Should meeting planners care about event technology?
A recent study by Meeting Professionals International for IMEX America showed that 92 percent of meeting planners are not making the most of the technology solutions they implement. The study also showed that only about 21 percent of planners start the purchasing process with confidence.
We speak with a lot of meeting and conference planners at Eventinterface. One thing we have learned is that planners researching event technology usually come with one problem to solve. They may be looking for a tool to streamline attendee registration, a solution to help with attendee credentials and badging, or an app to check in attendees at their convention or symposium. Relatively few seem to be looking for comprehensive technology solutions that can improve efficiency, drive down operating cost and increase attendee engagement. Obviously solving just one problem can make a positive difference to the meeting planner. Technology solutions however are evolving to become more than a one-pain-point Band-Aid beneficial to planners, marketers, product managers and last but not least attendees.
Based on our experience we’ve devised a handful of tips that will help meeting and conference planners become confident in the research and purchasing process of event technology.
Define your and your attendees’ needs.
Prior to starting the process of contacting technology companies it would be fantastic to have a list of all of the problems you are trying to solve as a planner. Also understand how your attendees will adapt to new technology. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my true needs?
- What are my top 3 must haves?
- What problem or problems am I really trying to solve?
- What are deal breakers?
- Have I asked my attendees how they would like to experience technology at my conference?
Use your findings to research potential companies and see if their solution can really solve the problems you have. Be however prepared to think outside of the box. The path to solve the problem may be different that what you are used to.
What is the background of the technology company’s team in the meeting or event industry?
It is key to understand what the background is of the leadership team of the technology company. People who have little or no experience in the conference or meeting planning industry design many of the apps on the market.
Solutions designed by companies with planning experience will most likely be able to solve your problems well because the team behind the solution has been in your shoes and truly understand your pain points.
At the same time, you should have an understanding of the company’s customer support. Is the support team a technical team who will help you with technical questions, or is it a team with event industry experience who can guide you through planning challenges and technical issues?
Support and support team.
As mentioned in the above tip, it is key to understand if the support team is a technical team or a team with industry experience. Next, you should learn where the support team is located, and how and when you will have access to the team. How will you interact with the team? What level of support comes with the service you purchase? If standard support is not adequate, can you purchase a higher level of support?
Have a good understanding of what your customer service needs are. Find out if standard support is not sufficient, can an upgrade to premium support at a later date be purchased?
How long will it be before we will be comfortable working with the platform? What is the learning curve?
This is a great question to ask, but is be a bit hard to answer. It truthfully depends on the experience level of your team. Is the solution a SaaS platform? Is installation required? How long does it take the provider to set-up your accounts? What level of training is offered and are resources available for self-study?
The reality of the planning world is that quick decisions have to be made with fast implementations, and at times that causes issues that may affect your event. Understand your team, and give yourself enough time to implement and learn a new solution. The more full-featured a solution the more time you will need to learn the platform.
What is the true cost of the solution?
First and foremost it is important to understand what your budget is. Are you purchasing technology for one project, or multiple projects? Is the solution paid for by the event, the attendees, the planning department, the marketing department?
Do you feel comfortable paying a per transaction fee, or a subscription fee? Can I use the platform for an event, on a month-to-month basis, or do I need to sign a long-term contract? Does a long-term contract provide better pricing?
When speaking with technology companies have a very good understanding of their pricing model. Are you paying a base price per set number of transactions with penalties for overages? Does the transaction fee per registration include all platform features or are you paying additional fees for each aspect of the platform aside of registrations, such as emails, text messaging, notifications and so on?
At the same time, don’t look just at the cost of investing in a solution. Look at the time you will have to spend on implementation and learning. Will the new platform save you time, increase efficiencies and offer an opportunity for you to increase your overall event revenue? You need to review all of these perspectives to get to the true cost of employing a solution. Implementing a full-featured end-to-end management platform will potentially be at a higher upfront investment but save you money, decrease operating cost and increase overall event revenue, saving in the long run.
To summarize our top tips:
- Knowing what your must haves are.
- Trusting that the technology company understands you and your industry.
- Feeling comfortable with the level of training and ongoing support you will receive from the company.
- Understanding the true cost of investing in a technology product.
We hope these tips will help you be more at ease when shopping for event technology.
See our infographic on selecting event technology here.