The Dirty Truths About Online Event Tools
We are in the business of providing online event management tools. During our research and working with clients we have discovered more than a few frustrated planners. Some of the frustration stems from unrealistic expectations set by the planner based on promises made by providers. Others perhaps from a lack of understanding related to the capabilities of the tools they implement. In this post we are looking at a few of these issues. We think it will help planners make educated decisions when looking at implementing online tools to manage meetings and events.
The “implement our tool and see increased registrations” sales pitch.
We are not big fans of this sales pitch by registration software providers. It implies that by implementing an online registration tool planners will see an automatic increase in sign-ups. Perhaps when online registrations became a reality about 10 years ago a subtle increase could be detected in sign ups. Online registration provides attendees with a tool to sign up whenever they want; however, providing the tool isn’t likely to increase attendance. Marketing increases attendance. A good tool will allow for attendees to help in the marketing efforts of your events by sharing it with their social media circles and therefore the possibility of increased attendance.
Hooray, I never have to work again.
A robust event management system can help you manage better and allocate your time and resources more wisely. However, you still need to plan and manage your event. A good system will let you more easily share event information, allow for attendees to manage their participation, and make certain administrative tasks simpler. Investing in Adobe InDesign isn’t going to magically provide you with great collateral for your organization. You still have to design it, using the tool that makes the process easier. Same counts for any event software.
A lot of the customer service work planners are involved in relates to managing attendees. At times more than 35% of overall planning time is spend on dealing with attendees pre- and post-event. Some online tools, such as Eventinterface allow for attendees to manage their participation from reprinting receipts and tickets, changing event preferences, digital access to event data and more. By providing these tools, planners can indeed save on planning time.
I think it is easy to use and safe. Is it?
It is important as a planner that you know your audience. Yes, 80% of the online population has shopped online. In the United States alone there will be almost 200 million online shoppers in 2014, and that numbers continues to grow. We have noticed however that some audiences have been unnerved by the recent data breaches at large retail outlets and websites.
Also true is that not all audiences want to register online. Some may still want to send in an RSVP card or speak with someone to secure a registration or reservation. High-end donors may not want to secure a $25,000 table via an online reservation system. And don’t you want that personal relationship with them anyway? When implementing an online registration system you need to allow for called-in, faxed -yes some people still use faxes- and mailed registrations. Make sure your registration system has a box office-type feature where you can process registrations received from other than online in order to have a cohesive attendee database.
Insure your online registration system is secure! Make sure your audience understands it is secure, and what you plan on doing with their registration data. Make sure that the software you use does not store credit card information and that any attendee data stored in the “cloud” is secure.
“We are the most cost-effective solution” pitch.
It can be overwhelming for planners to look at the various options available to manage the registration and event process. As planners we look at what our specific event and organizational needs are. Based on those we can identify a handful of prospect tools. Then look at pricing. Are the providers charging a transaction fee and percentage per order, or a flat monthly subscription rate? Are the rates straightforward or are you nickeled and dimed? Some organizations prefer an easy to budget for monthly subscription fee that never changes, others prefer to pay transaction fees based on monthly transactions. It’s important to look at the overall cost to the event.
Just last week we had an opportunity to listen to a pitch of a company who tried to convince that their online solution was more cost-effective than two others. In truth, the solution cost the same as one it was compared to, and twice as much as the other company the sales person compared it to.
In research we’ve seen organizations spend $10 per transaction for an event at a total cost of $18,000 for the event one year, and $4,000 the next year on a subscription-based model for the same event with software offering more features to the organization. Will you be locked in a multi event or multiyear contract? Is it really more cost-effective investing the equivalent of a person’s salary in your event software and be locked in a contract?
- Use tools with social media integration. Enlist your attendees to promote to their circles via social media.
- Allow attendees to manage their participation and access to data and save on planning time.
- Implement a solution with a pricing and support model that works for you, your organization and attendees.
- Understand the opportunities and challenges of the system you want to implement.