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Event orchestration | 22 May 2017

Event Software Buyer’s Guide: How to Compare Event Platforms

David Epstein

If you’re searching for event technology, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to select the right platform for you and for your organization. This blog post, and accompanying ebook, will walk you through the state of the event technology industry, it will provide a decision making framework, and it will compare the top 5 event management software platforms to help you take an informed decision.

To access the full report, you can get our free 30 page ebook right here.

The State of the Event Software Industry

Let’s begin with the state of the event software industry. The event technology industry is highly valued and is growing quickly. According to a financial analysis from Frost and Sullivan, the “event management software” industry is worth $28 billion and is projected to have a CAGR of 3.3% moving forward.

The same study finds that while the industry is already large, only 80% of professional organizers planning B2B events currently use some sort of event planning software, meaning the industry will continue to grow as those organizing professional events increasingly embrace technology.

It comes as no surprise that the event management software industry is large and is growing, considering that B2B events account for $512 billion in annual spend.

Event Budget

Marketing teams are investing more than ever in live events as well. In fact, events account for the single largest marketing expense for most B2B marketing departments. Chief marketing officers spend 24% of their total annual budgets on live events in order to connect with customers, educate attendees, and generate new leads.

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Growing Investment in Modern Event Management Platforms

While legacy event planning solutions have been consolidating, new players are successfully expanding and raising new rounds of investment. Bizzabo recently announced a $6.5 million series A investment to support 6X revenue growth and 3X personnel growth in the previous year. The company has announced plans to grow Product and Customer Success teams in order to continue to focus on delivering an innovative platform with world-class customer service.

Over $50 million was invested in modern event management platforms in 2016, which is a record-setting year. Some of the companies receiving venture funding include Social Tables, Event Farm, and Splash, among others. It indicates that financial experts see a clear market for innovative software to help those planning professional events.

 

 

Projected Future Event Tech Trends

Based on the current state of the industry, we expect the importance of professional events will continue to grow. A reflection of this will be increasing spending on event management software, and as a result, increasing investment in providers offering effective solutions. As event organizers, marketers, salespeople, and HR specialists continue to invest in professional events, it’s expected that some providers will begin offering “insight-driven” rather than “data-driven” solutions.

We expect that, thanks to improved reporting and integrations, some providers will be able to help organizers build event attribution reports that track a contact’s interactions from online to offline to online again. This will help organizers create better experiences for event-goers in addition to better understanding ROI.

As event organizers of all kinds become more tech-savvy, we expect some platforms will provide customers with modern user-interfaces (both on the organizer side and on the attendee side). This means making it easier for organizers to set up registration, build event websites, and access reports. It also means providing event attendees with a networking community and mobile app that feels fit for the modern user.

Event Management Platform Selection Framework

Despite what some may say, there is no “one-size-fits-all” event technology solution for the modern event planner. Business events come in all shapes and sizes, with disparate goals and deliverables. As such, it’s important that buyers keep a few key principles in mind when searching for event technology solutions.

Your Event Goals

One of the most common mistakes event software buyers make is selecting a platform without first crystallizing event goals. As with any technology solution, some platforms can more readily help organizers reach some event goals, while it may be impossible for organizers to reach other goals using the same platform. Before making a choice, organizers must have event goals in mind in order to properly evaluate providers.

Event Software Framework

Specific: The more specific you are when articulating your event goals, the closer you
will be to achieving them. Your goal should be explained so clearly that it should be
understood with little clarification needed.

Example: Increase registrations by 10%.

Measurable: Create goals that can be quantified. Easily measurable factors such as
costs and deadlines are the best way to answer the question, “How will I know my
goals have been achieved?” Some event management platforms can continuously
monitor these goals for you.

Example: Increase registrations by 10% from “early bird” registrations.

Achievable: Setting competitive goals is a great way to make the most out of your
event. However, there is a difference between setting aggressive goals and setting
unreasonable goals. You should set a goal that you think you and your team will reach
50% of the time if you had to repeat the event over. As an additional motivator, you can
set an additional “reach goal” that you think your team will reach only 10% of the time.

Example: Increase registrations by 10% from “early bird” registrations. (low
goal).Increase registrations by 30% from “early bird” registrations. (high goal).

Reasonable: Goals should measure results and not activities. Afterall, that is what
event stakeholders will use to evaluate event success. Make sure that you select an
event technology platform that helps to deliver results.

Example: Increase registrations by 10% from “early bird” registrations. (low goal). Increase registrations by 30% from “early bird” registrations. (high goal).

Avoid: Send 100 emails each week to previous event registrants.

Time-Sensitive: Keep time in mind when setting and assessing your goals. Create a
timeline for your goal and analyze how it will develop and what it will look like at
different points in time.

Example: Increase registrations by 10% from “early bird” registrations. (low
goal). Increase registrations by 30% from “early bird” registrations. (high
goal). Do this within the first 3 months of launching the event.

Impact on Event Goals

The degree to which event software will impact event goals is the single best way to select a provider. Some platforms will perform core functions that organizers simply cannot forego, while other platforms will support secondary or tertiary goals that may be “nice-to-have,” but are not “must-have” solutions. Once S.M.A.R.T. goals are in place it will be easier to evaluate how software will impact these goals.

Focus on Innovation

Is the vendor in question focused on innovation? In most cases event organizers will know the essential qualities a platform must perform in order to meet event goals, but this can miss the innovative new functions that organizers may not even be aware of.

Event Management Software Solution

To use a non-event technology example, before smartphones became popular, cell phone shoppers never would have looked for a device that could place calls, send email, surf the web and store thousands of files of music. Of course, once the iPhone was released, all of this changed, and early adopters were able to access a cutting-edge technology solution years before mainstream customers.

By investing in an event technology platform that has a history of innovation, customers will have access to game-changing solutions years before the competition. By selecting a provider that makes the “iPhone” equivalent of event technology, organizers will be years ahead of competitors who still rely on “flip phone” solutions.

In order to determine if a provider is committed to innovation, buyers should get to know the company and the people behind it. Browse the vendor’s social media pages and main website. Read their blog, check-out the LinkedIn profiles of the leadership team. Read recent product and official company announcements. Consider past performance and current events to predict whether this company is positioned to innovate.

Platform Ease of Use

A common marketing trick among event technology providers is to sell based on breadth of features. Some companies assume that having more tools makes the software inherently more valuable. While it’s undoubtedly true that some features are highly valuable, having a large number of features is not the only consideration that should be made when selecting an event technology platform.

An additional consideration is how easy it is for organizers and event attendees to use the platform. A platform with high “ease of use” will mean everyone involved will be able to put the platform to work, this often means greater ROI and increased efficiencies.

Event technology buyers should test the usability of the platform by asking vendors for a live-demonstration of the product and later for a free trial to make sure the user-interface satisfactory.

Ease of use is more than a user-interface that is “easy on the eyes.” Often the suite of tools available within different platforms is similar. One key difference between platforms is that some make it simple for users to perform various tasks, while other platforms make the same tasks more complicated.

Event Planning Platform Reliability

Downtime is an event organizers worst nightmare. If event registration software or the event networking app is down (even for just a few minutes), it can mean lost revenue, frustrated event goers, and lost data. Selecting a reliable event software is crucial to the success of your events. Make sure to speak with referral customers, and read online reviews about the platform’s reliability.

Customer Support and Success

In addition to reliability, buyers should also inquire about customer support and customer success. Customer support refers to employees who are available to troubleshoot unexpected issues. If event registration is no longer working, you will want to contact customer support to get the issue resolved.

Customer success on the other hand, refers to a dedicated account manager who will be available to show customers how to use the platform, and who can provide customers with helpful guidance year-round.

While most (though not all) event technology providers offer some form of customer support, many do not offer customer success. The difference can be night and day for organizers interested in collaborating with someone on how best to use an event technology platform to reach various event goals.

The 30 page Event Software Buyer’s Guide

To access the full report about how to select the right event software for you and for your team, click the button below. The report includes a comparison of the top 5 event management software solutions plus 70 questions customers should ask event technology vendors.

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