The latest report from Forrester Research ranks the best event technology tools. While this report offers valid reasoning and solid research, it may create more questions than answers.
As event professionals scramble to source the best tools to support upcoming hybrid events, reports from respected independent sources are a welcome addition to the conversation. The Forrester Wave™: B2B Marketing Events Management Solutions, Q1 2021 Report is the latest in a series of reports from Forrester Research that cover event technology.
So what does this report add?
This report indirectly confirms the merging of categories in the broader offering of event technology. Accelerated by the pandemic, almost all platforms have increased capabilities through intensive and shorter development cycles and integrations. In practice, this has brought tools that started off performing very different functions much closer together.
As platforms become similar in feature offerings, differentiating between them becomes harder. This also means that it takes more than a sales demo to understand the fundamental differences in how the tools function.
Forrester’s own line up of reports confirms this constantly morphing list of options as well as an unstable description of event technology tool categories. The two related reports are the Now Tech: B2B Online Event Technologies, Q3 2020 focusing on tools that help to, “interact with attendees remotely at scale, create novel digital experiences to engage buyers, and accelerate the digitalization of physical versions post-pandemic”; while the Now Tech: B2B Event Management Software, Q2 2019 refers to tools that “automate and scale events, personalize attendee experiences, and deliver positive ROI.”
This report is aimed only at B2B marketing professionals. It looks at solutions that cover a wide range of functionality, everything from hotel and venue sourcing offerings to virtual audience engagement. This range is likely to be beyond most organisations’ needs and it rewards products with an extensive scope. It also makes comparing apples to apples quite challenging.
The inclusion criteria are as transparent as it is confusing. The 14 vendors considered have demonstrated at least four of five criteria: earning $3 million or more in “event management solution revenue”, running both online and physical events, showing marketing traction, and having Forrester clients expressing interest in the vendors.
The report ranks vendors into four categories, with leader being the strongest and challenges the weakest overall. The Forrester WaveTM methodology is used takes into account the strength of the current product offering and the strategy of the vendor but omits the market presence of the product. According to Forrester, the report is an assessment of the top vendors in the market and does not represent the entire vendor landscape.
Below are the ranking groupings with links to relevant reports on the EventMB site or the product’s website.
- keyboard_arrow_right Leaders: Bizzabo, Cvent, and Hubb
- keyboard_arrow_right Strong Performers: RainFocus and Kaltura
- keyboard_arrow_right Contenders: Circa, 6Connex, ON24, SpotMe, Certain, and Intrado
- keyboard_arrow_right Challengers: meetyoo, Splash, and CadmiumCD
*Note: This ranking is the sole responsibility of Forrester Research Inc., and by sharing it in this post, EventMB is not endorsing it in any way.
The report assigns a score based on each product's strengths and weaknesses as well as qualifying criteria, like the availability of self-service vs. producer-managed options. It also includes detailed scores for each product and two paragraphs of comments about each vendor. The paragraphs note each product’s strengths and weaknesses and add comments such as the balance of self-service v producer managed options for each product. The report also references the evolution of each vendor and product — details that often reveal the rationale behind design choices within each product.
The report identifies gaps across the industry, both from the vendors and the B2B marketing professionals. The Key Takeaways blog post by the authors reveals that “almost unanimously, B2B marketers said that their future events will include digital capabilities.” They also share that, “B2B marketers will need much more from their technology providers to create hybrid events that deliver value and revenue.” The research quoted in the same blog post lists customers as placing “attendee interaction or engagement capabilities” at the top of their product improvement requests while admitting to a lack of experience in hybrid events with 71% yet to conduct a hybrid event.
The attempt at ranking the 14 vendors and products certainly has merit, and many event professionals are likely to find value in the report. It is difficult to objectively rank event technology tools, especially when they offer different sets of benefits and approach event challenges differently.
Rather than an elusive search for the best product, it may be more effective for event teams and organizations to think about which best-fit tool, or set of best-fit tools combined in a tech stack, is most appropriate for the particular needs of their events.