Who cares if your event app is flaky? Everyone!

So, you’re an organiser gearing up for that huge event or trade show. You’ve even invested in a specialist mobile app for attendees and delegates to download. What can go wrong?

Unfortunately, quite a bit. We’ve spoken to several big event organisers in the past and determined that, on average, the main event app is usually downloaded by only about 30% of the audience

Why so few?

Often, because the app simply isn’t good enough. It’s not uncommon to discover that event apps just aren’t really intuitive – or for that matter, functional. Many of them claim to do some pretty dramatic and impressive things but in practice they fail to deliver on their promises.

For example, at a recent big trade show in Cannes, France, the official app put its meet-up feature front and centre. It looked great in principle. Visitors and delegates would be able to search for contacts (all of whom were expertly profiled), connect with them and even book meetings.

In reality, it simply didn’t work. Some messages didn’t get through. On occasion, messages from one contact were allocated to a totally different person. The chat features were flaky and patchy internet connections on-site prompted the app to freeze or crash entirely.

It’s incredible that this type of thing still happens in our tech-driven business world, but unfortunately it often just doesn’t get the attention and focus it deserves. Many event organisers still see a specialist app as a niche or peripheral option within the portfolio of products they have to offer.

And yet at the same time, a misfiring app can have a considerable negative impact on an event:

  • Firstly, the people at the event will be massively inconvenienced if the app doesn’t deliver on its big promises. Just like the delegates in Cannes who were unable to line up the meetings they wanted
  • Secondly, the organisation that actually sponsored the app and has its brand all over the app, will suffer significant levels of reputational damage. The sponsors of the Cannes app were incredibly embarrassed because people assumed it was their technology that was to blame, even though it was nothing to do with it.

Since it was a technology company, that’s hardly the sort of word of mouth publicity it was seeking.

However, done correctly and well, an app can be an invaluable technology addition to support a big event. It allows the event organiser to deliver a better experience to delegates and gathers important data about attendee activities and behaviour, which is then used to inform the sales process.

It can be customised, used to provide feedback and integrated with gift and stock allocation. In short, the right app can be the difference between a good event and a great one. A flaky and malfunctioning app, on the other hand, can ruin it for everyone.

If you’d like to know more about Celadin and how we support event organisers through technology, please get in touch.

Event management in the new age of privacy and security

New privacy regulations like GDPR have made everyone more aware of the personal data they share, and their right to know and manage the personal details companies hold on them. For event managers organising high-end corporate events for VIP customers, the new age of privacy is changing everything, explains Celadin’s Simon Walker.

Balancing good event management with respecting both laws and culture around privacy and security is a growing challenge for event organisers we’re working with today.

Privacy is one of the defining issues of this digital age. Initiatives like GDPR are spearheading worldwide changes that present new challenges, but also new opportunities, for the events industry.


The technologies that we use in our event management software deliver an unprecedented amount of data to the companies we help organise events for, but in the new age privacy, where customers are quickly coming to understand the real value of their own personal data, being able to demonstrate good data governance has become a strong differentiator for events organisers.

When conference attendees agree to provide personal details these days they usually want to know three things: 1. Why is the data being collected? 2. What will it be used for? and 3. What happens to the data when the event is over?

Trust comes when delegates feel their privacy is respected

Integrating NFC (near field communication) technology such as Beacons – which pinpoints the location of individuals – provides event organisers with legitimately useful information, such as where they have been and when.

Attending conferences – and specific sessions such as keynote speeches – can be a condition of being at the whole event and, in some instances, is also a key test of whether the cost of the conference is eligible for tax purposes.

So, proving you were where you were meant to be at the right time is important for everyone. And if attendees didn’t attend a particular speech or breakout session then they should not be surprised to receive a text or email soon after the event from their line manager or conference organiser asking about the absence.

However, it is probably less important for the event organisers to know that you were still knocking out moves on the dancefloor or knocking back tequilas at the bar at two in the morning. That is …well… between you and your liver.

Keeping up to date with evolving privacy regulations

All event managers strive to comply with data privacy laws and inform delegates of their privacy rights when they download the app and sign up for the event.

Staying up to date with different privacy legislative provisions in different territories is a must for event organisers, either through in-house IT governance experts or external advisers. And part of that includes telling delegates their privacy rights including all important opt-outs.

Given all the publicity over recent months on online privacy issues – a quick search will reveal dozens of articles on the subject – it is not surprising that awareness among the majority of digital users is on the rise.

A recent US survey showed 78% were aware of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytics survey and that is proving to be a major turning point in the way consumers feel about their data privacy.


However, we at Celadin have known about the importance of privacy for some time. The people who attend the conferences that we help to stage have always been sophisticated users. That means many have always chosen to keep privacy at the highest available settings, turning down the opportunity to share data with other colleagues at the event.

That is absolutely fine. But it has always been interesting to see how different cultures have had different attitudes to the opt-in/opt-out option. Looking back a decade or more, it is fair to say that delegates from central Europe – such as Germany and Austria – were asking questions whereas delegates from the US and the UK used seemed to be more relaxed.

For instance, quite often the more concerned/curious would ask us what was stored on the chip on their delegate badge: the answer which we were happy to give was ‘nothing’.

And all that data which was collected during the event? It was never ours, it was always the clients, so we never kept any of it. Anything we had for the duration of the event was always stored securely. And afterwards our clients, of course, would manage all the event data in line with their normal data governance protocols.

Privacy questions are here to stay. With the advent of integration and sharing of images into digital technology, the need to respect privacy will constantly pose fresh questions. But they are not insurmountable; answers lie in understanding law, technology, best practice and – most importantly of all – the objectives for the event.

If you want to discuss any aspect of privacy please contact us

Integrate with Anything: PhotoTap and Celadin Event-Management Integration

For the last couple of years, a product called PhotoTap has been used at some of the events where our event-management system has been helping to run the show.

Based in Florida, PhotoTap supplies photographers who attend the prestigious events we help to run and are on hand to take photographs of the delegates during the event. You know the sort of thing: at the keynote speeches and sessions; in the workshops and roundtables; at the gala dinner and even – if the delegates get the chance – on the golf course. The snapper/photographers have been a staple of these events since the camera was small and light enough to hang around the neck.

However, we are collaborating with PhotoTap to bring corporate photography to the leading edge of the smart, digital age. Gone are the days of the photographer having to ask everyone who they are – and possibly mishearing and misspelling names, companies and job titles – or landing some junior in the marketing department the task of trawling through the photographs for weeks afterwards: “Are you sure that’s Frank from Wisconsin?”

To cut out such fun and games, on arrival every delegate is given a unique, wearable tag. After taking the delegate’s photograph, it is a moment’s work for the camera operator to also scan their tag using a device on the wi-fi and NFC-enabled [near field communication] camera, which then digitally identifies who is in the picture.

That in itself is pretty smart, making the task of capturing the event much more efficient, but this year we were asked to become involved with PhotoTap and we’ve pushed things along even further.

We succeeded in integrating the data that had been on PhotoTap’s tag into our badges which are linked to our event-management software. Our badges are the size of a credit card and use a unique serial number as the key for data posting. The result was neater (one less badge) and smarter.

A backend API [application programming interface] operation automatically fed the data we had on the badges to PhotoTap’s servers.

By doing so, PhotoTap were able to post each individual’s photographs in their personal app.
This was a new development for PhotoTap, previously the delivery had been by email only.
So imagine: you’ve just had a great photograph taken of you with some colleagues at an event session and the next moment it is on the secure event app on your phone.

The app is polling all the time so if it’s on it will receive the latest photograph.
After that, what the delegates choose to do with the image is up to them. Don’t worry, we’ve sorted out the privacy issues beforehand. The image is personal to the individual and no one else, unless those caught on camera, can choose to share it.

That means individuals are free to use the image on their favourite social media channel if they wish, it’s entirely up to them.

PhotoTap’s servers also automatically send the image to the email address the delegate has provided.
Cutting down on the number of badges the delegates required made life just a little easier for them and saved the client some money.

Making all that work – such as pushing all the data up to PhotoTap – wasn’t a big issue for us, although it did take some time. We did have to overcome one or two technical hurdles: for instance, delegates could have multiple badges so we had to allow, in our specifically-designed code, for the fact that they could present any of those badges for tapping but they still needed to receive the image.

It was great to work with PhotoTap and we look forward to collaborating with them again. We also think the process and work we did was a great snapshot (so to speak) of Celadin’s flexibility and ability to work with other software services to make our clients prestigious events run even better.

Integrate with anything

Other examples of integration include Celadin securely connecting to IBM’s identity-management and event-registration systems thereby allowing access to data such as travel arrangements and logistics, including which flight a delegate is on, which hotel they are booked into and which activities they are due to attend at the event.

Celadin pulls data from IBM every five minutes during the event to ensure changes such as travel arrangements are managed well. So, for example, delegates will be told when check out is due and where to meet the transport for the airport transfer.

This is the story of IBM’s senior events planners this May

You’re in charge of events at a world class bluechip technology focused company and you’re about to congratulate and celebrate your best employees, then suddenly everything changes.


Organisers faced some unwelcome choices at IBM’s exclusive “Best of” event this May when unforecast thunderstorms and high winds disrupted long-laid plans for the platinum grade event. Downpours and high winds made the outdoor venues for some of the events most anticipated features impractical.

Having flown in a thousand of its highest performing employees and their guests to Nassau for the Best of IBM, the events team faced an unprecedented logistics challenge: Deploying last-minute contingency plans was going to be hard, but alerting all the attendees of so many changes at such short notice was going to be even harder.

Events technology specialists Celadin were on point ready to handle things

Celadin’s events system supports IBM at every guest touchpoint. Registration systems onsite impress with frictionless processes and allow attendees and their guests to accelerate through the onboarding process. Exclusive apps provide attendees with timely updates and comprehensive personalised schedules. But when you’re hosting an event in unprecedented weather conditions, it’s the human touch that makes all the difference.

“We’ve been supporting IBM at its most prestigious events for over 15 years,” says Celadin’s Simon Walker. “Our remit has always been to ensure that IBM’s attendees have the best possible event experience with technology at every customer touchpoint. But when dramatic weather conditions spark multiple last-minute event changes, the full power of Celadin’s event support system really comes through.”

“Many of the experiences planned by the events team were scheduled to take place outdoors, but with such unreliable weather forecast this became impossible. Clear blue skies turned to thunderstorms in just minutes and downpours triggered without warning,” explains Simon.  

“As a result, the events team needed to implement last-minute location changes. Backup inside venues were configured and entire attendee experiences were re-planned. That in itself was more than enough for most events teams to tackle, but with so many last-minute changes required, communications became pivotal to success.”

Addressing the communications challenge required some robust technology coupled with agile thinking

Every person at the Best of IBM is offered an exclusive mobile app, and that app has now become the primary source of news for changes in timings and locations.

The app is adaptable and is built to accommodate changes to any plans, but with so many changes announced at such short notice, its importance was magnified tenfold during the showcase this May.

“One of the problems we needed to overcome was due to the personal preferences built into the app itself,” explains Simon. “It’s configured to offer real-time alerts to delegates who want to keep pace with every aspect of the show, but some delegates opt to turn these real-time options off. Additionally, real-time alerts depend on the user being in range of either a mobile signal or the venue’s Wi-Fi.”

“That’s OK 99% of the time, when changes may be causing only minimal inconvenience, but when you’re informing delegates of significant, last-minute location changes, making sure that app is able to alert all users all the time becomes critical.”  

“Our solution was to re-calibrate the system and make sure every critical venue change was preloaded into the app’s scheduled updates sequence.”

Scheduled updates work differently to real-time alerts on the Celadin app. The platform is designed to sync scheduled updates with the installed app whenever the phone is in range of a signal, then display that update at a predetermined time.  If the user has opted to turn off dynamic real-time alerts, it does not matter. The scheduled update still appears.

For the attendees and their guests at the Best of IBM recognition of the attendees’ performance, bad weather didn’t dampen the spirits or diminish the quality of the event.

But behind the scenes it was fast thinking coupled with some agile technology that kept the outlook bright.

Playing Straight On The Event Technology Curve

Event managers and planners depend on our events management systems. When we create engaging experiences for IBM’s VIP delegates worldwide we are careful about the software we use.

Software developers are constantly striking a balance between using the latest, leading-edge technology and sticking with the tried and trusted. Our event management software has to work first time with an extremely demanding audience so we take a measured approach to using the latest technology.

Whilst off the shelf is fine for rapidly developed, cost-effective output, it is not right for systems where shortcuts are not an option. The software has to provide a unique user interface (UI) as well as meeting IBM’s requirements on issues such as branding, colour palettes, style sheets (American English please) and the enterprise’s own font set.

The outcome of our bespoke platform is a 100% robust product which provides an unrivalled customer experience.

Hardware changes too. In the past, self-service kiosks powered by RFID [radio-frequency identification] demonstrated the latest technology on offer for registration and delivering programmes. This was followed by the era in which
we provided both the hardware – tablets were given to delegates and then retrieved – and software. Today’s software challenges focus on providing apps that work perfectly on individual’s own devices.

In these days of the ubiquitous smartphone, it is easy to forget that only recently it was not unusual for delegates to turn up to events without any hardware of their own. Even when phones became common they were not always roaming enabled allowing cross borders access.

Whatever the hardware and software, for us the imperative of getting it right first time remains ever present. That stays the challenge even if the client suddenly needs to ask for significant unforeseen last-minute changes.

That capacity for urgent alterations means having software tools that can cope with our need to deal with the unexpected. For one event we worked flat out just before the event started to significantly change the look and feel of the app.

Such challenges do not lie solely in our own hands. In that case, we needed the App Store to publish the resubmitted app by the deadline which couldn’t change.

That may be exceptional but, given the demanding environment in which these events are set, the specification will always be a moveable feast, even up to the last moment. Our approach is to say yes to requests and then to figure out how to build them into our platform.

While our platform, the shell of our app, may stay the same for some time, every event has subtle differences which we may not know about until we are actually on site. This has set us to rewrite our system more than once over the years backfilling the application to improve the UI.

Those differences, driven by the requirements of individual’s events, cannot disguise the fact that, rightly, IBM is conservative in the software it wants to power its events.

With CEOs of the USA’s biggest companies, top regulators and politicians attending your VIP events, the last thing you want is a software malfunction in front of delegates at a prestigious live event.  

But, even so, we develop and refine the app. For instance, recent features include an emphasis on social interaction, with an ability to add as favourites those who attend the same multitrack session or social event. And we’re looking at linking the photographs taken at the event with the individual to create a stream of ‘liked’ event images.

Such changes are introduced with care and after thought and discussion of the impact on those who attend, as well as a process of ensuring the robustness of the technology.  

Our product is the exact opposite of one size fits all. It is bespoke and custom built using software on which we are literally building our business and staking our reputation.

Enterprise Strength Event Systems

Running event management systems for VIP delegates in top locations means you can end up in some odd situations. Space is always at a premium; but this was especially the case when one time we ended up running the server operation in a hotel kitchen in Rio de Janeiro.

It was equally cramped when the best place to keep the servers was in the bathroom of the hotel bedroom, and there we had the added challenge of keeping the systems dry.

Whatever the situation –  however inhospitable and however complicated the infrastructure challenge – the objective is always to use our software to deliver seamless visitor experiences to discerning delegates.

The truth is that we take software development and hardware deployment seriously. At an event the success of the client’s event is dependent on us delivering what we said we would deliver, when we said we would deliver to the standard that we said we would deliver.

We do that because we know our reputation is at stake, as is the reputation of one of the world’s biggest and most reputable companies. Getting it wrong is not really an option. 

Systems crashing in front of the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies is not an option. It is about getting it exactly right when it really matters.

Elements in the process are too important to be left to anyone else, for instance at delegate registration or when gifts are distributed. At that point there is no question of a failure of service, which is why we take our own servers and our own network experts as back up.

Over the years our businesses and processes have developed. Even when the customer is happy with the software and the technology management of the event, we are never entirely happy.

The critical element is ensuring the software works, meets the exact and exacting specifications and gives a great user experience (UI). This is about handcrafting code and even when it has worked well, and the client is happy, we are never entirely happy: you always ask yourself what you could have done better.

It concentrates the mind – and informs the quality assurance processes we apply – knowing that the first time it is used by a large group of people is when it is put up on the App Store.

The greatest appreciation or vote of thanks you can get is to have clients returning to use your services years after year. We’ve had that acknowledgement from IBM for the last 20 years on the run.

In the end, there is no magic other than attention to detail and a sense of ownership which comes from being owner-operators. The product, the way it works, whether it is successful is everything to us. This is why we have a track record and a corporate culture of getting things right first time, time after time. Even if that involves setting up operations in hotel kitchens or bathrooms to get the job done right.

Top 5 Tech Trends Every Events Organiser Should Know About

Over the past 20 years, we have seen technology revolutionise the world of events management. When we began working with IBM in the mid-1990s, people had no idea how technology and data would impact their lives. No one had heard of an iPhone and event attendees were handed ring binders containing the information they needed.

In recent years, technology has fundamentally changed events for both planners and attendees. This year, as wearable technology and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to develop rapidly, we will see this technology being incorporated into more events.

This is our round-up of the top five tech trends you should be using this year.

1. NFC event apps

Smart badges and wristbands are being replaced by NFC-enabled apps, which use technology that is already available on smartphones and smart watches for contactless payments.

Attendees can use the app to make purchases, automatically upload photos and videos to social media and interact with sponsors and peers by sharing data, such as contacts.

For organisers, an NFC event app not only allows you to plan, track attendees and analyse the data, it speeds up the registration and check-in process and encourages more engagement from delegates. You can also make cash advances for hospitality, which VIP delegates can effortlessly activate through their phone or smart watch.

2. iBeacon

iBeacon connects our phones and smart watches to the physical space around us. For events, iBeacon can track an attendee’s location, which triggers a location-based action, such as automatically checking them in on social media or sending a push notification about something happening where they are.

You can also use iBeacon to add augmented reality elements to your event to improve engagement from attendees.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Chatbots improved dramatically last year, and are now in widespread use for customer service. At events, this technology can be deployed to answer routine questions quickly. This saves on staff costs for organisers and ensures attendees always get accurate, up-to-the-minute answers.

As well as customer service, AI is able to process large volumes of data about attendees, such as their habits and behaviours. This enables organisers to personalise the experience for each individual attendee, recommending which sessions they should attend, which stands to visit and who to connect with.

4. Wearables

The trend in wearable technology, and particularly smart watches, provides a unique opportunity for events organisers to reach their audience.

In conjunction with an NFC-enabled event app, iBeacon and AI, organisers can send personalised push notifications to attendees, including reminders of their scheduled events, last-minute changes to the timetable, and personalised recommendations.

5. Facial recognition

Still in its early stages, facial recognition technology offers an exciting opportunity for future events. It can significantly speed up the check-in process, reducing queues and overhead costs for events organisers, and improve security.

Crucially for events organisers, facial recognition technology is able to read people’s moods, which will provide true, in-the-moment feedback that can be used to improve the user experience.

Celadin has been at the forefront of technology in the events space for 20 years and we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what technology can do for events management.