Event organizers now have the luxury of choosing from a variety of event software solutions. The question is: which is the best for your needs?
Whether you just Googled this exact question or were emailed this article as part of our blog newsletter, event organizers are asking this question more and more. In an effort to minimize overhead and make more data-driven decisions, #eventprofs are actively looking for all-in-one event management platforms that are designed to make event planning faster and easier.
In the old days, a typical event planner could employ more than seven different tools to run a single event. An organizer of a mid-size conference recently told us that she used Wordpress to build her website, Eventbrite for event registration, Constant Contact for email attendees, and Excel for monitoring her event contacts. In addition to these tools, the organizer used another platform to provide attendees with an event networking platform. Each tool is sourced from a different vendor with its own pricing, contract, interface, and analytics.
Those days are over and a number of companies have come on the market with event management software that is intended to make life easier for organizers - but how are you supposed to go about choosing the right one?
First of all, asking the question “What Is The Best Event Management Software?” is probably the wrong thing to ask. That’s because the best platform will vary based on your specific needs.
Some platforms are more tailored for large corporations and enterprise events while others might have less features but are much easier to use.
The way to answer the question, "What is the best event management software?" is to first understand how you envision the software improving your current processes.
What are the pains you've experienced in the past while organizing an event? What are those practices you want to stop doing in order to improve the process? What tools and features do you need to reach your definition of event success?
Read the points below to understand how to approach the process of purchasing event management software. Keep in mind the following criteria and questions when shopping around for software.
5 Criteria for Exceptional Event Management Software:
1. Ease Of Use:
Test-drive it before buying. Get a feel for the user experience and design. While the event management software might look good on the company website, the software might not be that easy to use in the real world. You want an event planning platform that even your grandma can use. After all, the point of event software is that it is supposed to make your life as an event planner easier, so make sure the tool itself is easy to use by asking the platform companies for a free week-long trial before you make a commitment.
2. Customer Success & Support:
If you are an event organizer who is new to event planning software, you want to make sure that your new software offers resources and guidance on how to achieve success. Make sure that you have the option to chat with a real person if the need arises. After all, this is your event we’re talking about.
Consider choosing a platform that is capable of handling all of your events. Having to use an event planning platform for some events, and another platform for other events will be confusing and potentially very costly.
Opt for an event management solution that is scalable. You’ll also have access to cross-event data that could help you discover what is and isn’t working to become an even better event organizer.
4. Online Trust:
Do some research on the online presence of the platform you are considering. Do they have a good number of social media followers who the company is actually interacting with? Usually, that means the company has been around for a while which is good news.
What about press? Check to make sure that the event software you are considering has been reviewed by multiple sources. If you are finding it hard to find information about the company under consideration, it may be that journalists don’t think the platform is worthy of attention.
5. Quality of Features (and Not Quantity):
To be sure, you need a number of features in order to successfully plan an event from a single platform, but don’t get too caught up in comparing the number of features included in one platform with the number of features offered by another platform. What you should really pay attention to is the quality and richness of each feature.
What you want to avoid is selecting a platform that is overloaded with features (this is known as feature creep) with very little actual functionality. Look for features that are easy to use and that can actually empower you to achieve your specific event goals.
10 Questions To Ask When Buying Event Software
1) Are there additional fees or add-ons? If so, what is not included in the base price?
Know exactly what is included in the standard package of the event software. Getting this question out of the way in the beginning of sales process will help to avoid any unwanted surprises further down the line.
2) What are the weak points in your software compared to the competition?
Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions first. Asking for a comparison with other event softwares will help you assess the honesty of their sales process which is a reflection of the company's values.
3) Can I monitor event registration performance in real-time?
Given that event registration is such an important metric for event marketing campaigns, understanding the performance in real-time will provide helpful insights.
4) Can you show me examples of event websites that were created with your platform without the help of engineers or designers?
Being able to create a stellar event website is essential to the event organizing process. By looking through some websites that were created on the platform, you'll be able to better envision the type of event website you can design on your own.
5) Does your platform include a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) email editor?
Emails are an important part of the event planning process so you'll want an email builder that is intuitive and versatile. Similar to the previous question, ask to see some event email marketing examples to see what the platform is capable of.
6) Do you offer an event app? If so, does it cost extra to use?
In today's mobile-first world, an event app has become a must-have for all conferences and events. If an event software offers an in-house mobile app, this will make it easier for you to collect the engagement analytics after the event.
7) Does your platform offer reporting about event app adoption and community engagement?
Simply having an event app does not mean it will be downloaded by your attendees. Having an event management software that provides contextual data around event app adoption and the channels that drive the most conversions will be very useful information to have.
8) Are there options to promote sponsors and exhibitors? Can attendee engagement with these promotions be measured?
When securing event sponsorships, you must have measurable value to offer potential sponsors in order to secure their partnership. Having the ability to track attendee engagement will be a metric that sponsors will be keen on obtaining.
9) Does your platform integrate with marketing automation or CRM platforms? If so, which platforms does it integrate with?
By having an event software with key integrations, you'll be evolving from a typical event management solution to an event marketing stack. An event tech stack is able to provide cross-platform analytics that paints the larger picture of what a successful event marketing campaign really looks like.
10) Can I speak with a few customers from my industry who use your platform?
Connecting with other companies who are using the event software in question is a great way to get an unbiased review of the product. Prepare your own set of questions for the company you will be connected with in order to receive the most important pieces of information that will help you make your decision.
Conclusion: Choosing the Best Event Management Software for You
In summary, it’s important to keep in mind that the answer to the question “what is the best event management software?” will vary depending on your specific needs. But regardless of the type of event you are planning, it is important that you select an event management platform that is easy to use, has great customer support, is compatible with multiple events (if you plan more than one event a year), is trusted online and has features that are actually designed to help you.
Here is a brief recap of things to consider when shopping around for event management software:
- Post-event reporting tools and event data analytics
- Native integrations with other platforms
- Reviews from other companies in your industry
- Level of customer support throughout event planning process
- Features that align closely with your overall event goals
Take some time to consider what we discussed above, because the best event management software is the one that empowers you to create better events while providing the best value for your specific needs.
Click the button below to see how event management software can help you plan better conferences, conventions and professional events! You can also download our Event Software Buyer's Guide, created with data pulled from third-party resources like G2Crowd's Event Management Tools category.
Editor's Note: This Post was originally published March 9, 2015 and has since been updated to reflect the most recent updates in the event industry.