There’s something about a “real-world” conference that can’t be duplicated.
However, your experience can be enhanced with the right apps.
When attending a real-world conference, you benefit from the energy of a room full of like-minded people, the ability to grab lunch with a favorite presenter and the opportunities to network with other attendees.
In this article I’ll reveal mobile apps that can help you maximize your time and results when attending your next real-world conference.
Why Mobile Apps at Conferences?
Before we look at some essential conference apps, let’s take a look at how we got here.
First came the paper era.
Years ago, you would attend conferences armed only with a pad of paper and a writing implement (or you’d annoy your neighbor with requests to borrow his).
You’d collect business cards, gather receipts and carry around a tote bag full of exhibitor booth sell sheets and sticky notes. In short, you’d arrive home with reams of paper.
Next came the laptop era.
Later, some forward-thinking people would bring laptops to take notes. Wi-Fi was still uncommon, but they could save their notes for later review.
As more people starting bringing laptops, the value of power sources and extension cords skyrocketed. Outlets became conference campfires, with attendees sitting cross-legged on the floor in semi-circles around them. Chants of kumbaya could often be heard echoing down conference hallways.
Welcome to the mobile era.
Now you’ll likely come armed with a tablet and smartphone to make the most of your conference experience. You take notes, take pictures and record videos. You connect, engage and follow up. And the apps available on these mobile devices continue to evolve.
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Here are some of the best apps you’ll want to consider for your next conference.
#1: Evernote—Remember Everything
No matter how advanced conferences and technology become, the number-one activity of most attendees will be to take notes to get the most out of each presentation.
There are plenty of note-taking apps available, but the favorite of most attendees, marketers and businesspeople is Evernote.
Once you set up your free account, you can access Evernote from your laptop, tablet or smartphone. (I can’t count the number of times this has come in handy as my laptop battery is about to die, but my tablet or phone is fully charged.)
Evernote allows you to create different notebooks, and keep individualized notes in each one. That way you can create a virtual notebook for the conference you attend and then create a separate note for each individual presentation.
It’s simple to find content in notes as Evernote has a robust search feature and even suggests related searches.
You can also include photos (of your favorite presenter or a detailed slide you’ll want to review later), audio, tags, URLs and more in each note.
Evernote is available on all mobile devices and is free.
#2: Twitter (or Your Favorite Twitter App)—Network in Real-Time
Twitter is a critical app for any social media, marketing or tech conference and it comes in handy at just about any other conference.
Most conferences promote their own hashtag, a short tag that people use in tweets so that more people can follow the conversation, whether they are physically at the conference or stuck at the office.
At The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference last year, we used the #aoc2012 hashtag. This allowed physical ticket holders, digital ticket holders and even people who just wanted to follow along on Twitter to tweet and retweet the best content.
Another great feature of Twitter is when you only have your smartphone. Taking notes on a phone is pretty tough, but if the audience is filled with people sharing content on Twitter, all you need to do is follow the hashtag, wait until someone tweets out the note you were going to take, and hit retweet. When you get home you can go through your Twitter feed to see your notes.
The Twitter app is available on all mobile devices. It’s free, although some third-party apps may charge.
#3: Facebook Messenger—Keep in Contact With Friends
Facebook is a little unwieldy as a conference app. It doesn’t offer the real-time interaction of Twitter, and it’s not a great tool for taking notes, which would clutter up your timeline and bore your Aunt Matilda to tears.
However, Facebook Messenger is a great, real-time tool for keeping in touch with one or multiple friends during a conference.
You can reach your Facebook friends right on their phones, quickly message them to meet up after the current session, or make plans with entire groups for a post-conference dinner or other event.
Facebook Messenger is available on iOS, Android and Blackberry and it’s free.
#4: Foursquare—Make the Most of Where You Are
For large conferences, Foursquare is a must. When there are multiple tracks and your friends are all over the place, Foursquare quickly shows you where people are.
Also, since multi-day conferences often have official and unofficial parties after the learning is done, Foursquare helps you quickly determine where the best networking is taking place.
Whether you want to go there or avoid it for a quiet night of decompressing is entirely up to you.
Foursquare is available on all mobile devices and it’s free.
#5: CardMunch—Turn Business Cards Into Contacts
There’s little doubt that one of the biggest advantages of attending an in-person conference is networking.
The more people you meet, the more business cards you acquire. At big conferences, you might end up with dozens of cards. By the time you get back to the office, catch up on old emails and get back into the swing of things, you’re looking at an intimidating pile of cards.
CardMunch quickly scans business cards and pulls the information into LinkedIn. This makes it easier to connect and follow up.
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CardMunch is available on the iOS platform and it’s free.
#6: Evernote Hello—Keep Track of Your Connections
Another great networking app is Evernote Hello.
With your permission, this app can connect your DayTimer, LinkedIn profile, Facebook account, phone contacts and more to help you remember all of those great contacts you made at a conference or any other event.
You can scan business cards or enter in people’s information manually. You can even instantly connect to a group of people using the Hello Connect feature.
Hello can automatically pull in related information about people you meet from your phone, online networks, your own Evernote account and more, to create robust profiles and enhance your networking.
Check out their how-to video.
Evernote Hello is available on iOS and Android. There’s a free version and a paid upgrade is available.
#7: Camera App (Your Choice)—Create Content That’s Easy to Share
There are plenty of benefits to documenting the conference through photography. In fact, photos are some of the easiest, quickest ways to create content for your social media networks and possibly the most viral.
Take snapshots of important presentation slides, establish “social proof” by having your photo taken with big-name speakers, or just take fun pictures with friends—both old and new—at networking events.
You can use your tablet or smartphone’s default camera, upgrade to an app with more features or use a fun app like Instagram that has its own social platform.
You’ll find camera apps for all mobile devices with free options and various prices for upgrade options.
#8: Video App (Your Choice)—Interview Experts
These days, attendees are as likely to create content as they are to consume it. One of the easiest ways to get great content for your blog, podcast or YouTube channel is a video interview.
At most social media and marketing conferences, you’ll often see people interviewing speakers and fellow attendees to share great content with their own audiences.
All modern smartphones and tablets come with built-in video recorders and most include some kind of video editing or sharing software. If you don’t want to wait until you get home to edit and share your video, there are several video editing apps for different platforms.
On the iOS, iMovie is a popular choice for $4.99.
Once your videos are on your phone, you can upload them to Facebook with either the Facebook standard app or the Pages app for page managers.
You can also upload them to your YouTube channel using the YouTube app, and then embed them in your blog using the WordPress app!
#9: Shoeboxed—Eliminate Your Paper Clutter
Real-world events usually require an outlay of real-world cash. That’s where an app like Shoeboxed can come in handy.
With Shoeboxed, you can snap pictures of receipts and Shoeboxed will automatically enter the date, total, payment type, store and category of expense.
Create and send expense reports right from your phone, or export expenses into several popular accounting packages like QuickBooks.
Check out their how-to video.
Shoeboxed is available on iOS and Android and there’s both a free and a paid version.
#10: Facebook—Keep Up With Friends
While Facebook may not be a great app during a conference (it just doesn’t offer the real-time interaction of Twitter), it’s a great tool for following up afterward.
It’s the perfect tool for cementing the bonds you made at the event. You can “friend” people you met at the conference, tag new and old contacts in photos and comment on the conference’s Facebook Event Page.
Also, with Facebook’s new Graph Search, it’s easy to find people by name or those who have liked the conference. This makes follow-up easier than ever.
You can access Facebook across all mobile devices and it’s free.
Use These Apps at Your Next Conference
Whether you’re looking to learn, network or create content at an event, there are plenty of mobile apps to choose from for your tablet or smartphone. Be sure to consider the apps you’ll want to use at your next conference.
An excellent opportunity to use these mobile apps is at Social Media Marketing World. This is Social Media Examiner’s latest mega-conference—taking place at the waterfront San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina in San Diego, California on April 7-9, 2013.
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Now it’s your turn! What other apps have you used at past conferences, or what other tactics can you share with fellow Social Media Examiner readers on how to make the most of their next in-person conference? Let us know in the comments below.
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