What to expect when you ask participants to BYOD

by | Jul 25, 2019

Many events and trainings call for some sort of learning aid
for participants to utilize and reference. Whether it’s a simple meeting agenda, an event schedule, or a comprehensive resource such as learning guides or reinforcement quizzes, you’ll likely need participants to efficiently access key information to increase learning retention.

Printed guides or aids used to be the most cost-effective and viable solutions; however, the limitations of spiral-bound packets and hard copies are gone because today’s digital options offer limitless possibilities. Smart devices can be a much more interactive, engaging, and productive event tool for your participants—and their use provides greater ROI. Now, we can send digital schedules, interactive maps, quizzes, and surveys straight to a participant’s mobile device through web-based apps and microsites. Talk about convenience! 

Anticipate Your Audience

While we’re dodging the need for dependable writing utensils, stable surfaces for written assignments, and avoiding misplaced or damaged materials, we do run into challenges when we ask participants to bring their own devices in place of receiving paper-based printouts and workbooks. Below are the most common challenges our company, automätik, anticipates when planning events that incorporate the BYOD solution (and how we overcome them!):

Not everyone will have a smartphone.

Yes, it’s true—even in 2018, not every one of your participants will have a device that supports viewing and interacting with a carefully crafted and brilliantly designed participant guide or microsite. In fact, some may see it as a nuisance.

While you won’t be able to please everyone, for those who don’t own their own smart device, we highly recommend utilizing backup devices pre-programmed with all the apps and required content (iPad Mini rentals are automätik’s go-to backup solution). If your budget doesn’t allow for having extra devices on hand, consider pairing those individuals with other participants who do have their own device, so they can still view videos and participate in the interactive elements.

Not everyone will know how to use their device.

We’ve seen it all—not knowing how to download apps, not knowing what an internet browser is, not knowing where to type in a website URL. For participants with these knowledge gaps, a digital guide may not only feel stressful for them, they might feel embarrassed and overwhelmed, which could take away from their event experience. We recommend communicating certain digital instructions prior to the event. Instructions can be sent via text blast or by email (or even by paper welcome packets/invitations). This gives participants an opportunity to tackle the digital pre-work on their own time, in a safe space, and without any pressure.

Nevertheless, there will inevitably be some guests who need hands-on assistance on-site during the event. If available, we recommend ensuring all registration coordinators and event staff are knowledgeable about the basic technology resources used at the event. This ensures participants have several channels for smart device support. Instruct your event staff to regularly check in with participants during registration, breakfast, shuttle bus rides, or any other pre-event activity. This will greatly reduce panic and time spent troubleshooting during the actual event. Common directives that support staff could confirm with participants include:

  • Connecting to venue Wi-Fi
  • Downloading the digital event guide and other required apps
  • Typing a URL into a browser (vs. Google, etc.)
  • Entering username or password credentials
Not everyone will charge their phone before your event.

Whether they forget to charge their phone the night before your event, or they use their phone so much that their battery drains before noon, you’re certain to run into battery issues when utilizing participants’ devices during an event or training. Depending on how substantial the digital requirements are for your event, supplemental charging options might be necessary. If your event only requires 2-3 hours of phone use, a charging station, for instance, is likely not needed. However, if your event spans an entire day, at least one robust charging station is advised in a central location (often an event’s lunch space).

As a best practice at automätik, we aim to make public charging stations available in every “common space.” Common spaces might include meal rooms, lounges, or even certain learning environments, if necessary. Charging stations are relatively inexpensive to pull off with a multi-port USB block and a handful of phone charging cables.

Pro tip: Remember to include an assortment of charging cables (lightning, micro-USB, USB C, etc. to accommodate a variety of smart devices).

A second strategy is to give personal power banks to participants as event gifts or “swag.” If your budget permits, small external batteries can be charged prior to your event, can be customized with your event logo, and can be utilized by participants as needed. Guests will feel at ease knowing they have power for the duration of the event.

Data, internet, or both?

 No matter what kind of digital content you’ve created, if you rely upon cellular service rather than Wi-Fi, you’ll be asking participants to use their personal data plans to participate in the curriculum. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal for participants, and the data requirements are minimal. If there are interactive videos, graphics, live polling, and quizzing, you could be asking folks to use more personal data than they normally would on any given day. At the very least, set expectations prior to the event (like a registration disclaimer, for instance).

If available, utilize the venue Wi-Fi and provide the appropriate connection instructions. If data requirements are considerable to support the event’s digital content, look into additional Wi-Fi solutions.

That’s a Wrap!

While some of these preparations and strategies might seem tedious or out of reach, always keep the participant experience at the forefront of all event planning elements. Technology can produce a minefield of issues during a training event, and the last thing you (and we) want is for that minefield to take away from the participants’ ability to learn and retain key concepts. The Bring Your Own Device solution has extensive benefits—financially, logistically, and creatively. With that in mind, even the most opportune solutions require an expert level of preparedness. We hope the strategies discussed above add to your “toolbox” and offer some helpful insight into handling participant smart devices.