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Summary:

Conferences can be overwhelming. Here are 15 apps that are incredibly useful to have at events, covering everything from helping you to meet interesting people and apps built for specific conferences, to location-based social networks and QR code readers to grab people’s contact details.

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We’re at a big national conference and are overwhelmed. In the old days, we’d pour through event agendas and printouts of the sessions we wanted to attend, touch base with people we wanted to see and arrange meeting times and places, and then struggle to find room numbers and meeting places. Networking events were challenging when all we had to go on were people’s name tags, especially if all they displayed were first and last names.

Flash forward to today. We all have a mobile device. We have apps, SMS and Twitter to connect with people we know, ask questions like “where in the world is Room 3748B-7?” and arrange impromptu meet-ups at nearby eateries which we can find with our phones’ GPS.

Here are 15 apps that are helpful at conferences and events — but maybe not so useful  elsewhere. Note: The links I provide are to the iTunes App Store for the iPhone version of the apps, but many of them — like Unsocial — also support other platforms, or plan to support other platforms, including Android, BlackBerry, and iPad.

Meeting Others

1. Unsocial. This new app for iPhone and Android functions on the premise that it isn’t about your social networking friends but instead about identifying people around you whom you may want to meet, according to their professional profile.

2. Bump. If you have an iPhone and someone you meet has an iPhone, you can launch this application then bump iPhones to trigger an instant exchange of contact information. is

3. beamME. This is another iPhone option for beaming contact info to others, and for discovery of new people (similar to Unsocial)

QR Code Readers

4. i-Nigma. At the last SXSW, the conference organizers added a QR code to everybody’s name badges, with mixed results. To get someone’s contact information, all you had to do was scan their badges using this app.

5. Optiscan. This is another QR code reader. It reads codes and also lets you create your own. Imagine all the things you can do with your own QR codes!

Event-Specific Apps

We’re going to see more and more apps specific to conferences to showcase event highlights and become a Swiss Army Knife-like solution to conference information overload. Some of the bigger tech conferences come with their own apps, where you can organize your schedules, access event and street maps, messages and more. Here are a couple of examples:

6. my.SXSW

7. Blogworld & New Media Expo

Location-Based Social Networks

8. Foursquare & 9. GoWalla. I’ve lumped these two location-based social networks into one only because they both offer the ability to announce your arrival at a location and share your coordinates with your friends, both within the networks themselves and on Twitter and Facebook. These apps require you to have connections with the people with whom you want to meet; otherwise, broadcasting info to Twitter and Facebook casts a wider, more random net.

10. Whrrl. This app is a great way to announce where you are, find places, and then document events with photographs. Like its other geo-enabled social network brethren, Whrrl is about location, but it’s also about telling stories through pictures, captions and notes

Miscellaneous

11. Globetrotter & 12. Clocks Multi Time Zone Alarm Clock. If your conference is in a new time zone, your phone will probably  display your current time zone. These apps are helpful if you’re still doing business between sessions and need to figure out time zones on the fly. Try:, you can try

13. Footfeed. Helpful for checking in on multiple location-based services at once.

14. HootSuite & 15. TweetDeck. These apps can help to manage your multiple social streams from your mobile device as you liveblog and livetweet sessions.

There are no end of applications you can download to your mobile devices to handle your conference needs. Except maybe curing the conference hangover.

What apps do you use at conferences?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Andrew*

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  1. Well, for getting to and from the meeting I like TripIt. All my travel info is in one place in a timeline.

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