The ConventionistIf you just got back from PAX East this weekend, or went to Emerald City Comic Con last week, you might have had the chance to download The Conventionist app from Proxima Labs on your Apple or Android-powered mobile device. It just may be the greatest thing to come to a convention since Herbert “Boomer” Washington. If you’ve ever gone to a con, you know the pain in the butt of going through the convention guide book, picking out the panels you want to go to, checking to make sure they don’t conflict with each other time-wise, entering them manually into your calendar… and then you have to lug around the guide book the rest of the day. It’s not impossible, but there are more pleasant experiences.

What The Conventionist does is streamline that entire process. Download the guide for the convention you are attending, scroll through the various panels, touch them, and it automatically sends you an update when that panel is going to happen. Mix that with maps, news, Twitter feeds – it’s a one-stop all-access convention going tool!

I got to talk with Jeff Lewis, co-founder of Proxima Labs, to find out a little more about the inner workings of The Conventionist.

CONMANIA: Can you describe how The Conventionist works?

Jeff: The Conventionist is a mobile guide that makes both attending and organizing events easier. It allows you to access everything you need – schedules, maps, local restaurants and attractions, a live Twitter feed – right on your smartphone. You can make personalized schedules, program event reminders, and give feedback to the event coordinators, all through the app. Best of all, it’s completely free for attendees to download.

C: How did you develop the app?

J: My co-founders Peter, Kevin and I were attending conventions and conferences as part of our jobs for years. We noticed we weren’t getting as much out of each event as we could have and that the events were often chaotic and disorganized and lacked a way for everyone at the event to access information about what was going on. It became clear that the vast majority of people take all the materials they receive during registration and either tuck them deep away into a bag, never to be seen again, or place them in the nearest garbage can. We wanted to change this and make all the information easily accessible in one place – and thus, The Conventionist was born.

C: What’s the feedback been line, both from attendees and the conventions themselves?

J: Feedback has been fantastic. We’ve been blown away by it, really. Event organizers say that it has helped them tremendously in getting information out to their attendees and everyone who has downloaded the app has found it incredibly useful as well. We literally get emails just thanking us for the app. An added bonus is that since we offer in-app sponsorships, event organizers are actually turning a profit from using The Conventionist – they’re selling sponsorship space for much more than the cost of our service. It’s been a huge success for everybody involved.

C: Say I’m a convention – how do I get my guide in the app?

J: We work directly with event organizers: they email us the information about their event to staff@proximalabs.com and we upload it directly into the app. It’s an easy and streamlined process and event organizers have been telling us left and right how much easier it has made their jobs overall. We’ve partnered with large conventions like PAX Prime, Emerald City Comicon, and Anime LA and smaller events like SacAnime – The Conventionist works great for any size convention.

C: While some conventions are cutting edge when it comes to technology, others are just figuring out how to properly use their email lists. Are you helping cons understand the app and how to get it out to their attendees?

J: Absolutely – we prepare all of our clients with a launch kit. We design them an email template to send out to their attendees, which includes our client’s branding and clear instructions regarding how to download the mobile guide. We also design a poster for our clients to place in their registration area – it even includes a QR code, those square bar codes you can read with your smartphone, so attendees can scan the image and get the guide for their event within seconds.

C: The Conventionist downloads its information in advance. If a convention has a change of schedule, will I find out about it through the app?

J: Yes. We make ourselves completely available to our clients. People call, text, or email us from their convention asking us to update the guide and we can make the changes within a few minutes. Attendees will then be prompted to update the guide the next time they use it. We’re releasing a self-service interface for clients, which will be launching in April so clients can make these changes themselves. They’ll also be able to use the interface during the initial process of building the guide.

C: The number one question I see online is if you guys are doing development for any other mobile platforms. Is it going to be coming out any time soon for Blackberry? Windows Phone 7?

J: We’ve already started development on these other platforms. We don’t have firm release dates yet, but it won’t be too long – a matter of months.

You can grab The Conventionist for iPhone here and for Android here. For updates, news and general Twitter wackiness, follow @proximalabs.

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