Companies and event planners have realized the effectiveness of virtual event solutions and embraced virtual events with open arms. Although many events are once again being presented in person, people have come to expect a hybrid component to be part of their event to complement, or accommodate individuals and teams that forgo traveling, etc. However, event organizers are unwilling to let go of some of the features and functions they discovered - and enjoyed - when hosting virtual events. Many are pivoting to a hybrid event format, where virtual components are leveraged to either complement the in-person experience or provide access to event experiences for remote attendees.
What does this mean?
When organizing an event, planners should be sure to leverage event management software that is flexible enough to enhance in-person and virtual experiences. Most event management platforms will also offer state-of-the-art event tech integrations so you can enhance the event experience with the latest apps. But with so many solutions on the market, it can be hard to determine what best meets your needs.
Let’s start here.
What is event management software?
Event management software streamlines and automates many workflows in event planning and hosting. Features usually include event marketing and registration, ticketing and payments, attendee check-in and badging, digital lead capture, contact sharing, sponsorship exposure, live streaming, engagement tools, networking capabilities, push notifications, event analytics and reports, and more.
If it sounds like a lot to evaluate – it can be. There are now many virtual event solution providers in the marketplace, making it difficult for event planners and marketers to know how to choose between opposing platforms. Here’s some advice:
- The right platform: The right virtual event platform will support both virtual and hybrid events. These days, different people have different feelings about attending events in person. And at the risk of sounding pessimistic, remember that event disruptions can come in any form and at any time. Recently, we experienced a pandemic. Twelve months from now, it could be a weather event. Three years from now, it could be an economic event. You need to have a long-term event strategy that accommodates different scenarios, and investing in a platform that hosts both virtual and hybrid events will be critical.
- Some “must-haves”: At a minimum, platform “must-haves” are ease of use for attendees, fast build time, multi-language features for global events, and reporting for ROI measurement. Keep in mind, though, that there’s a lot of “nice to have” functionality outside of these basics that will enhance the entire event, deliver better event value, and help you utilize event data more effectively. For example, advanced platforms will have AI capabilities that allow you to leverage your registration and behavior information to recommend activities, content, contacts, etc., to each attendee before and throughout the event, sending push notifications and personalizing the event experience to increase engagement.
- Rock solid tech: Most importantly, the technology must be rock solid, hosted in the cloud to manage scale, and built with HTML5 for accessibility on any browser and device. It’s also wise to consider how easily the platform integrates with other applications. Ideally, you want a technology-agnostic platform, meaning you can integrate the tools you use daily with the platform and take advantage of the solution provider’s technology partners, such as virtual photo booths and captioning, social media walls, etc. Seamless integrations will empower you to provide an almost endless array of flexibility and choice for your attendees.
- Feel secure: Don’t overlook the solution provider’s cybersecurity capabilities. You must ensure attendee information and all your data collected throughout your event are secured to the highest standards, with end-to-end encryption and no local applications for hosts or attendees to install.
- Don’t do it alone: Choose an event platform provider that isn’t just providing technology but also providing consulting on how to plan events. Knowing the possibilities when leveraging technology in an in-person, hybrid, or virtual event scenario is essential. The right provider will have fundamental ideas on optimizing the technology’s features and functionality to meet your goals.
Start with a list of “must have” and “nice to have” event management software features and functionality for both your “present state” and your “future state,” and then seek an event tech provider that can accommodate your current needs and grow with you. Be sure the platform you select can integrate with your technology infrastructure, and take care the provider’s account management team understands where you are, where you want to go, and how you want to deliver. Do your homework and ask questions about the onboarding process, platform maintenance, upgrades, etc.
Why use event management software?
The real question is, “Why not?” There are a few reasons why event management software is a critical ingredient to any event, in any format:
- Easily integrate event management across partners, sponsors, organizers, etc.
- Streamline and automate event registration, ticketing, check-in, and more
- Save time
- Track revenue and establish one source of truth
- Increase attendee engagement with push notifications, chat features, polls, QR codes, and more
- Simplify attendee data collection and inform marketing and sales: demographics, behavior, and more
- Quickly run in-depth, real-time event analytics and reporting and optimize future event strategies
- Easily customize and brand the virtual components of your event and provide customization options for sponsors as well
- Personalize the event experience for each attendee with content and contact recommendations based on their registration and behavior data, regardless of whether they’re in-person or virtual
Event Management Solutions that Make the Difference
Here is a list of basic questions to get you started when evaluating how to choose event management software:
- What types of events do you currently host?
- What types of events would you like to plan in the future?
- Will you need an entire team to handle the software, or can one person do it all?
- Does the software support in-person and virtual events?
- What does the software cost?
- Will additional costs, such as service fees, be added once the software is purchased?
- Does the software integrate with other software you use?
The answers to these questions will help guide your decisions. Here are some “nice to have” features that may also be worth exploring in your evaluation process.
- Marketing: While word of mouth about your event is good, it’s not enough to reach your total potential audience. The software should handle event promotion and marketing, including email marketing. A good software platform will have email templates to save time, complete with custom branding options. You’ll also want to automate email reminders and confirmations and aggregate contact data and engagement (opens, clicks, conversions) and email performance data (sends, open rate, and bounces).
- Registration: One of the essential elements of an event is its registration page. This means the software must be flexible enough to enable you to customize registration pages with your branding and logos, partner ad banners, and more. It should also be powerful enough to handle high traffic and restrict access where necessary. You may also want to offer a complete event FAQ download. Pro tip: ask the vendor whether they can “copy” registration pages for future events, so you don’t have to build a new page each time.
- Check-in tools or app: One of the great things about having an app AND an in-person check-in is that your attendees can choose how they’d like to check in. If a line is long, in-person attendees can quickly check in with an app.
- Event Management App: An event app keeps everything in one place and enhances engagement between you, your sponsors, the exhibitors, and the attendees. An event app is an excellent place to house maps, speaker bios, session abstracts, attendee lists for networking, games, giveaways, and more. Make sure your social media feeds can integrate with the app for real-time updates and interactions, and attendees should be able to message each other. You can also use the app to leverage live polling during and after sessions and scan badges to collect leads. Make sure your app is compatible with Android and iOS devices and has ongoing support.
- Setting appointments: Whether through an event app or the event management platform itself, attendees should be able to easily set appointments with vendors before and during the event.
- Surveys, Polling, and Q& As: Integrating survey tools with the event platform will give you opportunities to collect data. Look for a provider that has templates to make your survey builds easy.
- Analytics: Data is the real event MVP. Make sure your platform can track attendee behavior, capture data, and analyze how they interact and engage, giving you a clear idea of your ROI.
From in-person events to hybrid events to virtual events, having the right platform will set you up for success. For more information on choosing the right event management platform, request a virtual event platform demo and speak to one of our associates today.