Organizing a conference can be a daunting and time-consuming exercise. Whether it’s a small one day event for 20 delegates or a large three day event at Earls Court, the general process and common issues are the same.
So what are the stages of planning a conference?
- Venue booking
- Sending out invitations to a targeted list of potential delegates
- Organization and booking of all resources such as catering, accompanying printing, promotional items, A&V etc
- Dealing with speakers and guest speakers
- accept registrations
- accept payment
- Sending reminder emails to delegates
- Print badge
- Organization of staff on the day
- End-to-end budget management
This is an extremely simple and simplified list to show the general checklist that event managers need to consider. This process can start 6 months before an event or even 12-18 months before for really big national events. Managing all of these steps can be extremely complicated and it can be very easy for event managers to make big mistakes.
To avoid costly mistakes and ensure conferences are organized efficiently, many event professionals are looking for an event management software solution. These solutions have the tools and capabilities to manage and track activities throughout the event and conference planning process, as well as activities performed as part of event follow-up (e.g. post-event surveys and generating reports for intelligent analysis) .
If you follow the above steps when planning an event, an events software solution can help you:
1. Venue booking
Controlling an event manager is key; Whether it’s a meeting/conference room in your own office or a larger external venue, events software can help by ensuring allocation is made and payment is made. For more complex conferences that require multiple rooms over multiple days, event solutions include a comprehensive software tool for planning, resources, and venues. A highly configurable and fully customizable function sheet and multiple calendar feature that allows you to manage your resources and venue from one centralized and flexible application. This helps simplify the normally complex process of booking and managing the venue.
2. Sending invitations to a targeted list of prospects
The events manager may know the exact number and names of delegates they are addressing, or in some cases may have been told to invite a specific demographic (based on relationship, job title, location, etc.). Managing the selection of delegates to invite becomes easy with the events software as it can be integrated with your CRM package. This means all company records and data are easily accessible and records are automatically updated so others viewing those records know the contact has been invited and whether or not they have registered and paid.
Event software also comes with sophisticated email marketing tools. Event managers can easily create and filter a selection of target attendees from their CRM and include them in a customized HTML email ready to be sent. From the event management software platform, event managers can track opens, clicks and other recipient activity.
3. Resource Management
Events software comes with a resource management module that allows event managers to track and control all the resources needed to manage an event. External providers can be granted access to this module so that they can keep track themselves instead of contacting the event manager directly. For example, caterers can be granted access so they can easily see up-to-date information on attendance numbers and special dietary requirements. By directly accessing this module in the event software, event managers have one less person and one less call! Errors are also reduced as one layer of communication has been removed.
Resource modules also include multiple and powerful calendars, allowing conference managers to manage numerous resources across these different calendars; This is all accessible from one central location, ensuring all updates/changes/additions are recorded in real-time. Using the information gathered through this resource module, event managers can create customized reports that include details such as the number of pods available, number of brochures, etc. Event managers no longer have to juggle multiple spreadsheets across multiple calendars, resulting in fewer errors.
4. Dealing with moderators and guest speakers
Event software can also manage this process. Emails can be automatically scheduled to remind guest speakers of the event and to request specific information such as a bio for marketing materials and presentation slides for attendees. Presenters can also be given direct access to the resource management module, where they can manage and update their own profile, and upload materials and other items. This also relieves the event manager and gives him the opportunity to work on more strategic activities.
5. Accept registrations
Registrations can be made conveniently online. This benefits both delegates and event managers. It’s a fast, effective method and is fast becoming the standard method of event registration. But there are good and bad ways to take registrations online. Ideally, event managers should want to direct potential attendees to their own website, which includes a specially created page branded with the company and event. Taking registrations on your own website plays an important role in increasing delegate login rates – delegates are more trusting and more likely to login when they are on the same website, while it can cause trust issues when they are on an external website to get redirected. It is also important to be able to change the information requested during registration. Some events only require a name, phone number and email address, while others may require more detailed information. Event software can easily handle these changes.
6. Take payment
A simple, straightforward and efficient registration and payment process is essential when event managers want to ensure a high turnout. Events software gives event managers the ability to accept payments online through a secure web portal, providing delegates with an easy, trusted payment method. Because the event management software integrates with the back-end financial application, payments can be easily accepted, records updated, and receipts automatically sent out without the intervention of the event manager or accounts payable. If payment is not made online, the event software can automatically send invoices to the attendee. For even smoother payment transactions, event solutions include connectors that enable seamless integration into your internal financial system.
7. Sending reminders to delegates
The email marketing tool included with the event software can create emails that can be scheduled to be sent automatically to all delegates. These can be reminder emails or emails with updates or event changes. They can be created in advance and then forgotten as the event software does the rest.
8. Print badge
Making delegate badges is a small part of running a conference, but it can be extremely time consuming for event managers and can lead to real problems on the day of the conference if mistakes are made. Event software packages come with easy-to-use, effective badge creation tools. Not only does creating custom name tags become easier, but the delegate names section is created automatically as the events software integrates with the CRM – so it knows exactly what names and details to print.
9. Organization of staff on the day
The effective resource management module allows for accurate management of all staff – it will be easy for event managers to delegate activities to individuals and log them in this resource module. Employees can access this module anytime, anywhere (via the web) so they always know what their responsibilities are and where they need to be.
10. Budget management end-to-end
Event software is a great tool for managing finances and budgets. All costs can be covered via the integration with the financial system. These can then be easily tracked and monitored, with alerts alerting the event manager if there are problems or costs are increasing rapidly. Reports can be generated instantly with the click of a button – useful for event update meetings and when event managers need to compile statistics for senior management.
So we can see how events software can revolutionize the stages of planning a conference. Without event management software, many of these tasks would be manually created, tracked, and organized across huge spreadsheets. There would be a high possibility of errors and mistakes and the whole process would be time consuming, stressful and ineffective for the conference manager and people associated with the event.