Event Planning & Management Technology Guide for 2019

Event Planning & Management Technology

Event planning & management technology guide 2019

Live events like conferences and trade shows have been proven to be one of the most effective means of marketing in today’s world. But putting together an event that will not only draw people but also make the sale, is no small task. It requires creativity, marketing know-how, organization, and the right tools to keep everything running smoothly.

What is Event Technology?

Years ago, in a much lower-tech world, everything was handled on paper. Eventually, the paper files containing lists of attendees moved to digital formats like Excel spreadsheets. But these manual processes are tedious and time-consuming, so marketers knew they needed a better option.

Fortunately, today we have streamlined processes and easy-to-navigate tools that make the more tedious parts of event planning a breeze. So you can spend your time developing a great event and marketing it, rather than updating spreadsheets and files.

But with so many options on the market, how do you know which will be best for your event? We’ll examine some of the best tools available to help you choose the ones that fit best, and make your next event a success.

Event Planning Tools

The first category you’ll want to have on hand are event planning tools. These help event planners with all of the prep work before the actual event happens. From choosing a venue to creating a website, to getting the word out, they help with the logistics of creating the actual experience.

We’ve broken these tools down into three categories. First are tools to help you find the perfect venue for your event. Next website building platforms to help you give your attendees all of the details they’ll need. Finally, we have event marketing tools to help you get the word out and generate some buzz.

Venue Sourcing Technologies

EventUP - EventUP has listings for event venues in over 300 cities across the US. Their amazingly detailed filtering tools let you narrow down your choices by price range, budget, number of attendees, area radius, neighborhood, amenities, look and feel, and more. And once you’ve found a place you like, you can request a quote, or ask questions about the space, right from the same page. Want to host a corporate event in a loft downtown with exposed brick and an industrial feel? They can help you find it.

SocialTables - This event planning tool has a large database of venues ready to browse. Filter by number of attendees, size of the largest room you’ll want to use, total meeting space, number of meeting rooms, number of guest rooms, or amenities offered. Once you’ve picked out a venue that interests you, use their suite of tools to design floor plans and layouts so you can see exactly how your event will look and flow. With their easy drag-and-drop floor plan tools, you’ll know exactly how everything will fit before you book the space.

Splacer - Splacer is designed to help you find the perfect creative event space for your needs. More than just meeting rooms, auditoriums, and banquet halls, they can help you find sites for pop-ups, launch events, production spaces, and film shoots too. And they’ve got listings for some of the hottest and most unique spaces available in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago.

Website Building Platforms

Bizzabo - Called “The World’s Most Loved Event Software”, Bizzabo features a huge variety of features and options. Their website builder is designed specifically for the event space, and is incredibly simple to use. They have a drag and drop editor for those without coding skills, or you can create your own custom HTML and CSS pages to fine tune everything just the way you want.

EventCreate - Another option designed with the event space in mind, EventCreate offers you the ability to create a beautiful, functional site in just minutes. There’s no coding needed, and you can include forms, sell tickets, and track data all from their handy interface. They have several starting templates to choose from, or if you’re looking for a more custom option they offer design services too!

Wordpress - Wordpress is one of the most common tools for creating websites today. It’s known and loved by professionals in just about every industry because it’s so incredibly versatile. If you’re looking for a blank slate tool to build just about any sort of website you might need, Wordpress is often the way to go.

Event Marketing Tools

Attendease - Aimed at the mid-sized event market, Attendease is an all-in-one event software that allows event planners to dramatically increase productivity. And their options for event marketing are incredibly robust and simple to use at the same time. This one interface allows you to create and send marketing emails, build custom branded websites and pages, and track and analyze all sorts of data from website traffic to ad performance. They even integrate with all sorts of other programs like Salesforce, HubSpot, Google and Adobe Analytics, and more.

Bizzabo - Bizzabo is helpful in getting the word out about your event too. Their marketing tools feature options like Hot Leads to retarget existing customers or Ticket Boost which uses the power of social media to sell tickets to your event. Everything is branded and integrated, from the website you’ve created for your event to email marketing messages and even an in-app networking platform.

CampaignMonitor - While it’s not designed for the event marketing space alone, CampaignMonitor is an incredibly useful and well-rounded marketing tool that many event planners find invaluable. This tool allows you to build the kind of email marketing messages employed by the big boys like SXSW, Rolling Stone, and HuffPost. If you’re using an event planning suite that you love, but you’re not as fond of its email marketing tools, this is the add-on you’ve been searching for.

Event Management Tools

Once you’ve planned and marketed your event, the work has only just begun. The day of the event can be incredibly hectic, but with the right management tools you’ll be able to streamline processes and ensure a good experience for all involved.

Event Registration Management Tools

Boomset - Boomset’s registration tools are in high demand from event planners of all sorts. They have all the usual features like a branded guest list app and badge or wristband printing tools. But they also offer features like kiosk check-ins, cashless payment options for attendees, and recyclable wearable RFID technology.

Eventbrite - If you’re in the market for something a little simpler, Eventbrite might just do the trick. They offer simplified ticket sales and event registrations with 24/7 real-time tracking features to help keep you on top of your numbers and demographics. What really shines here is the smart reports and data they generate, along with integrations with big names like Mailchimp, Salesforce, and even facebook.

ExpoPass - This simple and affordable option will help you to streamline your registration process. Then, as your event kicks off, use it to create custom badges and imprint them in real time at check in. If you’re working in the continuing education space, this one will allow you to distribute certificates to attendees who complete specific sessions with a simple mobile device scan. And after the doors close and everyone goes home, you’ll have instant access to all the details you need to turn guests into profitable leads.  

Regpack - Regpack is the online registration software that embeds into your existing site, for a smooth, secure registration process. They offer integrated payment processing, a custom database creator, group registration options, and even billing and payment plans to help keep expensive events affordable for attendees. Plus, they have the data and reporting tools you’re going to need to stay on top of your attendance numbers, and a personal support team to help out should you need them.

Event Agenda Tools

Sched - This is the agenda tool used by big names like ComicCon and techweek. Their full-featured scheduling tools allow you to create a functional and simple branded agenda app. This infinitely customizable tool allows your attendees to pre-register for workshops, book seats for panels, and plan out their day with ease. Meanwhile, on the backend you can monitor interest and registrations, and make changes in the blink of an eye. And it integrates nicely with your website or other event planning programs like Eventbrite.

Shdlr - Looking for a painlessly simple way to create detailed agendas and distribute them to your attendees? Look no further than Shdlr. This one can handle even the most complex schedules, and integrates seamlessly with popular calendar apps. You can embed your schedule on your blog or website, and import data in bulk from csv files if that’s your thing. What really shines here is the ease of creating a schedule. Drag-and-drop features and one click publishing mean you’ll have your agenda ready to go in no time flat!

Zoho Backstage - Once again, drag and drop simplicity wins. Zoho’s Backstage event planning interface allows you to build a detailed event agenda with ease. And their personalized agenda builder allows your attendees to create their own schedule, for the sort of customized experience that people love. But this one’s more than just a scheduler. It also handles website building, social media integration, and so much more.

Event Waitlist Management Tools

NextME - This full-featured waitlist tool is an amazing way to let your attendees check in for your event and then wait wherever they please. Since there’s no app download required for attendees, you’ll find greater buy-in than many other options. And they’ll be able to track their place in line in real time, so they can go grab a drink or browse other booths while waiting their turn and be back just in time. And at the end of the day, you’ll get all the data and analytics you need to make your next event even better.

Waitwhile - While it’s not designed for the event space directly, this easy-to-use waitlist can be integrated into just about any sort of business. You can track customer data and schedule bookings as you like. And guests who choose to wander away while they wait can stay informed with SMS notifications. Waitwhile is only available via your web browser and does not offer a mobile solution like NextME.

Event Attendee Engagement Tools

Event planning & management technology guide 2019NextME - Yes, the waitlist experts are also a great way to keep attendees engaged throughout your event. When guests register for your event’s waitlist, they’ll be sent a simple text message with a link to a marketing page you can custom design. On this page, they’ll be able to monitor their place in line, but more importantly, you can use this space to keep their attention while they wait. Encourage them to engage with social media, show targeted marketing messages, allow them to preview the experience they’re about to participate in, and just about anything else you might dream up. Even better still, because NextMe doesn’t require any sort of download for guests, it can be easily paired with any other app or site you choose. Your marketing page can then be used to direct guests to download conference apps like BoomSet, Expo Pass, Windsight, and others, so they can stay connected with everything happening in your event while they wait. It’s a great way to take your audience from bored to excited in no time at all!

Sli.do - If you’re looking for “Audience Interaction Made Easy,” you’ll find it with this handy tool. The web-based application from sli.do lets you do live Q&A sessions, real-time polling, and all sorts of other audience participation features. You can even allow them to access presenter slides on their own screens, either during the event or later at home. Plus, guests never have to download an app to participate. You’ll get the benefit of crowdsourced data along with moderated filters and the ability to identify and engage with your most influential participants. And at the end of the event, you can download all of those questions and all the data that goes with them to create and share infographics for post-event engagement too.

TweetWally - Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. In today’s ever-connected world, one of the most important ways to keep (or lose) attendee engagement is through social media. If you don’t grab their attention, you can be pretty sure their phones will. So encourage guests to really participate with a real-time tweet wall you can show in the main hall, on your site, or anywhere else you like. Just create your hashtag and you’ll be on your way! Then, use their software to display, in real time, all of the tweets pertaining to your event. Customize your wall’s look and feel, then display it prominently for all of your guests to see. Before long, you’ll find engagement is up and buzz is spreading!

Event Success Measurement Tools

When the event is over, the event planner’s work is still not done. We live in an age of data, and if you’re not gaining valuable insights from the numbers generated by your events, you may be missing the big picture entirely. These tools allow you to track so much more than just attendance numbers. Generate KPI reports, learn about demographics, and get insights into what worked and what didn’t, so your next event can be even better.

Activity Cloud - Activity Cloud is one of the kings of predictive data insight tools. It will pull data from your marketing campaigns, usage history, participant info, social media, and just about anywhere else you can think of. Then it weaves all of these numbers and details into actionable reports to help you understand which areas you excelled at and what you could do better.

NextME - Once again, this event waitlist app shines with actionable data reporting to show you exactly how well your event engaged with waiting participants and what you could do better in the future. The analytics feature within the app offers you the kind of data you need to ensure your events always run smoothly and keep customers engaged and excited about your brand.

Piwik PRO - Remember that website you created? Wouldn’t you be interested to know how visitors to your site engaged with your brand, even if they didn’t register for your event? With Piwik PRO, you can. This analytics tool offers privacy-compliant behavioral insights, even in the most secure areas of your site. So you’ll know what pages attendees visited before they signed up for your event and after, as well as where you lost those who did not attend.

Event Technology Trends & Considerations

While the event marketing tool space is certainly booming, we look forward to seeing new and different uses for technology in the industry going forward. Over the past several years, we’ve seen brands launched, acquired, and integrated in numbers no one could have predicted. This means a more user-friendly event technology environment for planners and marketers across the board. And with the involvement of AI, a powerful trend in all areas of marketing, we can expect big things to come!

Meanwhile, attendees are learning to expect more and more from experiential marketing. That's why technology suites like Bizzabo are so vital to creating an experience that attendees will still be talking about when they return home. And innovations, like NextME, are a huge win. Instead of many attendees skipping some of your best booths because of long wait lines, they can experience it on their own schedule, stress-free.

Whether you’re planning your first ever event, or you’re an old pro at this format, it’s always a good idea to keep abreast of the new technology on offer. If you don’t, you could be missing out on market trends, valuable insights, and customer experiences that could take your brand to a new level!


Restaurants Lose Out When Reservation Systems Feud

It’s a nightmare for any restaurateur: lots of empty tables on Valentines Day because of no-shows. The notoriously busy holiday, when everyone wants to wine and dine their sweetheart, is regarded as the second busiest day for the restaurant industry (falling just short of Mother’s Day). And no-show reservations cost big money.

But Valentines Day 2018 did not go so smoothly for several restaurants in Chicago. A rogue OpenTable employee had been using their rival, Reserve’s, reservations service to make hundreds of fake reservations at 45 restaurants across the city, culminating on Valentine’s Day. As soon as the fraudulent activity was noticed and tracked back, the employee was fired, but much of the damage had already been done.

While it seems the two reservation systems are ready to kiss and make up, the restaurant owners who bore the cost of this ill-advised campaign may not be so forgiving. Every no-show reservation means a table that sits empty. In some restaurants, it only takes a couple of empty tables to kill profits for an entire shift.

But what can you do when your reserved tables are handled by a third party? Overbook and hope nobody notices? Just take the hit? It’s a conundrum restaurateurs have dealt with for years.

An Alternative to Reservation Systems

Walk-in only restaurants never have to deal with no-shows. But of course, there are other issues that can cause them to lose money. Paging systems are expensive to purchase and maintain. Long lines and crowds near the door can turn away diners before they even make it out of the parking lot. But there is a better way.

With a restaurant waiting list app like NextME, hosts can give guests the freedom to wander, the ability to communicate, and all the info you like, right at their fingertips. Customers receive a text that includes a link to see their place in line. There, they can also view restaurant specials, browse your menu, engage with your social media, and feel more connected while they wait. No need to bother the hostess to see what place they hold in line — the link does that too. And if they want to spend their wait time visiting nearby shops or taking a stroll around the neighborhood, they’re not tethered by the limits of a paging system’s range.

In today’s constantly connected world, it just makes sense. Plus, the app can mean a reduction in walkouts of up to 25%!

Customers love it too, especially since they can use NextME without downloading a separate app! All they have to do is show up at a NextME restaurant, give the hostess a phone number, and wait for an SMS notifying them that their table is ready. Being able to check their place in line means they’re free to hang out at the bar around the corner, go to the nail salon down the street for a quick pedi, or spend some time browsing through their favorite boutiques and still make it back in time to be seated.

And your staff is going to appreciate how quick and easy it is to notify customers that their table is ready and keep track of the whole wait list at a glance. In fact, the app can help improve service speed through the whole dining experience as guests have a chance to peruse the menu and decide on their orders before they are seated.

But High End Restaurants Need to Take Reservations

While waitlist apps are wonderful for most restaurants in the full-service casual category, they may not work for others. High end restaurants may still need a way to book tables in advance. It needs to be user friendly, technologically relevant, and most of all, reliable and affordable for businesses.

Enter Tock. Founder Nick Kokonas found himself dismayed over some of the practices and policies of Open Table and other reservations systems, so he decided it was time to come up with an alternative. But how to balance the restaurant’s need for reliable reservations with a customer service oriented approach?

He found the answer in pre-paid reservations and deposits. The system allows restaurants to manage the way they handle their own reservations. On slow days, reservations are often free since there is minimal impact to the restaurant if they no-show. On busier days, diners may pay a reservation deposit up front, so the restaurant gets paid something even if they don’t come. Finally, for the busiest time slots, or big restaurant holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, restaurants can sell pre-paid reservations to ensure those tables won’t lose money, no matter what happens. And best of all, restaurants can choose the balance of these booking options themselves, to optimize their table turns based on their own specific needs.

But does it work? Tock has achieved what was once considered impossible. They boast a 0.03% no show/no pay rate. That’s a dream come true for many high-end eateries!

The Bottom Line

Restaurants live and die based on their ability to quickly turn tables. No show reservations can cause major problems and with modern reservation systems, the power is completely out of your hands. When something goes wrong, whether it’s corporate manipulation, a mean-spirited prank, or simply guests being flaky, it can cost big money.

If an app like NextME can help you turn tables quicker, retain customers, and make life easier for your front of house staff, can you really afford not to give it a try?


The Mobile App That’s Re-Activating Restaurant Internal Marketing

When it comes to marketing, there are a lot of mediums that stress the importance of relevant targeting, but few that actually get it right. One industry in the midst of a complete overhaul is the Restaurant industry. Challenged by the introduction of several new players in an already saturated market, restaurant owners, investors as well as brands looking to connect with restaurant patrons have been left wondering which way to turn.

After activating a hyper-local expansion of the NextME app here in Chicago, we’ve been able to gain key insight into some of the questions that restaurant professionals have and built a product to address them. Here is what we learned.

Restaurants are a viable target for both Brands and Ad Agencies to target. Restaurants can also find great success through internal marketing methodology.

There is often a gap, however, between intention and execution. Although the intention of a scheduled promotion or brand initiative may be sound, focused, and otherwise fool-proof, we found that many promotions underperform based on an overestimation of the “incentive vs. required work”. This means that we’ve observed several campaigns overestimate the value of their offered incentive vs. the work required to receive it. Consumers don’t like to be low-balled, especially when it concerns their food and they don’t want to do tons of work or opt into spam in order to receive it.

There is an important correlation between “Restaurant classification” and viable internal marketing campaigns.

For example, a Fast Casual Restaurant wouldn’t seem like the best surface level target for a luxury watch line, but if we consider factors like the type of food, the price point, and brand focus, we might find enough of a correlation to develop a fruitful strategy. I say all this to explain that there is too often a lack of proper research done on both sides before activating internal marketing and cross-marketing campaigns.

The best time to target Restaurant Patrons is while they are waiting in Line.

Although wait times differ across categories like restaurant size, location, classification and more, at no other time is an individual more concerned with a restaurant, its food offerings and it’s associated partners.

So, in response to these findings, we positioned NextME to solve the wait-list debacle and subsequently re-align internal marketing for our entire restaurant inventory. NextME avoids traditional barriers by requiring no consumer download. When patrons enter a restaurant, a host places them onto the app’s wait-list using their name, phone number and other relevant information.

NextME then uses SMS messaging which allows the app to communicate with patrons cell-phones directly to share a customized link via text to their personal wait-list page that not only contains their wait time but menus, specials, partnered ads and more. We call this page the mobile marketing page and we’re currently getting an average of over 30 minutes of engagement from each patron.

We’ve gone through great lengths to simplify our platform so that restaurants can easily activate internal marketing campaigns and reach their patrons. We’ve also spent considerable time segmenting our existing restaurant inventory in a way that allows brands and agencies to pursue relevant targeting within restaurants themselves.

We are interested in having conversations about advertising within NextME’s restaurant inventory. Feel free to contact us via e-mail at [email protected] with any questions, comments, or opportunities that you are interested in discussing. We are also porting the app to new industries. If you have appointments and walk-ins, we have the app to address your need for wait-list management and structured internal marketing. Learn more on our website.