Time for New Event Management Software? First Optimize Existing Tech

Events October 27, 2011

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand
Are the many event management software and technology choices sending you running for cover? 

Before you get overwhelmed, identify the event trends that make sense for your organization and look at your existing technology tools to see if they are being used to their optimum capacity.

How has technology changed events?

Last year, the Event Manager Blog developed an infographic that illustrated How Technology is Changing Events. It offers a graphic reminder of how, as Julius Solaris suggested,“[t]echnology and Social Media are deeply changing the way we market, consume and measure events.”

For example:

  • We used to mail out event invitations, now we can email and use social to promote events.
  • We used to print and mail brochures, but now participants should be able to get the information they need online. 
  • We used to attend events based on impulse, now we attend if our peers do.
  • We used to travel long distances to attend conferences and seminars – now we can often access events online - wherever and whenever we want.
  • We used to hand out or mail out feedback forms and hard copies of presentation notes. Now we share event slides on Slideshare

Identifying and Understanding Event Tech Trends 

We can all agree that the way we plan, promote, host and follow-up our events today is vastly different than it was ten years ago.  For many, it may seem like a natural evolution with the changes being incorporated seamlessly into membership or non-profit events. But some of the volunteers and staff of small organizations may be a little overwhelmed trying to keep up with both the multitude of event planning details as well as new technology choices. 

Before you start looking at all of the available tech tools, it’s important to first understand the trends that are driving new event technologies. We recently looked at a few of the trends impacting meetings and events, and identified 4 trends that we thought were key for associations, clubs, non-profits and other membership organizations – here’s a summary: 

1. Changing learning style – e.g., incorporating the following:
  • Discovery
  • Experiential learning
  • Bite-sized information
  • Interactivity
2. New networking opportunities that appeal to all generations - Create a culture or environment for networking through:
  • Focusing on networking – by allowing for breaks in between sessions
  • Offering gathering places – for networking and discussion of sessions 
  • Including break-out areas and “pop-up” sessions
  • Virtual attendance – providing ways of connecting with and including those who are unable to attend to share in the learning
3. Technology-enhanced learning environments – e.g.,:
  • Incorporating and enabling mobile apps and information sharing;
  • Live streaming and live slide sharing
  • Free wifi as “the new normal”
  • “Recharge stations” – that can also serve as community hubs 

4. Behind the scenes changes for event organizers – including:

Determine what your organization needs most 

Has your organization adopted any of these ideas yet? If not, which of these trends might fit with your organization and event participants? Think about what’s required to take your events to the next level this year and focus on a few achievable goals. When you work through some of the trends, you’ll see that they are not all technology-driven, although some may be technology-enhanced. Look at your existing processes and ask yourself how these can be optimized this year. For example: 

  • Event promotion:
    • Have you enabled online event promotion and registration?
  • Event format:
    • Can you work with event presenters to offer:
      • interactive presentations
      • small group sessions
      • hands-on workshops
    • Can you look for a venue that:
      • enables free wifi
      • offers charging stations
      • has options for break-out areas    
  • Networking:
    • Is this a key priority for your event participants?
    • Have you identified ways in which you can encourage networking e.g. at business meetings?
  • Sharing:
    • How do your event participants want to receive session information?
    • What social sharing opportunities will your audience expect?
  • Feedback & Follow-up:
    • Are hard-copy feedback forms still effective with your audience?
    • Have you taken the opportunity to send post-event emails to participants?
    • Would post-event online surveys be an option?

Look at your existing technology first

When you look at the ideas above, you’ll see that not only are some of these easy to implement, but many don’t require you learning or purchasing new event management software.  Some involve tech specs for your venue, to ensure folks can access the Internet and offer a mobile-friendly environment. Others may mean working with speakers or presenters to tailor their presentations to suit your participant’s learning styles and provide pre- and post-event materials in shareable formats. 

But in many cases, the bottom line involves moving your processes online and better utilizing your existing contact or member database to enhance your email outreach. Remember that technology can help with the planning, promotion, and overall success of your event. And let’s be honest, there’s no turning back - so we need to embrace the technologies that best suit our event and our organization’s needs. 

Tips for optimizing existing tech tools:

Before you start checking out a multitude of new software or apps to help manage and promote your event, take stock of the tools that you are already have in place to see if they are being used to their full potential. 

Are you using your existing event management tools?

You may not need to purchase stand-alone event management software. If you are using membership management software or an association management system – it probably offers events capabilities.  Many of the web-based, all inclusive programs (such as WildApricot) include an events module that enables you to automate both your event promotion and registration. For example, you may be able to:

  • Create automatic email event notices to all or selected contacts in your email database (e.g., members, supporters, past event guests, etc.) So rather than mailing your event brochure, you save paper and also offer direct access to online registration via a live link in your email.
  • Send automated email reminders a few weeks or a few days in advance of the event
  • Enable online registration, payment, and auto confirmations
  • Send post-event follow-up emails to participants (include a link to post-event feedback forms – via online surveys e.g., via Survey Monkey)
  • Capture, track and report on event registrations and payments

Is your website optimized for events?

These days, your website is where folks will be looking for details on your event as well as options for online registration. Here are a few “must have’s” for promoting events on your website:

  • Be sure you offer event promo in the “news” or “upcoming events” sections of your website
  • Develop and update an online events calendar
  • Create a dedicated web page for each event -- that can include photos, details, maps and a link to online registration
  • Include information about the event in your Members-only Forum and create new discussion threads that your supporters or members can follow
  • Promote the event through a series of posts on your blog

What about optimizing your social networking capabilities?

You can’t ignore social media’s impact. Pew Internet Research recently confirmed that “73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind.” But if your organization is just getting started with social networking, here are some basic ideas for optimizing social sharing of events:

  • Enable social sharing: Make it easy for folks to share! If you haven’t already, be sure you enable social media sharing on your website. The process of embedding sharing buttons or widgets (for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) will depend on your web platform. Most system providers offer simple instructions for embedding code for these widgets.
  • Twitter: Be sure to create a Twitter hashtag for the event and ask folks to use it when they tweet about key event information and updates. And be sure to include your hashtag on all event web pages, emails, blogs, etc. to build buzz.
  • Facebook: If you don’t already have one, consider creating a Facebook page – so you can post information regularly about your event (share photos, blog posts, etc.) and folks can “Like” and share this with their Facebook friends.  You can also “promote posts” on Facebook to get your message out to a broader audience. If you don’t have access to online events management software, you might consider creating a Facebook Event
  • YouTube: Create and/or edit an existing video promoting your event and/or your organization and upload this to YouTube or Flickr.
  • LinkedIn: You can promote your event to your own LinkedIn network by “sharing” an update with a link to your event page; Facebook event, etc. 

Don’t let event technology send you running for cover 

Technology can help you can increase your event’s success and improve your event planning, promotion and management effectiveness. So embrace it, but be sure to start by checking out the tech tools you are already using to ensure these are being fully optimized before you get overwhelmed with the multitude of new media technologies. 

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that might help.

  Image source:  Clock...with time for new technology - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com 

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