With event technology evolving rapidly we have more choice than ever before. However, changing technology can be risky. Sometimes it just feels safer to stay with what we know than upgrade to the latest thing. In this article we look at the pros and cons of changing your event technology.
Events are highly dependent on technology: website, social media, online registration, abstract management, mobile apps, housing, trade show management, fundraising, QR codes, kiosks, check-in apps, sales and marketing - the list goes on and on. There is hardly an area of event planning that is not impacted by technology is some way.
Technology is changing all the time. There is a constant stream of new companies, tools and apps to choose from. Each new tool comes with a new promise of being better, faster and brighter. However, changing technology is also an investment of both time and money. So, when is the right time to upgrade?
Are you a Technology Hugger?
Do you love new technology? Are you someone who gets hypnotized by new features and loves new gadgets? Or, are you are someone who gets easily overwhelmed by new systems?
I’m a creature of habit and to be quite honest I don’t like change. It took me years to upgrade to an iPhone, simply because I hated the idea of switching to a touch screen and learning a new system. Whether it is a new car, TV, computer, phone or software program I resist learning new technology, even when the new way is better.
My friend and colleague Jordan is the complete opposite. He is always the first person I know to get the latest device. He relishes the new interfaces and soon discovers all the short cuts and best practices. Jordan is what we call an ‘early adopter' whereas I am what is called an 'early majority' - I will only switch technology when there is a compelling reason to do so.
Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, divided people into the following categories:
Innovators (3%): Willing to try something new, these are the techies that will take risks and know that there may be failures along the way.
Early adopters (13%): Visionaries who like to stay ahead of the pack and are trend-setters.
Early majority (34%): These are pragmatists who only take on a new technology that has been tried and tested.
Late majority (34%): These people are very conservative in their technology choices.
Laggards (16%): These are the skeptics and will resist technology right until the end.
Knowing how your own approach to technology and innovation is helpful. Even more helpful is assessing the tendencies of your client, organization and attendees.
As an organization, what do you want to be known for? Do you want to be seen as a visionary and leader? In which case you might be more adventurous with your software choices.
What about your attendees? What do they want? If your attendees tend to be conservative in their technology choice then you may choose to err on the side of caution.
Identify Your Technology Goals
Software is a means to an end, it is not the end itself. Take the time to review your meeting’s goals and intentions. Get clear on your most important outcomes and then figure out what technology you need to accomplish those.
Once you are clear on your meeting goals, you can identify technology goals. These might be different to your meeting goals, and may include items such as:
- Save time
- Save money
- Increase sales
- Reduce errors
- Improve networking
- Reduce administration time
- Reduce wait times, improve the customer experience
The Cost of Switching
Changing technology can be expensive not just financially, but in terms of the time it takes to make a change.
Research: You have to invest time in researching new solutions, often preparing and reviewing requests for proposal.
Set-up and customization: Your new software needs to be branded, designed, customized, massaged and tested to fit your purposes.
Training: You have to invest time in learning the new software.
Testing: Your new software will need to be tested and you may end up spending way more time than you expected fine tuning and dealing with bugs.
If your software is being used by your attendees, speakers, sponsors or exhibitors you have to factor in their learning curve too.
All of this adds up and it may be safer and more efficient to stay with the software you have than to go looking for something new, especially if you are a tight deadline.
When Change Can Do You Good
Given the high investment of time that it takes to change software, why bother? There are three main reasons:
Issues with your current provider: One of the main reasons to switch is because of issues with your current software. If you have been dealing with the frustrations of buggy software or extended downtime than you may feel you have no choice.
Staying ahead of the curve: Technology can go stale really quickly and it’s good to stay up to date. Each new generation of software brings with it new innovations, speed and efficiencies.
Saving money: Event technology is a buyers market. Competition right now is fierce and there is a good chance that you can find a new solution that costs less than the one you bought a few years ago.
All of these are compelling reasons to change. However, before you switch make sure you have a conversation with your current vendor. Let them know your concerns about bugs or issues you have had in the past. Make requests for the updates and new features you are looking for. Many suppliers will bend over backwards to provide you with what you need and may even provide you with a more competitive price.
Worst Case Scenarios
Using technology is risky. No matter how good it looks, there is always the possibility that something can go wrong. If you examine the fine print, most software contracts make it clear that there are no guarantees. From server failure, to poor internet connections to software bugs there is lots of room for error.
Changing suppliers can feel even riskier. After all, even if you are not 100% happy with your current software at least it is the 'devil you know'.
You need to figure out your worst case scenario. Put bluntly, how painful will it be if the technology fails? Your online registration going offline may be inconvenient, but as long as it comes back again relatively quickly the pain will be temporary. However, if your check-in system fails during onsite registration this is going to cause significant issues and complaints.
How to Reduce Risks
The following steps will help you reduce the risk of any technology change.
i. Give yourself plenty of time
Don't rush into anything. Give yourself plenty of time to do the research, planning, implementation and testing.
ii. Do your due diligence
If this is a significant investment or a big change, make sure you find out the background of the supplier.Find out how many years they have been in business, their track record with server downtime and how they deal with bugs or issues. Ask about back-ups and redundancy. Don’t assume that they have that handled - ask how long it would take them to get you back up and running in the event of total system failure.
iii Keep changes to a minimum.
Wherever possible use the software as provided and don’t ask for lots of changes and customization that require programming. The more custom programming that is added the more chances there are of problems later.
iv. Create a partnership your supplier
Ask your supplier for advice on how best to use the software. They are the experts and a good supplier will work with you to get the best out of your technology.
v. Customer service
Ask about customer service. What kind of customer service do they offer? Do they have 24-7 support for emergencies?
In Conclusion: Creating Technology Partnerships
Changing software is a big decision. You need to balance your reasons for switching with the time and money it will cost to do so. Having said that, even if you are totally happy with your current suite of technology it is worth doing a review of your options at least once every three years. There are new tools appearing all the time and by reviewing what is available you can often improve what you already have.
Remember, software is written by people. When you choose your technology you are choosing not just the platform, but the team that built it. If you are working with something more complex than an 'off the shelf solution' the people-factor comes into play. A good team, committed to excellent customer service, will be your partners in creating a great event and will stay with you for the long-run.