21 Factors For Evaluating Event Management Software

According to 2018 research, there are now over 245 event technologies for event planners—a 70%+ jump since 2014. And while all of this choice is good, it also (unfortunately) makes it harder for event planners to wade through all the options and select the right event management software needed for their business.

In light of this, many event planners are turning to single event management platforms to more easily manage the majority of their technology, instead of spending time procuring a number of point solutions.

In this blog, we’ll outline the top features you should look for, and share other advice for evaluating event management platform providers.

Assessing Which Event Management Features You Need

Because every event is unique, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single tool that has all of the features you’ll need.

To pick the right platform, you’ll need to assess which functions your organization already has tools for that can be used, or which processes are better managed by your team vs. other vendors.

Here are a few examples of how you could narrow down the feature set you’ll be looking for:

  • Do you already have a website/marketing support? If so, you may not need as many marketing or website building tools in your platform.
  • Do you plan many different events in many unfamiliar locations? If not, venue selection likely won’t be adding any more value than using a service, or searching online yourself for venues.
  • Do you have a finance team with processes and tools for payments? If yes, budgeting tools likely won’t be needed. Additionally, your finance team may be leery of changing how they work or sending financial data to a separate platform with an integration.

Your overall event goals will also determine which features are the most important to you.

However, it’s worth noting that the most impactful event technologies are the ones that increase attendee retention and engagement (which ultimately lead to increased revenue, brand loyalty, learning, networking, etc.).

Any tool that directly enhances the attendee experience will likely be seen as adding value, whereas backend tools—which aren’t seen or used by anyone except those on your team—may be harder to show the value of, or justify costs for.

So, when choosing a platform, don’t forget to think about the attendee experience in addition to your internal teams’ experience.

The Top Event Management Platform Features

Here’s a listing of the key features the best event management platforms should have integrated within their system:

Customizability/Design Options

Ask how simple it is to change colors, logos, and create custom URLs without a developer/designer’s help. Look for color pickers, customizable banners/logo uploading, custom URL options, uploading, and/or What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors.

Registration Site & Ticketing Capabilities

Determine how easy it is for you to customize a branded registration page, send email invites to potential attendees, and automatically push registrants into an event app or onsite check-in tool (or, ask about integratations that will automate this process). For ticketing, look for custom fields, ticket capping, customizable ticket types and promo codes, secure payment processing and simple analytics.

Onsite Check-in

Investigate how easy it is to import attendee data for check-in (or if integrations can be automated for this). Look for an intuitive interface that makes check-in easy for onsite staff and to view real-time analytics.

Event Marketing Tools

Ask about options for promoting your event via emails, a pre-event app, group discussion/community features, and/or social media.

An Integrated Event App

An event app will be your key to onsite engagement and information sharing, so it needs a robust feature set. Basic needs include custom branding and navigation options; editable people profiles; custom roles for different participant types; push, in-app and email notifications; and robust agenda options, including customizable tracks, speaker info and sponsor management options (such as banner ads, profiles, etc.).

Document & Map Hosting

Ask about the ability to organize and share presentations, documents, images, maps and more to keep attendees informed, educated and engaged throughout your event. Ask about the variety of file types that can be uploaded.

Onsite Participant Engagement Tools

Consider adopting a platform that includes superior engagement options, such as networking and messaging features, group discussions, gamification (including points and a leader-board), and an activity feed. These tools greatly add to the overall event experience and can encourage attendees to interact with sponsors and peers.

Audience Response Systems

To move away from physical clickers, consider using an event app that can do live polls and send questions to speakers. Look for ease of use for your attendees, the ability to tie polls to specific sessions, easy display options (usually via a URL or the ability to embed in presentations), audience question up-voting, and appealing visuals when results are shared

Sponsor Promotion & Management

Any vendor you work with should have options for highlighting sponsors, including banner ads (with click/view tracking), editable sponsor profiles, hosted documents, banners and logos on surveys, etc.

Digital Signage Management

Any vendor you work with should have options for highlighting sponsors, including banner ads (with click/view tracking), editable sponsor profiles, hosted documents, banners and logos on surveys, etc.

Surveys

A platform can make it easier to collect more feedback by making the process simpler for attendees (and paper-less for your team!). App-based session feedback surveys, overall-experience surveys (with email and notification options for attendees post-event), and different question types (including both quantitative and open-ended, written response types) will encourage attendees to share feedback conveniently through their devices.

Centralized Reporting & Analytics

Look for reporting that includes data from the entire attendee experience, from registration rates to post-event survey completions. In addition to that, the most valuable analytics that will determine how well your technology is engaging attendees is app access and usage rates. Inquire as to what reports are available and how they can be exported.

Integrations

If your team wants to build an integration between your systems and an event management platform, ask the vendor about costs to access their API (a REST API is the most recognized). If your team lacks technical expertise, ask about the costs for pre-built integrations options from the vendor directly.

Security & Privacy Options

To keep event data safe, ask about the platform’s ability to control who can access technology through passcodes, registered-only lists, hiding events, etc. It may also be important to have the ability to display a privacy policy and terms of use so attendees can understand how their data is being used before completing registration or joining an event app.

Team/Organization Management

This is especially important if you have multiple events a year or a large events team. Focus on the ability to separate events in the backend, promote multiple events at once, add users easily, and store reports.

When all of these tools mentioned above are integrated into a single platform, they give the best picture of how successful an event was from an attendee engagement perspective—which is the most important factor in determining how you will improve your strategy for your next event. Being able to create seamless attendee touchpoints with one tool will also prevent headaches between using different several point solutions

Call Out: Beware of Patchwork Platforms

Some “platforms” are actually a collection of separate products that were acquired by a single company. Those products—which were built on separate systems by completely different teams—are then be strung together with integrations or embedding functions so that they appear to work as one.

These types of platforms are often harder to learn (since the interfaces are a separate and design by different teams) and the data reporting is usually not as good as a platform built on a single information system.

To avoid this, take a look at the company’s Press or News section to see if they have a history of acquiring other products to build out their “platform.” If they appear to be a collection of separate tools, ask for a free trial or a deep-demo to see if they’ve had time to properly fuse products together.

Other Considerations When Evaluating Event Management Software Vendors

A few other non-feature-related things you’ll want to consider when making your final vendor selection are:

Billing Options

Ask to see if pricing is based on the features you want to use, the number of attendees, the number of backend users you can have (often called “seats” or “licenses”) or the number of events you plan to hold. The most flexible pricing is usually based on features and/or the number of attendees using the technology.  If you run events year round, you can also ask about yearly billing options, which can usually be paid monthly, which may fits your need better than a per event engagement.

Scalability for Teams

If you want more than one person in your organization using your event management software, ask about how many “seats” or “licenses “you’ll get when you buy. If you have multiple team members, you’ll want a platform with reasonable costs per person. Many providers limit this number, which may force you to share logins (which isn’t ideal) or require you to ask them to add seats. Work with a company that is flexible for your team size and allows you to easily add seats when you need.

Ease of Use

A straightforward interface, drag-and-drop tools and What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors will mean it will be easy for members of your team to adopt the platform with little help. To truly understand if a tool is easy to use, request a free trial to use on your own—not just a demo guided by a sales rep. Ask to see examples from other customers who’ve had no help from technical experts, too. This is important if you won’t have a lot of technical support from others in your organization when it comes to configuring your event technology.

Also, request to see the front-end attendee interface so you can get a feel for if it would be easy for them to adopt the technology, as well. You can also ask about average adoption or engagement rates for front-end users.

Training Options

Dig into your providers’ training and support options when talking to a sales rep. Ask about their onboarding process to understand who much setup support you will receive. You can also ask if they offer live virtual training, which is often scheduled a few times a month and free to attend so you can your team can learn and ask questions directly. They may also offer private training for your team at an extra cost, which may appeal to you. Inquire if they have support articles and/or video walkthroughs (you may even find some of these by Googling), so you can troubleshoot on your own and learn best practices. Finally, ask for reviews of the support/services team online, and ask about the methods for contact (phone, email, live chat, etc.) and their hours so you understand the level of support you will get.

Build and/or Management Services

Many software providers offer Professional Services that build and manage your event tech for you—meaning you could avoid learning/training altogether. However, if you go this route, you may still wish to train a few members of your team to use the tool, in case you need last minute changes. High-quality vendors will also offer onsite support for the day of your event, design services, strategic help, uploading support, and more to ensure your complete success no matter your budget or in-house resources.

Has Experience With Your Type of Event

Ask if the vendor has served events similar to yours in type and size. This should tell you if they have the expertise to help you succeed. Don’t just take the sales person’s word for it, though. Look for blogs, case studies, examples, online reviews, testimonials, and references so you can verify that other customers are happy with the vendor and its products.

Now that you’re familiar with what to look for when evaluating event management software, read this blog to learn the 8 signs that event management software would be right for your company. If your organization has 4 out of 8 signs, share them with decision makers so you can start exploring a platform as a potential solution

 

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