Things can get really tough for event planners and coordinators.
A study by CareerCast – a premiere internet career site – found that event coordinators in particular have the 5th most stressful job in 2016. And they’re just below police officers, airline pilots, firefighters, and enlisted military personnel!
Sure, a career in event planning and coordination won’t put you face-to-face with fire and bullets. However, event professionals must face a mountain of challenges that can spike up those stress levels: constant travel, tight deadlines, meeting and interacting with customers, last but not the least, nerve-wracking stacks of documents!
Yes, it’s not fun keeping tabs and managing 3 binders of printed scripts, paper programs, speaker profiles, cue sheets, schedules, and agendas.
Fortunately, technology came to the rescue.
The advent of mobile event apps has greatly reduced the need for paper program stacks at conferences, exhibits, and meetings – not only reducing paper usage and printing costs but also making real-time communication between the organizers and attendees just a matter of pushing a few buttons!
But with hundreds of vendors jumping into the trend and recognizing event apps as a fertile ground for innovation (and greater profits), planners and organizers now face a new challenge: “How do I find the perfect mobile app for my event?”
Read on and discover how to find the app that attendees, sponsors, and YOU will surely love – from specific features, evaluation criteria, to important questions you should consider. But before that, let’s take a look at 3 different ways to get the app of your dreams.
Let’s briefly look at 3 ways you can get the mobile event app of your dreams – along with their pros and cons:
Now that we’ve considered our buying options for the event app, it’s time to learn how to evaluate one from multiple perspectives: your attendees, sponsors, and from your perspective. Let’s take a look.
Let me tell you something you already know:
Attendees are the life-blood of every event.
You can have an impressive roster of speakers, great Q&A sessions and seminars, awesome entertainment, and world-renowned sponsors. But if no one comes to the conference, tradeshow, or exhibit, there’s no event to speak of.
So here’s the first step:
Put your attendees first – and allow their reasons and motivations for attending to guide you in your search for the perfect mobile event app.
And this brings us to the question: “Why do people attend events?”
To find data-driven answers (because real event pros don’t just believe in hearsay, do we? ), let’s turn our attention to “The Decision To Attend Study” – a collaborative initiative between the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), and The Experience Institute.
The detailed report involved surveying and collecting responses from 7,171 current and potential attendees, closely examining the reasons why people attend (or not attend) exhibits and conventions by 10 different organizations across several industries. Here’s what they found:
What This Means: Your mobile event app should contain features that make it easy for attendees what’s on show – who’s speaking, what the topic is, when and where. You want an app that covers the basics, one that contains the schedule in detail, speaker profiles, and a personal itinerary builder so attendees can choose which sessions to see and skip.
What This Means: You want app features that help attendees find and get together with like-minded individuals. At the very least, your app should contain an attendee list with filtering features, one-on-one or private messaging, and matchmaking tools. You should also seriously consider an app with promising location awareness if you have the budget for it. Not only does location awareness help attendees personally meet connections from social media networks like LinkedIn, but it can also give you valuable audience insight.
What This Means: Your event app will come with nice social media features. But do not ignore the role of face-to-face interactions in creating an awesome experience and repeat attendees. Look for an app that allows you to gamify and incentivize face-to-face meetings.
To summarize, your mobile app must make learning, networking, and face-to-face interactions possible and easy. You’ll surely find other audience-oriented features not mentioned in this section – but what matters is that they cater to at least one of the three key attendance drivers.
The events and experiential marketing industry are enjoying a sustained and stimulated growth as today’s consumers are increasingly becoming harder to reach via traditional marketing methods.
A survey involving 1,600 major corporations and organizations revealed that 84% of the participants believe that events are a critical component of their overall marketing strategy, allowing businesses to break through the noise and build relationships with overstimulated customers. As a result, Branded events and experiential budget also grew steadily: from 3.6% growth in 2011 to about 8% growth in 2013 according to the Event Marketing Institute.
When a company agrees to sponsor your event, they don’t sign up because your conference or workshop rocks – but because they expect tangible gains or ROI out of the sponsorship.
We’ve looked at the 3 business advantages sponsors want out of your event: rapport-building and greater trust from prospects, highly targeted marketing, and better brand recognition.
Now let’s look at specific mobile app features that can help you deliver the tangible ROI your sponsors and partners are looking for:
We’ve looked at how to evaluate an app by taking attendees and sponsors into consideration. But the event app buying puzzle won’t be complete without YOU! After all, you’re the one who planned and organized the event, bridging the gap between sponsors and attendees.
Whichever vendor you decide to go with, the app should make your duties as an event planner and manager easier – not harder. Here are 5 important questions you should ask when evaluating options:
An event planner’s life was hectic back in the day:
The result: event planners waste a lot of time and money dealing with different vendors, contracts, fee structures, and analytics.
Wouldn’t it be better if pre-event email marketing, contact management, online registration and ticketing, and other important processes are all taken care of using only one platform and vendor?
Hell yes, it would! And this demand gave birth to countless all-in-one event management platforms. We’ve briefly discussed these in the event app section of this massive guide.
True, some event management platform providers place too much emphasis on the number of features instead of the quality. They look great on paper but not so much when it’s crunch time.
However, you’ll also find providers who have refined their platform’s features and customer support, making life easier for event planners and organizers.
So how do you find the perfect all-in-one event management platform for your conference, meetings, and exhibits? Read on as we explore the qualities you should look for in a provider.
What makes a good event management platform? First and foremost, it should be easy to use and does what it’s supposed to – automating mundane processes in the planning and marketing cycle.
Take it out for a test-drive before committing, keeping a close eye on the user experience and design. Don’t hesitate to try out multiple providers and ask for at least a week-long trial before you sign up or jump ship. After all, features and add-ons won’t help much if the user interface has a very steep learning curve.
Of course, automating time-intensive administrative functions is just as important as ease of use.
Let’s talk about refunds for example.
You can have the best marketing campaign for your conference, a star-studded roster of speakers, excellent content, and all the right ingredients. But some attendees will cancel their registration, calling for timely refunds.
You lose money with every refund, and you don’t want to lose more of your time, funds, and effort in manually returning payments to canceling customers.
You want an event management platform that has an automated refund process – one with a pre-scheduled and tiered refund structure and delivers refunds if an attendee cancels within a certain period.
Streamlined and automated refunding is just one of the essentials to look for in an all-in-one event management platform. Later in this section, we’ll look at other must-have features and how they can save time and money. So just keep reading!
You may only have a few years of experience under your belt, or maybe you’re a seasoned planning veteran. But whichever the case, you want a platform provider that offers training and guidance to get the most out of the event planning solution.
The platform’s user interface may be intuitive, and training resources can go a long way. However, you also want to have a real person to turn to when things don’t go as planned. So be sure to ask how many of the provider’s staff members are ready to answer the phone to assist you promptly.
Or better yet, ask if for a dedicated support representative or account manager as a single point of contact to work with in the long run.
Think about it:
When you choose a management platform for one of your tradeshows or exhibits, you want to stick with it for your next live shows to keep the costs and micro-management necessary down to a minimum.
Using a single all-in-one platform for the long term means you have to make multiple calls for support when issues arise. It would be frustrating if you have to explain who you are, what your events are about, and what issues you’re experiencing each time you call for customer service.
Sure, spending a few minutes discussing the details on the phone may not affect your financial sheets. But time is money – and the minutes spent over things that your platform provider should already know are taken away from activities that help enhance your events and boost your bottom-line.
You want to keep your events safe and sound along with the important processes and information tied to it: the registrant data, management, payment collection, performance reporting, and of course, your hard-earned money.
You want an event management solution that cares about your events as much as you do – and will be around for the years to come. After all, if you’re like most planners, you plan your exhibits, seminars, and meetings several months or even years ahead of time. It would be a crying shame if all the time and effort you spent on planning events in advance went down the drain because your technology provider went out of business!
Unfortunately, you can’t gaze into a crystal and foresee how long an event management solution will stay in business – but we can always look back to the provider’s previous performance!
Ask how long they’ve been in the business. And be sure to search for reviews of the platform by other event professionals.
Spying on the company’s social media accounts also helps. Do they have a sizeable number of followers? Do they promptly respond to questions and complaints posted on their Twitter or Facebook profiles?
If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, there’s a good chance that they’ve been in the industry for a long time now. The prompt responses to inquiries via social media may also be a sign of good and timely customer service and support.
Planning and managing an event on a single platform requires a number of must-have features. However, an event professional should be careful not to focus too much on the number of add-ons included in a platform.
When shopping and comparing all-in-one event management systems, you shouldn’t compare the number of features offered by each, and instead, focus on the richness and utility of the feature in question. You don’t want a platform that’s oozing with add-ons that don’t really help you achieve your goals – whether it’s greater engagement, better data and insights, branding, or revenue.
So what features and capabilities should you look for in a single management platform? Let’s take a look:
You can liken an event to a computer.
We’ve discussed the “software” aspect in the previous sections: the mobile apps, event management systems, essential features, etc.
In this section, we will look at the “hardware” aspect of the event: the types of equipment almost every event needs, and later on, we’ll discuss the 4 things to look for in a rental company or provider.
One cannot overemphasize the importance of great lighting in live events. It’s hard to imagine how you can comfortably navigate the venue if you can’t see the furniture and other attendees around you!
Nowadays, however, lighting does more than simply provide illumination. You’ll find countless creative ideas and uses of lighting to dictate the mood in venues, increase brand exposure, provide mesmerizing entertainment, and highlight centerpieces.
Take uplighting for example. This form of perimeter lighting uses small lighting units, appropriately named uplights. The lights are placed on the floor, illuminating the venue’s walls from the ground up. Uplighting works particularly well for venues that are low in aesthetic appeal, emphasizing the décor and adding color to empty halls, ballrooms, and auditoriums.
If you’re looking for extra opportunities to put your brand’s stamp on the event, check out gobos. Gobos are simply patterns, and they come in 3 types: metal, glass, and full-color gobos. These patterns create a silhouette when used with projectors, spotlights, and other light sources.
Not only do gobos add visual interest but they also provide more opportunities for branding and advertising, making it a hit especially for corporate events and business conventions.
Looking to create an upbeat vibe for an evening party? Light shows are worth checking out. Big festivals like Coachella and Tomorrow Land always feature a light show and for good reason. The dazzling display of light and sound in sync (with the aid of a light engineer) never fails to grab attention and energize the crowd.
And if you’re looking to transform centerpieces and décor elements to awesome pieces of art, pin spotlights can get the job done. These spotlights create a dramatic effect and further enhance design by projecting light directly to these elements. It’s a great piece of lighting, especially for the dining table!
One would be hard-pressed to find an event professional without an iPad. With access to useful apps and great processing power packed in a stylish and portable frame, it’s not surprising that the iPad replaced the traditional (and burdensome) binders that meetings and event planners carry all the time.
However, iPads can also positively impact your event at many levels whether you’re running an exhibit, meeting, or a corporate training seminar.
For starters, iPads can run paperless registrations and check-ins. Your staff can access the mobile event app and have guests sign-in via the iPad – a great way to efficiently process registrations while minimizing paper waste and printing costs.
Exhibitors, on the other hand, can turn iPads to stations that display information and capture attendee information. You can easily load games, digital brochures, surveys, and other marketing content.
Video walls are growing in popularity – able to display social media conversations and serve as a hard-to-miss advertising platform. And you can create one using multiple iPads. Even better, the compact frame of the iPad makes it more versatile and easier to transport than bigger screens.
Speakers can also deliver better presentations with the slides and fact sheets pre-loaded on iPads. The speaker can control the slides for the audience from a master iPad, making sure nobody – not even those at the back row – misses a thing.
Audiovisual technology is an essential part of every event! AV equipment can spell the difference between a great conference or meeting that leaves a lasting impression and a boring one that attendees forget as soon as it’s over.
AV technologies like projection mapping have transformed galas, live shows, concerts, and theatrical presentations – creating multimedia content which is projected onto flat surfaces or objects and brought to life using computer technology.
A good event sound system, which includes microphones, speakers, subwoofers, etc., ensures that all guests receive clear audio – whether it's high energy music, sound effects from a video, or a speaker talking – wherever they are in the venue.
The rise in popularity of smart phones, tablets, and iPads may have reduced the need for laptop rental. While laptops are portable, they’re bulkier and heavier compared to the latest, ultra-light mobile devices that can fit a lot of computing power in the palm of your hands.
Nevertheless, laptops still have a stable place in conferences, meetings, and other events. For event professionals, laptops make it easy to live-tweet during sessions, stay in contact with readers and followers, and even write blog posts and updates while on site.
Laptops can also do most of the things a tablet or iPad does: it can facilitate paperless check-in for attendees, serve as a learning tool during training sessions, showcase the features and capabilities of an exhibitor’s software tool or app, and many more.
We’ve discussed the most common types of equipment necessary for a sold-out event. However, having a reliable equipment rental company is just as important for your success – one that can give you valuable ideas to further enhance your event and you can turn to when things don’t go as planned.
Here are the 4 things to look for when shopping for an event rental company:
Willing To Do A Venue Walkthrough: The importance of a venue walkthrough cannot be overemphasized. But it’s even better if you tour together with your provider. An equipment and AV specialist can bring issues to your attention including structural and architectural elements you forgot to account for, potential storage and security problems, possible hiccups when setting up the equipment, and more. If an event equipment rental company isn’t willing to do a venue tour with you, find another provider!
Fits Your Budget: While price shouldn’t be the number one factor to consider in choosing an equipment rental company, you want a provider that can accommodate your event’s needs without going over budget. Be honest about the budget and what you need for your event: the type and quantity of equipment you need, the content and how you plan to distribute it to attendees, the number of speakers and their preference for hardware and software, etc.
On-Time Delivery And Pickup Of Equipment: Late deliveries and pickup are a huge pain point for party and event planners. Tardiness is especially a headache when the event is held at a rented public venue where every minute counts. Always ask how much time a provider needs for setting up and tear down, and go for an event rental company that sports a good record for delivering, setting up, and picking up equipment on time.
Outstanding Support And Responsiveness:Many equipment rental companies may offer the equipment and technology you need for the event. The level of support and responsiveness, however, will differ. You want an equipment provider that designates and informs you of the point person for every aspect of your event, so even the tiniest of details are taken care of.
Looking for an event equipment rental company that ticks all the right boxes? Give us a try! COS Rental is battle-tested, and chosen as a preferred supplier for many of the UK’s biggest events including Event Tech Live, Event Tech Awards, Office Manager & PA Show, Exhibition News Awards, Int’l Confex, and MORE. Call us today and get a free quote in 20 minutes!
The rate at which event technology is changing and developing is amazing!
Just a few years ago, running a paperless registration and check-in was unheard of. Tracking attendee traffic and movement within the venue seemed impossible. And virtual and augmented reality was reserved for the movies.
Today, these technologies are commonplace!
But these amazing changes in the technology landscape also proved overwhelming for event and meeting professionals.
“What technology should I include in my event?”
“What do I do with the steep learning curve?”
These are just some of the pressing questions many of you have.
Fortunately, we interviewed 6 event tech experts earlier this year in collaboration with Event Farm.
The experts didn’t fail to provide one-liners worth remembering and insightful answers to questions including those above.
For this section, we picked some of the juiciest and thought-provoking bits from the interview.
Sue is an editor and blogger for a big online portal for the events and meetings industry, MeetingsNet.com – and she’s been at it for 18 years and counting! She’s planned countless conferences and smaller meetings even before she turned pro. When she’s not writing for MeetingsNet or planning a party, she’s either teaching Zumba or dancing with Mango, the Australian shepherd.
Event technologies that will thrive in 2016: I will be gob-smacked if the technology that encourages audience participation and interaction with the content doesn't continue to make inroads at this year's events.
Attendee expectations: It's not about how many sessions or how many fabulous speakers you offer; it's about how what you offer helps each person who comes to the event meet their goals.
How to deal with tech-overwhelm: Pick one thing to try...Find out what one thing will best ring your participants’ bells and concentrate on that first, then try one more thing, and then maybe one more.
On new-fangled gizmos and game-changing developments: If the technology sounds like a game-changer, but the learning curve is really steep (for staff or especially attendees)… Fuhgeddaboutit – at least for now.
Adam is the editor behind Event Industry News, a leading portal planners and organizers that covers conferences, exhibits, and festivals all over the globe. Adam Parry is also the director and one of the co-founder Event Tech Live and Event Technology Awards.
Choosing the right technology for your event: Don't focus on the tech. Instead, ask what the objectives of my event are and or what do I need help doing. Once you have the answers to those questions, it's easy to figure out which technologies are nice to have and which you need to have.
The dangers of event tech: As soon as the technology gets in the way of enjoying an event – for example, attendees must do XYZ – then it’s a hindrance, and that’s not engaging.
On that piece of tech he likes to see 5 years from now: I would really like to see technology that helps to show the emotion of an audience in a visual or otherwise way.
Pim is a social media expert and a true event professional, helping plan and promote events even starting from his university days Universiteitsfonds Delft, Netherlands. He’s the founder of TweetBeam, providing visually engaging social media walls for Incubus HQ Live, Tour De France 2015, and the like.
On what event tech should and shouldn’t do: Event technology should generate interaction and not broadcast content. Attendees are not TV viewers that want to be slapped in the face with information.
What he’d like to see in the future: I would love to see a smarter tool to find people that should meet each other at a live event.
Corbin is the founder of Corbinball.com, a portal for all-things meetings tech. A certified speaker, meeting professional, and consultant with over 20 years of experience, he was named as one of “The 25 Most Influential People In The Meetings Industry” by two prominent industry publications, Meetings News and Successful Meetings Magazine.
The number one priority of meetings and events professionals: Digitize your business process. A piece of paper is a “white flag of inefficiency.” It is a terrible collaboration and sharing vehicle. Eliminate paper wherever possible in your business processes.
On the role of technology: Technology is not an end in itself, but a means to improve events.
The management platform of the future: In five years, I hope to see a fully integrated event management platform. This cloud-based system will be fully mobilized and handle event marketing, registration, and logistics.
Ryan is a serial entrepreneur who’s passionate about music and has a keen eye for creating digital wonderlands. He’s the CEO of Event Farm, a cloud-based event marketing platform that powered events for big clients like Google, Facebook, Oracle, and Coca-Cola. He’s the brain behind the 2015 edition of The New Media Party, which showcased event tech and engagement at its finest.
The fall of email and its replacement: Reliance on email to invite, promote, register, and communicate with attendees will begin to change. As consumers, we want easier and simpler ways to communicate. How many chat applications are out there? There is a very good reason for that.
How to separate the noise from must-haves: Start with WHY…Why are you hosting your event? What are you trying to accomplish? Assess if the technology in question helps achieve that goal or it’s just noise or a ‘fun to have’.
His top 2 predictions for 2016: I think the 2 predictions that stand out to me are: 1. Attendees looking for everything to be “On Demand” and 2. Communication methods are RAPIDLY changing.
A police officer for 3 years, his passion for event technology and social media landed him a spot at the COS Group’s event equipment rental department – COS Rental. Mark is now the manager of the rental department and went on to work with big events like the International Confex and Event Tech Live 2015 as one of the preferred suppliers.
On the focus of event tech this 2016: I have a hunch that technologies which help facilitate learning, networking, and face-to-face socialization will take the spotlight this year and beyond.
The number one criteria for choosing event tech: Always start with your event’s goals and priorities. You shouldn’t pick up a piece of tech because it has a cool feature set… the question to always ask is: How will this help achieve our goals?
We talked about mobile event apps, online registration and ticketing platforms, all-in-one event management software, essential equipment, and the latest event tech trends and developments.
But maybe you’re wondering:
“What happens when the pieces of the technology puzzle come together?”
This section has the answers! Here, we will look at 3 awesome events in 2015: Cvent Connect, Event Tech Live, and The New Media Party – focusing the spotlight on how the organizers employed ground-breaking technologies to create a rich attendee experience, encourage user-generated content, gain behavioral insights, and more.
The yearly user group conference for the world-renowned platform provider started in 2012 with less than 200 attendees. In June 2015 however, Cvent Connect drew a crowd of 2,300 to the MGM Grand, Las Vegas – and 95% of this year’s attendees say they’ll be back for more in 2016!
How did Cvent grow their user-base and annual conference attendees to epic proportions? While such successes need numerous factors to come into play, Cvent’s great use of event technology and equipment played a great role no doubt.
The software platform company regularly surveys its customer, always eager to know what their users want out of the platform and annual meeting. But more importantly, Cvent uses the information from the respondents to create rock-solid software solutions to planners and meeting professionals – and a jam-packed event that attendees love!
For 2015, the company set up a room that allows attendees to film themselves as they share their success stories using Cvent’s solutions. And to give attendees a share of the spotlight, Cvent uploads the videos on their website for everyone to see.
Cvent also created an interactive timeline display for the MGM Grand conference, featuring meetings that made and changed history, such as the women’s suffrage movement. But even better, Cvent used the interactive timeline display to engage attendees, asking them to add their success stories to the giant mural. Instant engagement and user-generated content!
The longer evening receptions and breaks had an informal feel of course. However, the Cvent team spent a great deal of time and effort in planning the breaks to ensure that attendees get plenty of time to meet face-to-face and socialize with like-minded people.
The team sent pre-marketing messages – highly segmented and targeted to the niches of potential attendees. For example, customers who got to attend the previous years’ conferences got a different message from customers at the Cvent Connect for the first time.
The marketing team drip-fed the targeted pre-marketing messages while the sales team followed up, bringing customer-oriented and customer-led sessions to a customer’s attention while highlighting how it can help them succeed in their work.
Cvent Connect also made great use of their mobile app – unsurprisingly if I may add. The agenda, alerts, along with gamification and polling features were employed to connect with attendees and extract data, crucial for creating an even bigger and better conference for 2016.
Event Tech Live
Over 1000 forward-thinking event professionals flocked to the Old Truman Brewery in November 2015 for the second edition of the Event Tech Live. The exhibit donned a raw yet functional feel, even featuring outdated yet cool technologies including the first ever Apple computer.
The sessions, on the other hand, came with different presentation formats – a breath of fresh air from the usual format found in most conferences. One such example was Julius Solaris’ Q&A session.
The editor of The Event Manager Blog completely skipped the presentation part and took questions from the audience, which not only broke the barrier between speakers and attendees but also made the session a huge hit.
The team behind Event Tech Live also did a great job of curating exhibitors for the event including event apps and registration providers, companies that offered beacons, and more.
However, the reason Event Tech Live is on this list is the exhibit’s creative incorporation of technology. The event used an iPad registration, and it was the first show to ditch the exhibition brochure – a great first step into innovation and lower printing costs!
The RFID cloakroom and wristbands replaced the usual tickets, totally eliminating the need to worry about losing that important yet easily misplaced piece of paper.
Along with iBeacons, the use of RFID also made it easier to track the traffic and movement of visitors across the venue – allowing organizers to see what visitors liked and didn’t, which stands are busier during which time of the day, what stands visitors stood longer at, and for how long.
It’s only a matter of time before conferences, exhibits, and meetings employ RFID and iBeacons. These location-aware technologies provide valuable insights to event professionals – insight that will help grow attendance and improve ROI.
Of course, Adam Parry and the rest of the ETL team know that the show can’t just talk about event technology – they must have it on the show. And the exhibitors were more than up to the task, bringing amazing pieces of technology and innovative gadgets including:
The New Media Party
The New Media Party, originally launched in 2012 as StartUpRockOn, is the premier event of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. The event returned for its second year in April 2015 at the Carnegie Library, attracting sponsors like Microsoft, Vntana, Yelp, AOL, and more.
The 2015 edition of the party, produced by Event Farm, showcased inventive uses of technology at events. Let’s take a look at the event tech highlights of the party:
First is the digital gifting wall that reinvented gifting at events. The wall allows guests to tap and input their credentials via an interactive screen to get sent one of the 8 digital gifts on offer via email including coupon codes, music files, content, and other offers.
The content globes at the party showed how real-time content delivery works. These floating globes allow guests to download whatever track they’re listening to by simply swiping their badge.
Hologram selfies also took The New Media Party by storm. Guests walk up to a platform, swipe their badge, and the software immediately grabs their image while projecting their hologram live on Carnegie Library’s walls!
The game room, on the other hand, took face-to-face meetings and socialization to another level. Attendees swipe their badge on the platform, so the system immediately recognizes who they are. It then prompts both attendees to ask questions that get harder and harder as they go along. And at the end of the session, the participants are sent an email to connect after the event.
But what happens if you combine technology, lights, sound, and taste to create a full experience?
The New Media Party also has an answer: the audio bar, an innovative audio-and-cocktail pairing idea.
Attendees tap their badge to get a 6-track and cocktail menu that best represents their mood. The mixologists then go to town, whipping up awesome cocktails for guests to sip and enjoy while listening to the handpicked tracks!