Planning an event—any event—can be challenging. Under the right (or wrong) set of circumstances, even a relatively small meeting (let alone a mega trade show) can be a handful. It helps to automate as many tasks as possible, but taking the leap from spreadsheets and sticky notes to actual purpose-built software is only the first step toward streamlining the event planning process. There are three possible paths to take from that point on.
Before plotting any course, however, event planning teams have to first ask a question: “What do we automate?” Registration, booth sales, and booth allocation; exhibitor directories; accounting and financials; and abstract, speaker, and session management account for most of the major work streams that could be optimized through automation. There are solutions available for one or a combination of task groups.
Custom Software Built In House: Trading Cash for Control.
The general consensus around the DIY approach is that it’s often the most labor-intensive and expensive of the options available to organizers. That said, in some cases, when the organization, the event, or the business model is so unique that nothing “off the shelf” can meet the needs of planners or when the association or company has access to the appropriate expertise and resources to develop a solution from scratch (and prefers that route), building a solution in house is definitely an option.
Multiple Stand-Alone Solutions: Automation at the Expense of Integration.
Choosing separate applications say for registration and abstract management can be a good way to go for organizations with small budgets or those that only want to automate a single process (and don’t want to purchase the whole forest if all they need is a toothpick). The downside of that move comes further down the road. Often, event managers realize the productivity gains and want to automate more tasks. When that happens, they have to take on the burden of integration (one platform talking to another) themselves. An update in one solution could push the others out of alignment.
Integrated, Multi-Purpose Platforms: Efficiency With a Price Tag.
An “all-in-one” solution that handles multiple functions and integrates the data, i.e. data is entered once and then appears in whatever form it needs to take elsewhere: invoices, sales contracts, mobile app, customer relationship management (CRM) screens and reports. When these platforms are modular in nature, organizations can add modules as they grow and adjust to the new way of working. With integration taken care of planners can leverage the data, realize operational efficiencies, and lower costs in the long term. The flip side of the coin is that, in general, these platforms require more of a financial investment up front.
There are pros and cons to any automation path an event organization takes. No one path is necessarily the best; everything depends on the company’s or association’s objectives and limitations coupled with the solution’s ability to deliver return on investment. The worst decision to make, quite possibly, is the decision to do nothing. Spreadsheets and paper floor plans can definitely help to keep the event team’s “head” above water, but they can never deliver the operational efficiencies and business opportunities that event-centric software can provide.
This post was written exclusively for Ungerboeck by Michelle Bruno, MPC, Bruno Group Signature Events