Six Ways to “Mobilize” Attendees
It was inevitable that the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses™ (WOCN®) Society would implement a mobile app for its annual conference. The rationale around using mobile apps was becoming clearer and mobile platforms were developing into efficient ways to deliver on conference objectives.
Nevertheless, conference attendees weren’t exactly in love with technology and planners had to devise ways to help them let go of the traditional ways to navigate, network and learn during the event.
Aside from the fact that nearly everyone who attends the WOCN conference brings a mobile device with her, there was another reason why a mobile platform was an obvious next step for planners.
The ChirpE mobile app already was bundled with the event management software they were using. “Because the app was already included in the a2z package, we didn’t have to go to another provider,” says Brooke Bilofsky, associate meeting manager at WOCN.
With the decision to go mobile behind them, Bilofsky’s team set about working on an implementation plan for her less-than-tech-savvy audience:
- Start with the basic features. The first year that WOCN used a mobile app (2012), planners stayed with ChirpE Basic (mobile website), which included a real-time floor plan, exhibitor and product search, session directory and My Itinerary (personalized calendar). Because the app linked to the web, no downloading was required.
- Enhance the app as attendees buy in. The mobile app was so popular the first year, organizers upgraded to ChirpE Premium (native app) the following year. The upgraded version added MyWOCN (enhanced matchmaking and appointment setting), an interactive floor plan (clicks on the map highlighted where conference rooms were located), in-app conference evaluations, presentation handouts and social media tools to the feature set.
- Provide app education. The two-year-long rollout of the mobile app gave conference planners insight into the knowledge gaps that existed with attendees. They realized how important education was. Going forward, they are considering an instructional video on how to download the application.
- Wean attendees off paper slowly. In 2012, WOCN handouts were available online and organizers placed printing stations in various places throughout the conference. The following year, when all presentations were available on the mobile app, the on-site printing stations were eliminated. “Everyone just got with the program,” Bilofsy explains.
- Tie app features to conference objectives. WOCN members gather annually to learn about the latest techniques, applications and treatments in the field, as well as network with colleagues. The mobile app allowed them to take notes and complete evaluations (needed to obtain continuing education credits). It also helped them connect with peers and exhibitors via messaging, social media and MyWOCN.
- Tap organization leaders to be app ambassadors. When ChirpE Premium was implemented for the 2013 conference, planners met with the WOCN Board of Directors to demonstrate how to download and use the app. The board then became evangelists for the app during the conference.
WOCN’s careful positioning and implementation of the app paid off. What could have been an annoyance for nurses tasked with the heavy burden of earning certifications and creating awareness around the issues impacting patients became a pleasure. One attendee shared her opinion on the WOCN Facebook page:
"This app was invaluable. It made the conference so easy to navigate. All the schedule, room numbers and handouts were on it. I was able to instantly rate the sessions for my CEUs. Glad I decided to get an iPhone. Totally reduced carrying all that heavy paper around. Took notes on my phone and emailed them to myself from the convention while still sitting in my chair at the end of each session. They won't get lost in a mound of other papers as they usually do."