How Tablet Friendly Is Your Conference?


Pew Research released an interesting report: Tablet Ownership 2013. Findings are based on phone interviews conducted with 2,252 adults ages 18 and older in April and May 2013.

Attendees are toting tablets at conferences and trade shows in record numbers. They’re downloading slide decks, taking notes, verifying facts, swapping content info, snapping photos, tweeting, posting and scanning attendee lists to figure out who they need to meet next. This tablet surge is strong, growing fast and it spans all generations.

Here are four big takeaways from the Pew Research report, along with a few thoughts about how this might impact your event:

1) 34% of Americans ages 18 and older own a tablet (iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus, Kindle Fire).

Tablet ownership is rising fast, with a 9% surge since last August. Are you ready to deliver helpful content via tablet through a smart mobile app? Do you have adequate WiFi and charging stations to support attendees who are packing two or more devices?

2) 56% of households earning at least $75,000 per year own at least one tablet.

If your conference attracts mid or top-tier executives, it’s a safe assumption that nearly everyone will have access to a tablet. Savvy planners will observe how attendees utilize these devices to consume and interact with the conference. They’ll consider how this emerging technology can be leveraged to improve the attendee experience and value proposition.

3) In May 2010, US tablet ownership was at just 3%.

From 3% to 34% in two short years? Even for technology, that’s an incredible growth spurt. Where do you think we’ll be two years from now? What steps are you taking now to make sure you can deliver on future expectations? 2015 will be here before you know it.

4) Highest rates of ownership are adults ages 35-44.

Gen X is quickly advancing, not just in their tablet ownership, but in their climb up the ladder. Nearly half (49%) own a tablet. How does that match up against audience segments you want to attract and grow? Add education (college degree and higher) and household income (>$75K) to the mix and you’ll see ownership rates soar even higher.

Tablets Improve Learning, Networking & ROI

As attendees navigate your conference or trade show floor, they’re now better equipped to document key takeaways, valuable insight, new contacts, etc. Even better, many are scheduling follow-up steps to pursue once they’re back at the office.

How fast are you advancing on the tablet (and mobile app) curve? If your biggest obstacles are internal (getting funding and approval), you might forward this Pew Research report to your leadership team. Then schedule time to discuss the ramifications of not delivering tablet-friendly content, both for your conference and your brand. That 75+ page four-color print program isn’t aging so gracefully and that’s a tough image to shake with an audience that craves innovation and forward thinking.

How tablet friendly is your conference? What challenges are you encountering as you make the shift to digital?

Adapted from Donna’s Meeting Innovation post on Cvent’s Event Planning blog. ©2013.

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  1. Emily says:

    I’m curious – does anyone know what kinds of studies get this data on the stats of tablet use? It seems like a really interesting metric to investigate.

    I’m from Bloodhound, an app that makes any iPhone, Android or tablet a badge and business card scanner at events, so we’re constantly interested in how we can be more helpful to everyone at events.

  2. Meagan Rockett says:

    I really appreciate this post, thanks to Donna for telling everyone that tablet use improves networking, learning & ROI.

    Very recently I was tweeting & taking notes via my iPad and the person sitting next to me asked me to stop as it was “disruptive”. Now, I have a keyboard with my iPad, but I still don’t see how I was disrupting the learning process.

    Conferences are changing – and we all need to learn to roll with it!

  3. Sam Smith says:

    Great data and great post Donna!

    I think we as an event’s industry are still trying to figure out how to change content delivery and design second screen experiences for our events. I think the tablet will be a central part of that experience for people in the room and online.

    Recently, I think that Major League Baseball and EMC have done a nice job with second screen social experiences. I like how they captured and highlighted conversations around social moments at their events. I think that we (as an industry) should be looking at opportunities to do something similar around association conferences and other trade shows.

    Thanks for sparking some thinking, Donna.

    – Sam

  4. Donna Kastner says:

    Pew Research is the source for this data — a good resource to watch in the future. Thanks for your comment, Emily.

    Hopefully that person distracted by your iPad was in the minority. I agree – conferences are changing and we all need to be leaning forward to identify smart changes that will enhance the attendee experience. Thanks for sharing your story, Meagan.

    Thanks for pointing us to MLB and EMC as smart second screen practitioners. Though not an event, the Cleveland Museum of Art is also making incredible use of tablets to enhance the guest experience. Thanks for sharing your insight, Sam.

  5. […] Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections blog posted “How Tablet Friendly Is Your Conference?” by Donna Kastner in July. In addition to citing statistics from the Pew study, Kastner suggests […]

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