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iPad: It Just Works…But Will It Work For Events?

Today, Steve Jobs announced Apple’s latest product the iPad. For most of us “shiny object people” this was a much anticipated announcement.


Well – Apple products have been known to change the way that we interact with technology and experience life. Look at the iPhone, the iTouch, the itunes store and app store. These things have changed the way that hundreds of millions of people experience technology.

Also as was said many times today by Steve Jobs: It just works. When it comes to technology – everyone likes technology that just works.

What is so cool about the new iPad? Have a look for yourself. Here is a short video from Apple that explains everything.


Will It Work For Events?

Today, at events, we already have event applications built around laptops, mobile phones and purpose built devices. What if anything would the iPad be good for at an event?

Here are some event applications that popped into my head while watching the live announcement:

  • Larger Screen = bigger fonts = easier readability for all types of attendees (like baby boomers). This means that you could create e-versions of your Show Daily, conference guide and exhibitor guides. This would make it very easy to make an event paperless AND preserve your sponsorship revenue.
  • Incorporating Multimedia. There will be a clear opportunity to include multiple photos and video clips from the show floor in the e-versions of the Show Daily. Electronic Exhibitor guides could contain video demonstrations of products. Electronic Conference binders could contain speaker videos. The kicker? If you are recording sessions these sessions could be setup online and available for viewing/downloading on the iPad right away.
  • Interactive Demos. Today – interactive demos can be a challenge to run on the show floor. I think that we will see more and more interactive marketing companies creating demos, games, quizes, etc that get attendees engaged on the show floor (or in the streeet). These apps will help companies capture new leads, qualify them, and feed them into the CRM system right on the show floor. In my opinion, the iPad – as a hybrid of the iphone and the laptop – will be perfect for this type of application.
  • Agendas, One-to-One Appointments, and Personalized Agendas. Did you see the new calendar function? I think that someone will come up with an application for the iPad that creates personalized agendas for attendees, schedules appointments, etc. While the iPad frontend needs to be easy to use – the database, scheduling engine and reporting will be a powerful part of this solution.
  • Corporate Backchannel. With the powerful user interface and portability, I could see someone creating a corporate backchannel application that runs on the iPad. While any device could be used to enter comments into the backchannel – the iPad advantage will be in viewing all of the other comments on the backchannel and privacy. Corporates don’t want their internal discussions tweeted to everyone.
  • Speaker Q&A. I can see iPads sprinkled across the roundtables in a large conference room. Attendees can use them to enter questions for speakers, see what others asked, and maybe even rate/rank them. How cool would it be to rate questions for the CEO? Awesome!
  • Way-Finding. I can see people using the iPad GPS to figure out the best route to their next appointment on the show room floor or to another part of the center or to the off-site event this evening. (Note: GPS may not be accurate enough to find most 3X3 meter booths inside of a hall.)
  • Sponsorship.  There was a lot of screen real-estate for including innovative sponsorships – beyond banners. I am sure we will see some innovative digital sponsorship applications emerge.

A Word of Caution

  • Venue Wifi Sucks. enough said.
  • Devices For Each Person. For the situations where each attendee needs a device – IMO the purpose built device will be a better solution than a mobile phone or iPad type product. Why? The purpose built devices have return-me-now alarms. They have higher adoption rates. They come with private networks. Usually…they come with trained staff that know how to manage the technology across many different user types.

Bottom Line

The iPad is a new platform that will change the way that we experience events. Not necessarily – because of the ways that I suggested above.  I think the iPad’s biggest impact on events will come from showing attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and event organizers a new way to use technology and experience life.  As people get more comfortable with these new technology experiences they will start demanding similar types of experiences from their face-to-face events.

So – those are my first impressions. What do you think?

It just works….But will it work for events?

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is the Managing Director of Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC. He wakes up every morning to save the world from stuffing attendees in chairs for hours on end at events. Oh, and he has small children who usually want some breakfast.