Event apps are no longer a nice-to-have for conventions (or ‘cons’) and fan events. Tech-savvy fans expect them.

“An event app is a must for cons,” says Karla Southern, Events Coordinator for the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Everyone has a smartphone, and your event needs to utilise those phones.”

Free Download: The Do’s and Don’ts of Fandom Events: A Director’s Guide

These free mobile apps are the digital guides to your event. If you aren’t already using an event app, you’re behind the curve. And if you are, it’s time to take your tech to the next level.

Here are the event app capabilities that fans are clamouring for — and what you need to know to stay relevant in a crowded fandom world.

The basic event app capabilities fans are demanding

Most event apps offer the same basic capabilities. Attendees want all the information they need in the palm of their hand — like a venue map, schedules, and news. And staff want the data these apps collect — which might be worth the investment costs alone.

For example, your event app RSVPs can tell you how much demand there is for specific artists to do autograph sessions or panels. What if 600 fans want to go to the same Q&A and you’ve booked a 50-person room for it? Horror story. By collecting RSVPs for your sessions in your event app, you can avoid this type of fiasco.

Another basic capability to look for is app usage data. Your event app data should tell you what content is most popular. Are most people looking at your schedule? Are they checking out the latest news on your special guests? Are they looking at your costume policy?

The top content and interests can help you determine logistics. If the interests for a session has outgrown the room you planned to host it in, you can make adjustments on the spot.

Advanced capabilities of the best event apps

Attendees expect the basic capabilities above — but to really blow them away, you should take your event app to the next level.

While any event app should include a digital map of your event, artist and panelist bios, and meet and greet information, fandom events have used apps in creative new ways. Here are three innovative ways to use event apps at your con:

  • Connect your attendees with each other IRL. In an Eventbrite survey, 65% of fandom attendees cited “meet new friends” as a major motivator for attending a con. Another 43% were curious to meet online friends IRL. Use your event app to make it easier for fans to make these connections. For example, Dragon Con’s mobile app lets you create a list of friends and share your schedule with one another. If attendees mark all the panels they want to attend that day, their friends can see that.
  • Motivate downloads with exclusive contests. Contests are a cost-effective strategy to break through the noise online. The New York Comic Con uses a mobile app to generate hype with exclusive contests to win NYCC swag.
  • Create an onsite game in your app. Use your app to let your fans take their role-playing to a new level. Create live action role playing adventures that take place throughout your event and lets other attendees play the game with each other. The fandom inception will be a new and creative experience that keeps attendees engaged with your app — and your event.
  • Make your event available online — and offline. If you’re a fan yourself, you’ve no doubt been to an event at a large convention centre and scoffed at the lack of mobile service. These venues are notorious for their spotty signals. Attendees can’t check in on social media or text friends to meet up at a booth. And if your app isn’t equipped, it won’t work onsite. Thankfully, improvements to mobile apps have ensured your attendees can use your app anytime — even if there’s limited or no cell signal. Platforms like Aloompa don’t require a signal, which means your attendees can use the app at all times.

Want more fandom tips?

Whether your event is a large convention in Sydney or a small con in Bendigo, the right technology has the potential to create unforgettable experiences for your fans. For more ways to level up your con, read The Do’s and Don’ts of Fandom Events: A Director’s Guide.