"Event planner." It’s a broad term that can be used to describe someone who plans a small birthday party for ten or someone who plans a multi-day conference for 350,000. The job, one of the top 5 most stressful in 2017 according to Forbes, requires an intense eye for detail and supreme organizational skills. It isn’t enough to get an event right, it has to be perfect. Nowadays, things are changing. The processes that planners used to rely on are growing and evolving. When you’re stuck in an excel dedupe or in a game of "phone tag" with a hotel to book additional rooms days before the event, you’ve probably thought – there has to be an easier way to do this. There is. Event Planning Software.
Technology Can Change How You Plan
Why wouldn’t the answer be technology? We rely on technology for almost everything. If you don’t know an answer, Google it. When you want to know where your friends are, message them. Curious how your social media post is performing? Check the analytics. You need more toilet paper ASAP? Amazon Prime it! If there's an app that lets you hunt ghosts, why wouldn’t there be technology for event management?
You don’t need to pull your hair out over managing room blocks or spend the night before an event updating multiple registration lists. There’s an easier way.
You might be wondering…
Won’t it take more time to learn?
At first, yes. Just like learning how to use a new app or getting used to system updates on your phone, implementing new technology takes time. The time to learn the system is short, as great products are created with users in mind. Once you learn the product, you gain time.
Won’t it eat up my event budget?
Event management software costs money. It’s a product, and like all products, you have to pay for it. The fact is, it really does improve the quality of your events and it speeds up otherwise endless processes. The data and event insights you have access to can help prove the success of your events and show you how to make them even more impactful for attendees.
Technology is changing the way things are done for the better. Find out what options will work for you, and soon, you’ll feel like you’re leading the pack.
Event Invites and Technology
To print or not to print? While printed invitations are beautiful, they're also costly, easy to lose, and hard to track. Today, the pros of using online email marketing software often outweigh the cost and challenges that come with mailing printed invitations. Technology has improved event registration drastically. If you haven’t thought about sending email invitations or communicating with attendees online, we’ve outlined a few reasons why you should.
A contact list is one of the most frustrating aspects of event planning. Is the list up to date? Are there duplicates? Do you have the correct information? Cross-checking, updating, and organization can take forever. If you’re using a basic Excel sheet that isn’t integrated with sales systems, or you’re working from a printed list – it’s likely your contact list will be out of date quickly or take hours to update. If you’re mailing invites, the likelihood that addresses have changed, or there’s a small error in the street address, apartment number, or zip code is high. Email marketing software allows you to keep track of your list, segment, track open rates, and more. And when you send email invites – all you need is an email address.
Printed materials can be beautiful. But now, so can email invites. Technology can mimic the look and feel of a printed invite without costing an exorbitant amount. The design capabilities online have pretty much caught up to what can be done on paper. Emails no longer have to be plain, poorly formatted blocks of black and white text. Nowadays, you have the opportunity to add images, links, fonts, and incorporate your companies branding. Additionally, emails can be easily personalized. Adding a first name in the greeting is easy and takes no extra effort on your part.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep track of a piece of paper to save my life. Once I take it out of the mailbox, it’s anyone’s guess as to where I placed the invite. If your attendees can’t keep track of an invite, it’s going to make it harder for them to remember that they have an event. People are busy, and not everyone has a magnetic fridge they use as a showcase for upcoming events. You need to make the process easy and seamless. An email is easier to find – you can search for it in your inbox. Whether you're on a phone or computer, you'll have access.
RSVPs and registration should be as simple and painless as possible. The registration process shouldn't be the cause of low event attendance. Keep it easy. Make it so that all your attendee needs to do is click on a link, then fill out a registration form. They don’t need to worry about mailing a card back or calling a phone number to register. The best part? You can send reminder and follow-up emails, so your attendees know exactly when the event is and what they’ll need to do, lowering their level of stress.
Paper is expensive. Not only that, the man-hours needed to stuff envelopes and digitize the responses that come back adds unnecessary cost. An online system tracks registration with no additional time needed from your staff. And, the cost of sending emails is incredibly low. You can send an invitation, reminder, and even a second reminder, for much less than it would cost to print one set of invitations and postage.
You want to know who attended, who was a no-show, who couldn’t make it and more. Online systems track registrations, making it easy to know who’s coming. Let your email marketing software track it for you – don’t spend extra time inputting data. As good as you might be at inputting information, human error is a thing. Having measurable, trackable data that’s tracked automatically cuts down on errors in reporting.
Sometimes, you will want to send a printed invitation. But more often than not, it won't be a necessity. Cut down on costs and increase attendance by using email marketing software.
Taking the Mystery Out of Venue Sourcing
How do you typically find a venue for an event? Like a lot of planners, you may start with a Google search. From there, you create a spreadsheet, start to identify criteria, send a few emails, call a few locations, and come up with a solid list of potential venue options.
But how long did that take you? You can lose hours looking at different hotels, conference centers, and unique spaces, and at the end of that search, you may be left with a few hastily scribbled notes on a piece of paper or a partially filled out spreadsheet. The hardest thing to find during this search? The cost. You can sink hours into research, find a great list of five locations, then realize after reaching out that they’re all way out of your price range. That puts you back at square one.
That’s only the first step in the long, tiresome venue sourcing process. You still need to create and send out a request for proposals (RFPs), evaluate them, and work through complicated negotiations.
Venue sourcing tools make everything so much easier. What can they do? Provide a searchable database of venues, allow you to compare and contrast venues across the same criteria, easily send out RFPs, and get you set up to do the only thing you can’t do with event technology – go on-site visits. Though with the rise in VR technology, it might even help you do that someday soon. We’ve broken down venue sourcing into simple steps, that when using a great venue sourcing tool, will take the headache out of finding the perfect place to host your next event.
Step One: Find Venues
- Know your meeting objectives and requirements. You need to start strong and by determining these at the outset, you’ll decrease the search process.
- Take into account feedback from attendees. Is this an annual event? If attendees ranked the venue from the previous year poorly, look at the feedback to pick a venue that will resonate better.
- Don’t feel alone! Reach out to your team, or others that have a stake in the event to brainstorm what factors are most important.
Step Two: Write the Perfect RFP
- You already know general objectives and requirements – now define your purpose. Make it clear what this event requires and hopes to achieve.
- Get detailed! Give as much information about the event as you can.
- No one likes to discuss money, but you need to share your budget requirements. The venue is one of the largest costs of an event and can make or break your budget.
- Make your deadlines clear. Give a date and time that provide venues enough time to respond.
- Don’t start from scratch. Pull a template from online.
- Be ready to answer any questions venues may have about the proposal or event.
Step Three: Evaluate Proposals
- Create a spreadsheet to assess proposals
- Create a list of any factors that are less concrete – your qualitative factors
- Pay close attention to meeting rooms – do the sizes and layouts make sense for your event?
- Compare how responsive and helpful the venues are to help figure out how helpful they’ll be if you choose them.
Next? Go on some site visits! You should be in great shape at this point. You have proposals, you know that the spaces you’re looking at are within budget and have the spaces you need, now you can look in person.
The Best Ways to Promote Your Events
Promotion is a critical part of any event and requires creativity and some advanced planning. To create the perfect promotion plan, there are a few things to keep in mind. When deciding on how to promote your event, the main factors are time and money. Luckily, with technology that allows automation, it’s easier than ever to create more robust promotion plans as you work on event marketing.
First Steps to Creating a Plan
There are various factors that go into creating a promotion plan. Before you even get into the nitty-gritty of coming up with creative and a unique hashtag, you need to understand two major factors: budget and manpower.
What are you working with? If you aren’t tracking your budget as well as you’d like, here are a few tips. Money has to be set aside for promotion, but there are ways to do it inexpensively. With social media and email marketing, many forms of promotion are relatively free. If you do have a good budget dedicated to promotion, you can look into paid advertising. Some of your budget might go into investing in technology to make promotion easier. That could be social media scheduling tools, email marketing systems, and more. Investing in automation tools will allow you to spend cut down time spent on promotion. Many tools can be tried for free or at a relatively low cost.
If you haven’t handled promotion before, you may not realize what a drain it can be on your time. It might not seem like too much to promote your event on every social media channel with original posts multiple times a day, but that’s hours added to your already full workload. The key is to identify from the beginning the time you’re able to dedicate to promotion and create your plan around it. By using systems that allow you to schedule social media posts in advance, you’ll be able to cut down on real-time updates. Additionally, by using email marketing systems that allow you to automate emails and send to segmented lists, you’ll save a lot of time.
Creating a Promotion Plan
There are endless ways to promote an event. Event marketing is varied. You can get creative, stick to the basics, or do a mix. One thing’s for sure – your promotion plan should include social media and email marketing.
There's a big question that you need to answer. Where your potential attendees hanging out? Based on the demographics of your target attendees, you’ll be able to figure out the best channel to promote your event. Instagram may not be a great channel to promote an educational healthcare conference, but Twitter might be. It all depends on the age of attendees, the industry you’re in, and the type of event you’re planning. Not every social channel needs to be used. While social media is essentially free, it takes a lot of time to create different posts that work on each channel and monitor your channels.
When crafting posts, share more than you create and use images. By using automated scheduling systems, you’ll be able to schedule posts months in advance. Don’t forget to check your account frequently to respond to comments and always search the hashtags you want to use before you post them.
You’ve been gathering lists of contacts for years. You know who attended the event the year before and who might be interested. Email can be a great promotional tool. The most important things to keep in mind are not to bombard potential attendees with emails and to keep emails short. If you send five emails in one day, your contact will unsubscribe and you won’t be able to contact them again. If you send really long emails, no matter how important the information is, they won’t be read.
Use emails to target contacts that would be interested in the event. Entice them. Great subject lines, strong visuals, and brief emails will get the highest open and click-through rates. Send reminders, but be careful of your frequency.
Easy Steps for Creating a Promotion Plan
Those guidelines should help you as you decide how to promote your event. Below is a very basic list to use when creating a promotion plan. For even more, check out Event Marketing Tips.
- Figure out your budget
- Evaluate how many hours per week you have to spend on promotion
- Identify if you have the automation tools you need
- Find out where your customers are on social media
- Gather graphics and key event information
- Create a calendar with pre-event milestones like speaker announcements and agenda unveiling
- Create a 6+ month promotion plan leading up to the event utilizing milestones
- Check in often, adjust as needed
Event Websites 101: Tips for a Great Site
Building a website used to be impossible if you didn’t know how to code. Today, things are much easier. Even if you have no knowledge of HTML, you can build a great website. Which is great news because nowadays, everyone expects there to be a website for everything. Emailed invitations are a thing of the past. Besides being wildly expensive, they’re hard to track and data is easy to input incorrectly. That’s why websites and registration sites are the new normal when it comes to events.
What’s the Difference Between Registration and Event Websites?
A registration site is built for one thing – registration. Registration sites alone are perfect for smaller events, events that don’t need much promotion or events that have a very low barrier to entry. The purpose of a registration site is to allow an attendee to register easily online and provide you with the data and information you need.
An event website is more dynamic. This website is created for large events, high-cost events, and events that need to capture potential attendee’s attention. The purpose of an event website is to market the event and convince attendees to attend the event. This website can include videos, more information, and lead to a registration site. Not every event will have an event website, but if it has an event website it will also have a registration site.
Regardless of the type of site you build, it should be:
- Contain all of the event info
- Be accessible and easy to read
How to Detect Problems
The higher a bounce rate is, the worse it is. You want a low bounce rate. This means that when a visitor is on your site, they stay and interact for a reasonable amount of time. If bounce rates are high, that means they entered the site and left quickly. Try switching up the original landing page or copy to see if the change helps. When other pages on the site have high bounce rates, try changing those as well.
On a registration site, when a visitor fills out part of the registration and then leaves without finishing the form, that’s counted as an abandon. You want visitors to fill the entire form and complete registration. If your abandon rates are high, figure out what questions led to high abandons. Can you do without those? If not, try switching up the order and see what works. For those that already abandoned registration, send them an email (if you have their address) with more information about the event.
Take it One Step at a Time
Regardless of the site you chose, you will need one. If building a website scares you – don’t worry. It isn’t hard. Event management software has made the process incredibly easy. If you can type and drag and drop, you can create a site.
Get Rid of Lines at Your Event
There are a lot of terrible things that can go wrong at events. In most cases, the problems can be resolved without attendees ever knowing about them. The one thing that’s definitely noticed? Lines. Otherwise known as bottlenecks. One of the most visible hiccups onsite, lines are the bane of a planner’s existence. Attendees hate waiting and lines can be difficult to break up once they form. How do you fix some of the most common lines from forming onsite?
You guessed it. Event management solutions. Doing things the manual way can lead to more bottlenecks onsite, aka more irritated attendees.
Where and Why Some Lines Form
Check-In + Badging
Everyone shows up about the same time for the event and it makes sense that a line will form. But if attendees are in line for more than a few minutes, their impression of the entire event can become soured by that single experience. First impressions are important. By using self-check-in kiosks and printing badges onsite, you can decrease lines. Attendees know how to check in on a screen – they’ve been conditioned at airports to do just that – and will make it through check-in much faster. And, if they find any errors in their registration information, they can fix it themselves.
Getting into Sessions
As a planner, you want to track who is attending what session. As an attendee, you want to get into that session without waiting in a line. Using quick scan in, RFID, and other technology options, attendees can get into sessions quickly and you’ll know where they are.
Did you know you can track how many attendees visit a drink or food session? Understanding foot traffic allows you to rearrange where table or coffee is set up to accommodate busy areas. Or it will show you where to rush more food. When attendees are hangry, the last thing they want is to wait for food. Sometimes, even the best-designed food layouts don’t work. Use live attendee tracking data to adjust as necessary.
There are times when lines form for a reason, and then there are times lines form just because. A lot of crowded traffic ways are due to a poor understanding on the attendee’s part of the venue layout. There may be a whole different route they didn’t know existed, which is why they’re all crammed into the same hallway trying to get into the keynote. Use a mobile event app to send push notifications highlighting different paths on the in-app map.
Another great use for your mobile event app push notifications? Session changes or time delays. Alleviate a potential line or confusion by sending out a notification to attendees. The in-app map will come in handy for room changes.
Cut Out the Lines with Onsite Technology
No one likes waiting in line. Event management software helps to decrease the number of onsite bottlenecks to make sure your attendees stay happy and enjoy the experience. No one wants the resounding theme of their post-event survey to be that lines were too long. Fix the problem before it forms using technology.
How to Keep Your Event Attendees in the Know
Events are stressful, and not just for the people that plan them. One of the major obstacles for attendees when deciding whether to attend an event is stress. It takes *a lot* of effort to set up travel arrangements, make a business case for their attendance, and miss out on a few days or more of work. One of the best ways to alleviate attendee stress is to provide them with plenty of information about the event. That’s why, when it comes to communication, you have to update attendees regularly, so they know what’s happening. In a perfect world, you would communicate so well that they would never have a question.
Using Tech to Keep Attendees in the Know
So what’s the best way to update attendees? In today’s high-tech world, it doesn’t make sense to send updates through the mail – they would never get them in time! Make the most of your attendee’s unhealthy attachment to their phones by using emails, event websites, and mobile event apps to give them all the information they need.
Email is a great way to send out updates ahead of the event. Not only that, you can send a bit more information in an email than you can in a push notification. The best news is, if you have any information about attendees or potential attendees, it’s most likely an email address.
Best Ways to Use Emails
- Point Attendees to the event website
- Put Content in a place they’re used to checking
- Send more detailed information in segments
- Segment emails based on different attendee needs
Your event website is essentially home base. Attendees know that it’s a place they can always return to feel ‘safe’ and get the information they need. Your website will have all of the information about your event, broken down into the details. This is where you can make big announcements, update attendees about changes before the event, and get them to download your mobile event app.
Best Ways to Use the Event Website
- Basic Event Info
- Big Announcements
- Location with Maps and Travel Info
- Personalized View
Mobile Event App
The mobile event app is the thing to have at your event. It’s the best way to update attendees on demand. Your attendees will have their phones at your event – make the most of them.
Best Way to Use Mobile Event Apps
- Use Push Notifications to tell attendees where to be when
- Send personalized updates and notifications
- In-App Messaging
- Venue Maps highlighting any location changes
- Update the schedule as it changes
Use a Mobile Event App for Attendee Updates
Printed programs, large event signs, and mailed event info get outdated fast. By the time programs are printed, the chances that a session has been canceled or moved to a different room are high. That’s why event technology makes attendee updates easier – and less costly. Attendees will always be able to refer back to an app, a website, or an email – even if they don’t have their device. Giving easy access to event info helps decrease attendee stress.
Event Planning Software Makes Life Easier
For event planners, event planning technology can change the game. From the amount of time spent on time-consuming to lack of insight into data and statistics, manually planning events is a challenge. With online event registration, event apps, venue sourcing, and event planning software you can cut down on the time spent on tasks and increase the scope of your events.
Want more? Read Event Management Technology for Dummies