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6 Questions to Challenge Your Event Tech Supplier

By Christina Green
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Event technology can provide a “wow” moment for attendees or a headache. Asking the tough questions of your tech supplier ahead of time can save everyone from a bad experience. Events have enough surprises. Your tech shouldn’t be one of them.

Whether you’re an early adopter of technology or one who waits to embrace the new systems, as an event planner you need to ask tough questions of your tech supplier on behalf of every attendee. Never assume you’re hearing everything you need to know. Even the best of vendors with years of experience don’t know your organization or event like you do.

Never shy away from asking questions. Answers, workarounds, and solutions are a whole lot easier to arrive at without a long line of frustrated attendees waiting for you. Think of your tech supplier as a partner in your success. Your questions help your partner understand your approach and concerns.

Asking questions will also help you get a better feel for what it’s like to work with your tech supplier, not just in how they answer but in the tone they take. You don’t want to partner with someone who can’t handle the stress of the unpredictable. For that reason, it’s important to not only cover the specs of the technology the vendor would be supplying but “what if” or interview-type questions as well.

6 Questions to Challenge Your Event Tech Supplier

How Long Have You Worked with This Industry?

Understanding a supplier’s background in dealing with your industry is essential to them having a greater appreciation for your needs. If they’ve never worked with your industry or size of event, they will need to get up to speed on your unique requirements. The other reason it’s important for your tech supplier to have a background working with projects like yours is that they can offer a much broader view of what others similar to you have done. A vendor with industry experience is able to make suggestions based on past clients.

Conveying everything you can about your particular needs and those of your attendees can help your tech supplier act more as an event partner and help in ways you may not have thought of yet.

Tell Me a Little Bit About How You Work and What Our Relationship Will Look Like After We Sign on the Dotted line.

Some tech suppliers have you speak to a salesman initially, then once you sign-up you are shifted to a trainer, and then after an onboarding series or training session, you receive a customer support number. Other companies keep you with the same account manager the whole time who coordinates your training and questions. Knowing how the technology supplier does business will help you understand whose hands you will be in come event time.

Also, use the opportunity to bring your tech supplier up to speed with how you operate and what they can expect from you as a client. If you are an association, even if they have worked with associations before, make sure they understand your needs and those of your (main) member demographic.

Ask about Possible “Interactions”

When you visit a physician, one of the first questions you are asked is what other medications you are taking. Most doctors also want to know about vitamins and supplements. They’re not being nosey. They need to think about possible interactions, as some can be fatal. The same can be true of technology, luckily here the only death we are referring to is someone’s career.

Make sure your technology supplier knows every technology you are using at your conference. Not only does this help them understand potentials for a technology disconnect, it also allows them to suggest efficiencies to help you run your conference better. Much of the technology out there has been created to play nicely with others. Some technology is so common in the industry space that companies have created partnerships and plugins that allow a near seamless flow of information between systems. You see this with SalesForce and Marketo. In the case of these partnerships, most salespeople will ask but sometimes it doesn’t occur to them that you use a particular form of technology so always make sure you discuss this piece for optimum performance.

What Support Will I Have During the Conference?

Multi-day conferences or meetings can be grueling events, as you know. Many attendees are up early and go to bed late. Ideally, they will be using your event technology much of that time. Ask about what support you will receive during your event. Is there an emergency line? What hours does support operate? What time zone are they in (or which country)? All of these questions will give you a better understanding of how easy it would be to reach them after traditional office hours.

You’ll also want to ask questions beyond the hours of the support line. Are there training videos or a user’s community if support is not open 24 hours? What are your options for off-hours help?

What Client Partnership Are You Most Proud of and Why?

If this sounds like an interview question, you’re absolutely right. It doesn’t matter what client they talk about, unless a big name client is important to you. You’re looking for examples of how your potential tech supplier worked with this client. Did they solve a problem? Is the story more one of a collaborative situation? Is the vendor sweeping in to save the day or are they in a supporting role in the answer? Hearing the response will help you get a better idea of what your relationship could, or would, be like.

How Will I Measure Success?

Understanding the reporting capabilities of your new tech is important regardless of the type of technology. At the very least you need to be able to measure adoption on behalf of your attendees. Find out if the technology has pre-made reports and what level of customization is possible. Even if you’re not a data wizard hearing about capabilities may introduce a desire to measure a new factor or activity. Some measurement you’ll want to share with your board and some may be suitable for members or attendees.

Reporting capabilities are not just for board and return on investment calculations. Reporting can spur on desired activity as well. When you share statistics with attendees, like how many tweets a day are being tweeted, some people will take that as a personal challenge to top that number daily. Understanding reporting capabilities may introduce new ways to incentivize your crowd.

In Conclusion

Your tech supplier should be a partner in your efforts to host a successful event. Asking tough questions will not only help you vet the right company and technology to work with but may also uncover ways to use the technology to its fullest and inspire ideas that you hadn’t thought of.

about the author

Christina Green
Christina R. Green is a digital storyteller and writer for associations and businesses, including journals such as the Midwestern Society of Association Executive's magazine and industry blogs. She's a voracious reader but has been known to stop reading if there are too many exclamation points used.
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