In this new series of blog posts, we are asking internal feature experts to do a deep-dive look at some of our most popular features and how they can and are being used to their fullest potential.
Messaging is a very powerful feature, and sometimes one that is underutilized. It allows conference teams to circulate efficiently a wide range of information. Messages can be planned and scheduled well in advance, or can be sent on the fly, when things change throughout the event. They can be sent with a push notification to indicate high importance or time sensitivity. And they can be sent to all attendees or targeted to particular groups or individuals.
Gather Digital account manager Wendy Nelson explains that one of the primary time-saving benefits of messaging is that event planners can prepare and schedule messages ahead of the conference to be delivered at just the right time.
For example, Wendy says, “You can send a reminder to take a survey or about Thursday night’s offsite activity—‘The bus leaves in 15 minutes'—so you don’t have to draft them during the event, when there are a million other things to get done.”
Take advantage of pre-scheduled messages. You can always go back and edit or delete messages, and create new ones as necessary.
Laser focus your messaging
Targeting is another great benefit, and, Wendy attests, likely the most powerful reason to employ messaging.
“If you’re assigning agenda sessions or allowing your participants to choose their own,” she says, “you can send a message, with a push notification, to just those attendees who’ve signed up for a specific session.”
It’s an incredibly efficient way to let folks know their session has been moved to a larger room or to remind them of their pre-session reading assignment.
Wendy points out that you can send messages to a particular type of attendee—say, C-level executives. “I’m working right now with an auditing firm, and on the first night of their event they’re holding a retired partner dinner. They can target reminder messages just to those individuals.”
You can also target messages by attendee group terms that you designate. An example would be the region of the country they’re coming from. If you decide you need to send a message just to the New Englanders, you can do that easily using a drop-down menu on your message-creation screen.
A large corporate client of Wendy’s recently used group terms to help coordinate sessions and
activities between their four business units. “They had four separate agendas and people were going in all directions,” she explains. “Everybody was tagged with the group term for their business unit, and messages were kept very specific.” It made for a dynamic, yet orderly experience.
“We advise our clients to send app download instructions to their attendees,” Wendy says. “In those instructions, we suggest they recommend that attendees activate the push notification functionality when downloading the app. If you’re like me, when you download an app and are asked if you want to receive push notifications, you generally decline. But here’s a situation where attendees really do want to say yes. It helps ensure that they have an optimal event experience.”
Wendy suggests that you use push notifications judiciously. “Don’t push every message. That can get annoying, and your guests are apt to start ignoring those messages. You have a good sense of what really warrants a push notification. Trust your instincts.”
Welcome them in
Wendy underscores the value of a welcome message for when attendees download and first open the app. “A message on the home screen allows them to immediately engage.” Some client teams simply say, “Welcome to the conference! We hope you enjoy using your mobile app.” Others will open with a statement from the conference host.
“A message there also encourages people to explore the app right off the bat: ‘Oh; this is cool. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with this side menu.’ It gets the ball rolling.”
There are plenty of options here. Take full advantage.
Bid them adieu
Then that final message of the event might say, “Thanks so much for coming. Looking forward to seeing you at our next conference on Oahu in the spring,” including the dates and other particulars.
Messaging between attendees
Wendy also encourages her clients to fully leverage attendee-to-attendee messaging.
“I think it’s important to let your folks know that it’s available to them. A good example of effective use of attendee-to-attendee messaging for larger events is one I’m working now, at which there are 17 high-level execs who are attending the general conference but are also scheduling a steady stream of separate meetings, and need to regularly update one another.”
Wendy adds an example of a smaller gathering at which a training course is being conducted and guests are part of a cohort. “Attendee messaging is an easy way for them to stay in close contact.”
Delve into the details
Wendy suggests that while you don’t want to send too many messages, it’s not a bad idea to send a few instructional messages at the outset to help guests understand the many things an app can do for them.
If you’re offering continuing education credits, you can include a brief description of the process. Remind your guests to post photos or comments. Playing the badge game? Send them to the game info section of the app.
In sum, Wendy advises, “Be concise and direct with your messaging. Your guests are there to focus on your event’s proceedings. Offer some guidance, then step back. The app will take it from there.”