop a contest where attendees send in conference photos via text to a dedicated number. The photos are then uploaded and shared at the end of the conference. Let the attendees judge the photos and award prizes for the funniest, most creative, etc.

QR Codes

These tiny mobile codes are popping up on everything from print advertisements to the side of city buses, but they make a lot of sense at events. You can use QR codes to link to social media, allowing attendees to automatically post photos to their Facebook pages or send information out on their LinkedIn pages. You can also place QR codes on the signage outside workshops. When users scan it, they receive the workshop’s presentation, speaker bio, link to the workshop survey or access to a LinkedIn group on the workshop topic.


The name of the game for today’s associations is engagement, engagement, engagement. When you’re able to engage members throughout the year and especially during live conferences, you boost member satisfaction and retention. Smartphones are not going anywhere. It’s time to use them to your advantage.


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