Earlier this year I was lucky enough to go to America for three weeks. A fantastic holiday of a life-time where I visited my sister Lucy in Minnesota for a week before heading down to the sunshine state of Florida for some Disney mayhem.

There was a strange Déjà vu about the whole thing as it was the exact trip I completed in 1994 when I played school football in Minnesota before meeting up with my folks down in Florida for…yes you’ve guessed it,  some Disney mayhem.

This time was very different as I had my two boys with me and I was the chap in charge of the mayhem.

Whilst I could share photos until you lose the will the live and recount countless stories of this trip or that trip and the fun we had together; I want to focus on a particular thing I took away from my Disney experience. That is the use of their smartphone app My Disney World.

I used this app extensively over my holiday and during every trip to one of the Magic Disney kingdoms. Why wouldn’t I, it had everything I needed to help me make the most of every day and contained maps, up to date queue times, real time information on shows, pictures, updates and messages keeping me, the paying customer, in control and able to make informed decisions on how we spent our day. Disney of course provided free WiFi in most places within their parks so I could get access to the app and had help to make those critical decisions and learn more about what was happening. Check out some pictures below:

My Disney World

What I particularly liked was the real time information on queue times and messages sent through the app on what was happening in the park at key times. I could quite easily then bring up the map and work out which direction to go as to avoid the long waits. Just in time performance support.

There are other things I was going to write about this linked to just in time learning but the recent CIPD ACE Conference made me think again. Enter the @CIPD_Events app launched a few days before the CIPD ACE Conference here I’ve seen this done before at Learning Technologies Conference so it wasn’t the first conference app I’ve seen however it was easily an improvement on what has gone before. Even in my ‘exhibitor’ role with DPG plc I put the app through it’s paces (waving my pom poms) and really liked what I saw throughout the two days. Here are some screen shots:

CIPD Events App

These screen shots really don’t do it justice but hopefully give you a flavour of what you had (or didn’t have) at your disposal.

Let’s face it whether you are part of the conference or the exhibition there is SO MUCH going on over the two days it is easy to get side tracked or distracted and it’s easy to miss things that you’d really benefit from. Apparently the ‘My Agenda’ section was excellent and was a useful tool to help manage your schedule over the two days.

It wasn’t by any means the finished article but well done to the digital team from CIPD for creating an app that offered real value and added another dimension to the conference experience.

The Twitter feed was good however it would have been better to follow the actual hashtag #CIPD13 of the event rather than @CIPD_Events – even better why couldn’t we get options of what Twitter feed to follow from @CIPD_Events to the specific #CIPD13 stream or even speaker / bloggers supporting the event.

I particularly likes the updates / messages that came through during the day and think this is an area than can be developed further thinking about the real time Disney updates. These updates gave me a sense of belonging and being a part of something. I think this could be taken a step further with countdown’s to sessions, photos, and key info being shared leading up to and after sessions – this should also include free sessions and could work well for those who register interest for a session. I’d like to see things like user generated content being shared in ‘photo of the day’ and more two way communication between ‘The App’ and conference / exhibition attendees.

‘The App’ of course are those members of the CIPD team / volunteers who were helping, supporting, guiding, advising, showing, answering questions etc etc and in the absence of any fancy mechanics could text, email, whatsapp, tweet, vine, instagram, diigo or drive real time info from in and around the conference / exhibition to be distributed in the right way through actual app.

I’d love to be able to register my interest for things happening throughout the two days and get relevant updates or key bits of information about it e.g. the Hack. Personalise our experience by provided information on things we’re interested in and encourage us to get involved as it could be the difference between thinking “Oh well there’s always next year” and “right let’s head over there now and get involved”

EDIT: Thanks to @awooler for some great insights in the Jiveworld conference app and their use of games.

Thinking about the amount of games we play with our trusted smart phones why not have some fun with them at conferences. There was a treasure hunt during the conference to collect stickers from exhibition stands. Why not replace this with Q Codes stuck in various places throughout the exhibition? You could send clues via the app and if you flash the Q code it appears on your profile and you could do a badge system and league table updated in real time. Find all the Q codes in the restaurant areas and get the ‘Hungry Eater’ badge and a free coffee. You could do a lot with this and add some fun / competition to the exhibition / conference.

Even something as small as what food & drink is where, what’s being served and how much it costs would be useful.

I think we’ve only just started to see the potential of Conference apps and what extra they can bring but bravo to CIPD for making this years conference a little bit more magical.

Did you use the app?

What did you like about it?

What are your thoughts on how the app and how apps like this can be used to improve the Conference experience?