Conference and trade show season is upon us. SXSW and Collision attract guests from around the world.  Each spring I speak at national and local events, walk the exhibit area, pick up useful swag, and make new connections. 

You may already have trouble keeping up with just your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media communities, but using conference apps is essential if you want to get the greatest return of investment--money and time--from attending a conference.

I always automatically download conference apps, but I've spoken to many people who don't. I made a great new business connection prior to a recent tech conference. He had reached out to me on the app. I later asked him how and why he uses conference apps. His reasons are:

  • They allow you to select the sessions you want to attend, and set up reminders.
  • If you're attending a conference with others, you can review it in advance with the team and "divide and conquer."
  • Most apps these days contain an attendee list, enabling you to connect with other conference participants and vendors. You can even find like-minded people to meet for meals, exercise, or after-work sightseeing, if you don't like spending time alone.

Not yet convinced? Here are a few more reasons from my own experience as a serial app downloader:

  • You won't get lost. Most event apps have maps of the show floor. Some even have GPS systems so you don't waste time looking for a particular exhibitor or conference session. This is especially useful at large convention centers.
  • Apps can build awareness and visibility for your business or personal brand. The show organizer behind B2B Marketing Exchange reported that 905 attendees out of 930+ downloaded and used the app and referred to it an average of 59 times, mostly sharing photos and interacting with other attendees (2,600 engagements). The agenda was viewed more than 8,000 times. Whether you're a sponsor or an attendee, you can appear on other attendees' devices throughout the event.
  • When you get back to your office, you'll have a reference to companies and people you may have forgotten--at your fingertips.
  • You may score prizes. Some organizers have built competitions into their apps, to encourage people to download, re-market, and connect from the conference.

After your app has done its job (usually two to three months after a conference), you can simply delete it from your mobile device, freeing up space for the next one.