6 Mistakes Event Planners Make With #Eventtech
The modern meeting planner has to be adept at using technology to manage, promote and support their events. However, with an ever changing technology landscape this isn’t always easy. In this article we look at some of the common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Technology is a critical component of organizing and running events. Event technology ranges from basics like an event website and online registration, through to speaker management, mobile applications, attendee networking, social media, check-in, member management, travel and housing, live-streaming and many other components.
Making things even more complicated is the rapid speed at which technology evolves and the sheer diversity of computers, browsers and devices.
With so many moving parts it is easy for things to go wrong and there is nothing more frustrating than investing in software that doesn’t work. So, what are the common mistakes with #eventtech and what can you do to avoid them?
1. Unclear Objectives
There is so much technology available now that it is easy to be either overwhelmed or seduced by new features. It is important not to be distracted by the hype so that you can focus on what you really need and why you need it.
Unclear objectives lead to two extremes: (i) over-excitement and early adoption of inappropriate technologies; (ii) Technophobia and an unwillingness to try new tools.
Technology is simply a means to an end. Your technology needs to serve a well defined purpose whether that is to make your job easier, bring in more revenue, broaden your audience or improve the event experience for attendees.
Before you adopt a new technology take the time to clarify and understand what you really want it to do. Make a list of the key challenges, pain points and expectations that you have.
Also create a list of features you are looking for and separate that list into ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’. This will keep you on task and prevent you from getting distracted by features that you don’t really need.
2. Not Enough Lead Time
Adopting a new event technology requires a significant investment in time and attention.
Simply deciding which software to use can be a massive undertaking. There are hundreds of event technologies to choose from and you may find yourself learning a new language to make sense of it all (what is are iBeacons? What about security and privacy? What is a native app?).
Doing your homework is valuable and it takes time. To thoroughly do your research, test drive the software, evaluate proposals and negotiate with suppliers can take a couple of months.
Once you have chosen your technology the next stages are implementation, training, testing and support. Each of these steps takes even more time and you need to be prepared for a learning curve.
You can reduce your lead time by using off-the-shelf software. These sign-up-and-go solutions allow you to get started right away and put you in the driving seat. However, depending on your requirements an off-the-shelf package may not be sufficient.
It is never too soon to start planning your next technology step. Give yourself plenty of lead time so that you can be confident that you are making good decisions along the way.
3. Not Trusting Your Supplier
Over the last decade hundreds of new event tech companies have emerged. While some of these have grown to be industry giants, many have fallen by the wayside. Event planners have been unwilling guinea pigs as suppliers figure out the kinks in their software.
Many seasoned event professionals have horror stories to tell about event technology and are understandably reluctant to jump on the next technology bandwagon.
Fortunately the event technology industry has matured. There are now many well established companies with a long track record who are genuine experts in their field.
To get the best out of your technology it is vital to listen to and trust the advice of your supplier. Here are some ways you can get the best out of those relationships:
i. Work within the constraints of the software. Don’t ask for customizations unless they are absolutely essential. The more you try to change the software the bigger the potential for problems.
ii. Explain to your supplier what you want to achieve not how you want to achieve it. You are an expert on your event and they are an expert on the technology. Allow them to provide that expertise to you.
iii. Don’t push them for shorter deadlines, especially if this is customized software. You need to give them time to do their job properly.
iv. Look for software providers that can meet multiple objectives. For example combine registration with marketing, or your event app with check-in. The more integrated your software is the less problems you will have.
v. Find suppliers who have a great track record and don’t be afraid to work with smaller companies. Many of these smaller companies have great passion, commitment and creativity. However, do make sure that you ask for references and check out some recent examples of events they have supported.
4. No Measurement
Measurement is critical for assessing the value of your technology and it’s effectiveness. However, measurement is often an after-thought and few planners take the time to do it or to do it well.
Given you how much time and money you have invested in technology you need to know if it’s doing it’s job. You also need real-time feedback so that you can make corrections along the way. For example, if you are getting lots of website traffic but hardly anyone is registering for you event you need to know about that.
Exactly what you measure should mirror your event objectives. For example, if you are using technology to create a more efficient check-in process then you might measure the check-in times or how long people have to line-up.
5. Not Checking Your Onsite WiFi
It is a mistake to assume that your venue will provide great WiFi. Good connectivity is something we often take for granted. Yet, if you arrive onsite and you have insufficient bandwidth you will truly discover how dependent you have become on your online tools.
Online registration and check-in, mobile applications, social media and live-streaming are all dependent on a good internet connection. Even simple tasks like checking email can become a source of frustration if you have poor internet.
To anticipate and prevent connectivity issues you need to figure out how much bandwidth you will need and compare it to what is available.
In addition to your event-specific needs, a tech-savvy audience may have multiple devices that they are using for checking emails and social media. All of these factors create additional demands on the system. This Bandwidth Calculator from the Convention Industry Council will help you get an idea of your requirements.
To find out what bandwidth is available do an onsite speed test. Work with your venue to optimize your WiFi access and if all else fails you may consider hiring a company to set up your own hotspot for the event.
6. Insufficient Attendee Education and Support
Attitudes to technology vary widely in any community, from technology enthusiasts to technophobes who resist change and have an uncanny ability to break whatever software they touch! The less tech savvy your audience is overall, the more support and encouragement they are going to need.
There are some essential applications that your attendees will have to use them, for example online registration and payment. To avoid problems keep these as simple as possible. The more bells and whistles you add (e.g. new deadlines, coupon codes, number limits) the more that can go wrong.
No matter what you do, you can guarantee that someone will run into a problem so make sure you have ample support available, especially close to deadlines.
You may also be using other non-essential applications to enhance the attendee experience, e.g. Mobile apps. In-spite of all your hard work creating these, the reality is that most people won’t bother with them unless you give them a good reason to.
Make sure you use every opportunity to promote these applications and the benefits of using them. Use emails, your website, signs at the event, incentives and announcements to keep gently encouraging your attendees to try them out.
The best technology is the software you don’t notice because it’s doing it’s job so well. It’s the online registration system that provides vital statistics at your fingertips. It’s the marketing system that automates all your email blasts. It’s the app that has the whole event buzzing with people who can’t wait to connect and meet each other.
Making your event technology work for you will take commitment on your part. You need to think beyond the hype and figure out exactly what you need, stay up-to-date with current trends, take the time to learn the software and make sure you support and educate your attendees.
When you first start using new software that there may be hiccups along the way. Use the expertise of your suppliers to keep these to a minimum and don’t forget the number one rule of software development: Test everything!
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