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5 Ways to Better Partner with IT

By Socio

The right tech integrations can be essential to effective event management, particularly when it comes to data. The first step, however, often begins with a supportive partnership between event organizers and IT. Here are five ways to make it happen.

When we travel, we often find ourselves in a situation where we don’t fully understand the language and the culture of our destination. In these situations, a warm and slightly-apologetic smile can go a long way, and a dose of humility can help smooth out most casual communication barriers. Most people appreciate it when you try to communicate in their native language, and try to respect their customs and cultural norms.

Travel-savvy event professionals around the world know these simple truths well. Yet, when it comes to working with their own IT departments, sometimes these lessons are forgotten. IT teams have their own specialized language to describe many of the tools that can make or break an event’s success, and it pays to develop a basic understanding of IT-speak.

New advances in event technology offer planners and other event stakeholders unprecedented access to data. It’s not just a spreadsheet of names and emails of who attended their event, but a treasure trove of information that can help salespeople, exhibitors, and sponsors weed out those unlikely to ever be interested in their products and services, and those who might quietly be ready to buy.

It can be a challenge to integrate the new technology that can provide access to that data and their own internal networks, software, and services. These integrations work best with open lines of communication between event teams and the IT department, but sometimes it feels like they’re speaking different languages.

In this article, we’ll cover five different factors that should help break down those barriers, as well as general tips to improve communication and create a better overall working relationship between event organizers and IT.

 

Creating a better relationship between planners and IT

As part of our research in Event Tech Integration Made Simple: The Event Planner’s Guide, we surveyed planners about their event technology integrations. One of the surprising results came in the descriptions of the relationship between planners and IT, which came off as being somewhat adversarial. It’s no wonder, then, that planners find integrations challenging.

Some of this “us and them” mentality may come from the differences in culture between the groups. Planners tend to be more outgoing, extrovert types that are fond of face-to-face discussion. Often IT people tend to be introverted, preferring non-verbal communication. Sure, these may be over-broad generalizations, but being aware of them can be an important first step. Consider the following example in terms of differing expectations on each side:

How event planners might approach a potential new integration:

Ask for a face-to-face meeting or Zoom call where they can show the most exciting parts of the new tool they’re considering.

How IT might prefer to communicate:

Be contacted via email with a bulleted list of requests that clearly outline the purpose that any new integrations will serve, and how they will be more effective than existing tools that currently fill this role.

Let’s outline five ways to build a better relationship between planners and IT people, using realistic examples of communication.

Understanding the Role of IT in Organizations

What event planners might say:

“I just found this great new tool, and I need to have it integrated into our platform by next week. Don’t worry it has one of those API things, so it should be easy.”

What IT might say:

“We don’t have time for this project right now.”

IT professionals are responsible for a lot more than just keeping your computers updated to the latest version of Windows. They’re responsible for making sure all approved software is functioning properly, that everyone has access to the files they need to do their jobs, and that the digital security of the entire organization is protected. To an extent, keeping it all going can be a delicate balance, and any new software application or integration has the potential to throw it all into chaos — or worse, create a new vulnerability in the system that leaves the organization open to attack from digital wrongdoers.

What works better:

“I found this new tool that will dramatically improve our ability to track potential sales leads. If I put you in touch with their team regarding the API, can you let me know if it’s a realistic option for your team to integrate within our timeline?”

Be prepared to explain what you’re trying to achieve with the integration, how it will help you achieve your goals, and be sure to give plenty of lead time. You may even want to bring IT into the conversation before choosing event technology providers, so that you have some idea of what types of criteria they’re going to be looking for. After all, when it comes to technology, they might know a thing or two that would have otherwise passed you by entirely. And when you make the effort to understand the IT team’s perspective, they’re less likely to respond with a flat “no” when you ask for guidance.

Clearly Defining Support Roles

What event planners might say:

“IT needs to make sure our event goes smoothly.”

What IT might say:

“This is not our responsibility.” (or worse, just not answer the phone when things go wrong)

Try to remember that integrating your app isn’t their primary responsibility, and no matter how large an organization you work for, chances are they’re understaffed as well. It’s going to be important to clearly define what support is going to be provided by your event technology vendor, and what support is going to be required from your internal team. That goes for not just the day of your event, but the days and weeks before, during, and after.

What works better:

“Can we explore how to best work together with the event tech vendor, so they can help make a detailed plan for supporting the event attendees leading up to and during the event?”

Connecting IT with the vendor, and establishing a clear chain of responsibility for support is key. Who’s responsible for onboarding attendees to the event app? On the day of your event, who will be available from both the vendor and internally to troubleshoot any issues that may arise, and who’s responsible for fielding and sending out those requests for help?

One of the biggest mistakes planners make is assuming that when it comes to troubleshooting technology, “someone” will take care of it, without establishing who that someone is.

Understanding Issues with Data

What event planners might say:

“We need IT to make sure we’re covered with that GDPR stuff, and have instant access to all the data we need.”

What IT might say:

“We don’t share data like this. With anyone.”

When you boil down GDPR and other data protection laws, one of the core principles that stands out is the idea that you can’t just collect all the data available and then decide later on what you want to use it for. You have to be able to clearly explain to your stakeholders what data will be collected, and for what purpose. Another important principle is that if you later share that data with anyone, you have to ensure that the person who first provided the data is aware of that fact.

What works better:

“Can IT help us understand how we can access and safely share data in a way that helps us reach our goals?

Even if you don’t legally have to conform to GDPR or other data protection laws, it’s a best practice to map out what types of data are being collected, why they’re being collected, who they’re being shared with, and why they’re being shared. From a cybersecurity standpoint, seemingly innocuous data can be a gold mine for malicious actors, so controlling (and minimizing) who has access to what data can help to mitigate those risks. Be prepared to justify to IT not only any outgoing data, but why your organization needs to be responsible for any data collected.

Show That You’ve Got a Plan

What event planners might say:

“This is the hottest new event tech! Let’s set up a kick-off-call to connect you with the vendor.”

What IT might say:

“All integrations must be led by IT. Why do you need this tool? The tools we have in place should be sufficient.”

By nature, event planners are often risk averse and slow to embrace new, untested technologies. It’s understandable, given that most events only offer one chance to “get it right.”  Failure is absolute, and there is no tomorrow. Planner, meet the IT department, who might be even more risk averse than you are. With IT being responsible for all they’re responsible for, plus potentially being understaffed, they want to have to offer only the most bullet-proof, least support-intensive solutions possible.

What works better:

“We’ve carefully considered the different aspects of the integration using information provided by the vendor, and we’ve put our thoughts into a brief for you with details of our suggested approach, the reasoning behind selecting this vendor, and a proposed timeline. Please take a look and let us know if you have everything you need to move forward so we can discuss the next steps.”

The last thing IT wants to deal with is integrating the latest shiny new toy, only to be asked to integrate another one three months later and another after that, depending on which way the event trend winds are blowing. More than anything, you need to show that you’ve put the work in on your side, and aren’t just going to abandon the technology they’ve spent 3 months integrating into their systems because something better comes along. You need to show why it’s worth their while, effectively communicate the ROI, and make the why behind the integration is clear. In other words, you must clearly answer what integrating the new software or service will achieve that existing software and services will not.

Show appreciation

What event planners might say:

“Thanks for helping us on this project. For the next one, we have some new software, and we need it implemented in a month so we're ready for the Fall Sales Kickoff.”

What IT might say:

“You’re welcome, but there's no way we can implement that until May.”

Considering that event organizers are pros at designing incentives, creating magical experiences, and sending elaborate “thank you”s to the attendees, it’s surprising how often they forget to say thank you to their internal support. Who would you rather be? The person whose email messages make IT say, “Oh no, not again,” as soon as they see who the sender is, or the person whose name prompts an eager, “Oh, it’s Margit! She’s awesome. I wonder what she needs.”

What works better:

“You all were amazing! Thanks SO much for helping us with the integration. Sales is over the moon with the leads they’re getting, and how they dropped automatically into our database. We know you worked hard on this, so we wanted to give you a little token of our appreciation. Please distribute these gift cards...”

Event professionals are supposed to be masters of creating connection, fostering communication, and facilitating education. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that IT people are... people, and establishing a good relationship with them can help future projects go much smoother.

When was the last time someone actually thanked IT for doing their job, much less sent them a gift showing their appreciation?

Event professionals often have access to high-end, in-demand products at discount prices or extra rooms to fill in exotic locations, and adding just one or two more would be a drop in the budget bucket, while providing an unforgettable experience for someone who can literally make, or break, your event. Keep it appropriate, but remember that what might be commonplace for you or your attendees might be an amazing way of showing your appreciation.

And showing your appreciation might make the difference between getting your next integration approved or not. It’s amazing how far a little humility, a warm smile, and a thank you can get you!

For a deeper dive into mastering your event tech integrations, download the full report — Event Tech Integration Made Simple: The Event Planner’s Guide.

about the author

Socio
Socio helps SMBs and enterprises optimize their live events. Customers such as Google, Microsoft, ICAO, and Pinterest trust Socio’s event management platform to power their events and facilitate millions of interactions globally. For more information, visit www.socio.events or follow Socio on Twitter at @socioevents.
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