There has been a lot of buzz around AI in the event industry lately. But as an event planner, the hype around AI can be overwhelming, and it's hard to know where to begin. So how do you cut through the noise and find the right tools for your needs?
I spoke with Joey Rodriguez, Manager of Event Planning Services, at Meeting Tomorrow to learn how she has implemented AI tools in her event planning, advice on how to get started experimenting with AI, and important considerations to keep in mind.
If you feel apprehensive about incorporating AI into your event planning process, you're not alone. According to Joey, it's common to feel intimidated by the many AI tools available.
“Whenever a new technology comes out, it can be scary to jump on board at first. I was in the same boat initially,” she says.
“There seem to be so many AI experts now, and feeling like you’re not in the know can be intimidating. There isn’t an easy intro to this because these tools are new and constantly evolving.”
But for Joey, the benefits of embracing AI far outweigh any initial hesitation.
“I’ve come to see AI as a tool," she explains. "It won’t take over anything that doesn’t already need to be taken over. It’s a tool that can help us, as event planners, take things to the next level so that we can focus on what we do best and not waste time on the administrative or tedious tasks that AI can do for us instead.”
1. Use AI to spark creativity
We’ve all been there: trying to come up with creative, fresh ideas for an event, but coming up short. But AI can help event planners get the ball rolling — particularly if you're working remotely and can't spontaneously exchange ideas with colleagues.
"I use AI a lot to help me brainstorm. I work remotely, so it’s not as easy to pop into a conference room and bounce ideas with other planners on my team," says Joey. "Coordinating calendars and scheduling that brainstorming time can’t always happen organically. So, if I’m stuck, I’ll pop in a prompt in ChatGPT and go from there,” says Joey.
But how can you make the most out of AI tools like ChatGPT? Joey recommends experimenting and iterating to see what works best for you.
“For all of these different tools that require prompts, I experiment with them and try out different things to see what it sparks in me. Of course, I don’t use everything they spit out verbatim, but it might spark something in my brain.”
2. Use AI to manage and optimise your calendar
Whether conducting site visits, holding weekly client calls, or planning multiple events at once, juggling a packed calendar can quickly become a mammoth task in and of itself. It's a struggle that Joey knows all too well.
“Between work and my own personal plans, my calendar can become overwhelming pretty quickly.”
To help solve this pain point, Joey set out to find an AI scheduling tool. After experimenting with different solutions, she landed on Reclaim, a smart scheduling app that helps you find the best time for your meetings, habits, breaks and tasks.
“I can set the parameters to include certain habits and recurring meetings and colour-code my calendar. It helps me prioritise my clients and important meetings without having to think about it.”
Joey uses this with Calendly to send out her availability to clients and colleagues, scheduling meetings automatically and eliminating the back-and-forth of finding the perfect time.
While it may seem like a small use case, Joey says that it has made a big impact on her work-life balance.
“As planners, we all want to make our clients happy and ensure that our events go off without a hitch – but at what cost? There’s only so much time in the day. So having an intuitive tool that can help me schedule personal time as well – so that I don’t become overwhelmed – helps to take a little bit of the load off.”
3. Use AI to document your meetings
Keeping track of meeting follow-ups, summaries, and action items can quickly become a time-consuming task for event planners, especially with back-to-back calls. But what if you had an AI meeting assistant to help?
While there are many options available, Joey uses Otter.ai to transcribe meeting discussions in real time, simplifying the process of creating recaps and ensuring nothing important is missed.
“It’s saved me so much time and allowed me to stay up to date with information more easily."
To gain even more efficiency, Joey uses multiple tools together, including ChatGPT. “I can ask ChatGPT to evaluate the transcripts and give me the top three priorities that need to be tackled or to create a timeline based on the tasks. And I can then ask it to create a follow-up email for me, which I can edit before sending.
“As long as it’s okay with the person you’re meeting with, I find that any type of recap or summarisation tool can be a real time-saver.”
4. Use AI to organise your thoughts
As an event planner juggling multiple projects, it can be challenging to keep track of all your ideas.
For this, Joey suggests using audio tools like AudioPen, which transcribes and summarises unstructured voice notes into easy-to-read text.
It’s simply a case of pressing record and doing an audio brain dump of anything you need to get out – whether that’s a to-do list, ideas, or a debrief following a vendor call. Tools like AudioPen will then synthesise the recording and turn it into written notes.
“I love using AudioPen at the end of a Friday when I know I’m going to forget about my ideas come Monday,” explains Joey. “And when I’m planning my week on Monday morning, it helps to align me and make me feel like I have some proper organisation to my thoughts.”
Identifying how she works best was key to finding the right tool for Joey. “Talking things out is how my brain works,” she says. “So, this may not be a tool that would be helpful to someone who prefers a non-auditory outlet, but I’ve found it the best way to get all my thoughts out on paper.”
5. Use AI to draft emails
If you're tired of spending hours writing emails, AI tools can be a game-changer.
ChatGPT's Gmail extension is Joey’s tool of choice. Using the tool, she can write a rough subject line and a few lines of the email. The extension then suggests the entire content of the email based on this input.
But Joey stresses the importance of personalising any AI-generated content. “The benefit of ChatGPT is that it can give you a kick start on what your email should contain. But you should always carefully check any content it provides and personalise it to make it your own – not use it verbatim.”
6. Use AI for research and project plans
Another way in AI has been helpful is when it comes to research, including venue sourcing. Joey uses ChatGPT to research sourcing-related questions.
“For example, I can ask ChatGPT to make me a table of the top hotels in a particular city that can seat more than 300 people in a general session.”
But AI can also be helpful in other areas of event planning. As Joey builds the event planning department, AI has come in handy for answering research questions, creating full project plans, and even onboarding documentation.
Joey provides the following example: “Instead of starting from scratch, you can ask ChatGPT to create a table with a timeline for a virtual event one month away.”
Based on that, she can refine the prompt to get what she needs, such as creating a task list for a junior planner to support the event. What would have started as a daunting blank page is now quickly populated with the building blocks of a plan or strategy.
But the trick to using a tool like ChatGPT effectively, Joey says, is to continue to refine your prompts – and not just relying on the first output you get. Joey's team has also put together a Google Doc of ChatGPT prompts for event planners, which includes ideas for follow-ups to refine your result.
While AI tools can help event profs be more efficient and effective, there are a few risks to consider:
- Data security: Joey suggests focusing on the basics, not sharing confidential or propriety information. “Work with your IT team to ensure that you understand your company’s policy for using an AI tool, and work with the relevant stakeholders to develop internal processes and guidelines on using AI tools effectively.”
- Inaccuracies: Don’t treat any AI tool as a single source of truth – make sure you fact-check any information it provides. Joey points out that this is particularly true for anything related to logistics, safety, or anything you’ll be sharing publicly. “AI is pulling from what’s been published on the internet, and we all know that not everything published online is true,” she warns.
- Plagiarism: The results you get from ChatGPT and similar tools should be a basis to tailor your own message, not a direct copy/paste, according to Joey. “It’s important to avoid accidental plagiarism, especially with things you publish externally like event descriptions or social media copy.”
So you’re ready to start your AI journey – but how do you convince your stakeholders that AI is worth the investment?
First, Joey recommends using free trials or accounts as a great way to start. This way, you can document your processes, track the time you’re saving, and identify the pros and cons of using your chosen tool.
“Tracking how I used these tools meant I could show stakeholders data on the time I was saving. That data is what will get you buy-in, as well as showing examples of how other people are using those tools and the value it can bring to the company.”
1. Start small
Adopting AI doesn’t have to be a huge transformational affair; it may be more prudent to start small.
"A big reason why people are hesitant to adopt AI is because they don’t realise that you can just start small and use it to help you write an email or brainstorm ideas,” says Joey.
“People think it must be this big, huge project from the get-go. The reality is that you can use these tools on a much smaller scale to make your day more efficient.”
2. Focus on the why
AI is a rapidly evolving space, with new tech and solutions constantly popping up. To narrow your focus, Joey recommends honing in on why you want to experiment with AI.
“A lot of the AI tools being talked about weren’t relevant to me at all,” she says. “Were they impressive? Sure. But I wouldn’t use them in my everyday life as an event planner.
“Ask yourself: what parts of my job feel hardest and most time-consuming? What aspects of my work will AI help make more efficient? What kinds of tasks do I truly need help with?”
3. AI is no replacement for expertise
AI is a powerful tool, but it is just that – a tool. It’s not a replacement for the expertise that event planners bring to their role.
But AI can provide a springboard for ideas, brainstorming, and dedicating more time to the tasks that truly matter.
“I may now have a beautiful schedule, but I still need to lead my meetings,” says Joey. “And I have a wonderful notetaker, but those summaries aren’t going to do anything other than sit there until I edit, review, and put my stamp of approval on them.”
4. Stay curious
AI tools are always evolving, so having a spirit of experimentation is crucial. “It’s important to stay curious and continue trying things out, personally and professionally,” says Joey.
“I use a lot of these AI tools personally as well. But I’d have never done that if I didn’t just start trying things out – and then realising that it wasn’t as scary as I thought.”
5. Take the leap
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Joey’s experience experimenting with AI is to just take the leap and get started.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” she says. “The important thing is to ask yourself what you need to make your life easier and find a tool for that. That way, you can start to find tools that work and feel right and slowly incorporate them into your day.”
Looking for more ways to use AI for your events? Check out our on-demand webinar, Building a Webinar with ChatGPT, to learn how we used AI to build our own webinar, from content to promotion, and key lessons for your webinars.