The first Apple iPhone went on sale 10 years ago. Apple’s iPhone gave rise to whole new industries and then laid waste to others. Former CEO Steve Jobs called it Apple’s “truly magical product” when announcing the 2007 launch.


As the smartphone device turns 10, its impact on everything from music to maps to your meetings is clear. Since its launch, it’s had an impact on almost every aspect of event management. For example, planners and companies now routinely offer attendees onsite charging stations or sponsored charging lockers, yet it’s still up for debate if there can ever really enough places to power up!


Here we take a quick look at how the smartphone changed the meetings and events experience and how you can now use those changes -positive and negative- to your advantage.


Expectations – As attendees come to rely on their iPhones to make aspects of their lives easier, they’ve naturally come to expect it to make their conference experience easier as well. This technology has upped attendee expectations. The new meetings and events standard is to have a website that is mobile-friendly or a dedicated app. The latest tech update to a conference app is a virtual personal assistant built right in. In addition, if an association or planner uses that app to stream parts of their conference, it is becoming an effective way to engage people who otherwise would have been unable to attend.


Distractions – Since people use mobile devices to manage both their work and personal lives, they can sometimes be distracted at meetings. According to research by Princeton University, the average person touches his or her cell phone 2,617 times a day! So it’s no surprise that a conference speaker might look up to find attendees looking down at their phones. Your team can take advantage of these smartphone habits and disrupt those very disruptions. Program your conference event app to publish a push notification to the audience every 8 to 10 minutes, so that attendees receive an alert that directs their attention back to what’s happening in the venue or on stage.


Feedback – While cell phones have made it easier for attendees to connect and communicate via a meeting’s app or other social channels, it’s also made it easier for them to immediately share everything, including a quick picture or comment on what they’re not liking about an event, session, or speaker. While this is not always what staff may want to hear in the moment, this real-time feedback allows them to fix any issues or address any problems quickly. As an event team, utilize these social or app notifications and ask feedback-based questions to create a more personal relationship with the audience, and then incentivize participation with an onsite reward.