There are many event tech choices available to manage nearly every aspect of the meeting planning process as well as enriching the attendee experience. For example, I track nearly 1,500 event tech products in 60 categories at my website: corbinball.com/tips-tools/corbinslist.
With so many choices, the planner’s dilemma is: how does one make the correct choices in deciding which of the myriad of event tech companies to use?
There are two major options that are emerging with both having potential strengths and challenges:
A platform is essentially an operating system. As it applies to event technology, it refers to companies providing a comprehensive technology solution to address many aspects of the meeting planning process (i.e. registration, event website, marketing, scheduling, logistics management, content management, speaker management and often more). A planner uses this platform to meet most or all of their event tech needs.
Classic platform examples are Cvent and Aventri (formerly etouches). They have grown to be large companies and continue to grow through acquisitions of technology they don’t already possess. For example, for Cvent, the list of acquired companies either directly or indirectly through prior acquisitions include CrowdCompass, Social Tables, SignUp4, Alliance Tech, Elite Meetings, Speed RFP, Seed Labs, Lanyon, Active Network, RegOnline, Wingate Web, Genie Connect, Starcite, Passkey, PlanSoft, MPoint, SeeUThere, Bthere and RegWeb. Aventri has recently acquired Zentila, Loopd and ITN International to add to its portfolio of 16+ meeting management modules.
- One of the benefits is one-stop shopping for your tech needs: You decide on the vendor and choose from the broad menu of technology offerings they have. With fewer vendors, there is less negotiation time needed.
- In an ideal world, there should be seamless data integration among all the technology products within the company.
- In an ideal world, the user interface should feel the same among all the varied technology products therefore requiring less training. The look and feel should be the same among the various product subsets
- It is a huge technology task for a company to cover all aspects of the needs of all types of meetings. This is an enormously complex challenge!
- Historically, data integration has been a harder task, especially for older, legacy systems. To be fair, both of the large companies mentioned have worked diligently on updating their code and on data integration with some good progress on those goals.
- For some meetings, dealing with these mega companies with thousands of employees may be more than is needed for small, simple events in terms of cost and complexity.
It should be noted there are platform options, such as EventsAir ,that have not been built through acquisition. EventsAir, formerly Amlink (one of the first event tech products in 1984), is a full-featured event planning platform that has been completely rewritten for cloud-based delivery. They combine the benefits listed above, while providing good data integration as well.
The Event Tech Deck
The other main option is to choose a variety of different vendors, based on the specific technology needs of the event – to create a “deck” of different vendors.
- It can be possible to choose the “best of breed” specific tech solution to meet your exact needs. This can be less expensive and more targeted to the specific planning needs.
- Technology innovation is flourishing with new ideas popping up frequently. They are often start-up ventures. This option does not lock you into one big system that may be slower to respond to new developments.
- There is significant progress being made in terms of data integration (see below).
- Multiple vendors require separate discovery, vetting, negotiations and more time.
- The user interface among varied tech products can be different requiring separate training.
- Historically, one of the biggest challenges is that there has been a lack of easy data integration among the different products – leading to a failure to easily collect data from multiple sources about specific attendee journeys (to better customize marketing and communication to that individual for future contact) and collectively to improve the overall event. This, however, is changing.
Moves toward event deck data integration:
Data management systems are maturing to where integration is a much simpler task making the concept of an integrated event tech deck more feasible. With state-of-the-art cloud-based event technology systems and advanced APIs (application programming interfaces), it is now possible to collect and analyze onsite data and connect them with CRM tools such as SalesForce.com – closing the loop from a marketing standpoint. Interoperability is at the center with much of the change that is happening.
One of the first examples is Eventbrite, a basic consumer-oriented event invitation, registration and ticketing system. This San Francisco based company has been built from the start to be interoperable with others and lists hundreds of software products that it integrates with as seen in its Eventbrite Spectrum page.
Consortiums of newer cloud-based event technology companies are working together to share data and work as one. For example, the Event Tech Tribe is a consortium of several event tech products: MeetingSelect (sourcing), Hubb (abstract collection / exhibitor management / scheduling / task management), Swoogo (event registration), Glisser (audience polling/engagement), TRC (onsite event technology), and InsightXM (data analytics and marketing). They work together integrating data as if they were a single platform providing rich data and marketing capabilities among them.
The most recent and significant of these initiatives to manage data from multiple event technology sources is Freeman Data Solutions offering event organizers and marketers a “one-stop, end-to-end solution for data measurement and analytics.” According to the January 7, 2019 press release, this includes five different technology offerings
- “Fuzion by Freeman™: Solves industry-wide integration challenges between digital solutions by connecting data across all points of the event life cycle to create a seamless experience for organizers and attendees.
- Quant by Freeman™: Provides decision-based metrics via data visualization in one, real-time, role-based dashboard.
- Data Analysis (formerly ESI, which became part of Freeman in 2016): Delivers deeper insight into data while expanding data research and measurement and 50+ years of industry benchmarks.
- Data Design: This team provides insight into what data needs to be collected to drive growth, and creates a framework to support the collection of that data.
- Data Science: Freeman continues to invest in research and development, and has partnered with the University of Southern California on a return on experience (ROX) environment study and the University of Missouri (UM) on a growth drivers study.”
The benefit for meeting planners is that they can choose an assortment of specialized event software products work together easily – an event tech deck. Meeting planners are be able to find highly customized solutions using multiple technology products with the ability to extract valuable marketing data is if they were a single platform.
This rich interoperability makes it much easier to analyze the data and bring it back to CRM systems. Customer behavior and interests expressed at meetings can, therefore, be tied to customer profiles allowing for much better marketing intelligence and more customized sales communication as well as general, overall data insights to improve events.
So, which is a planner to choose: the platform or the deck? Both paths have their strengths and challenges. The good news is both paths are providing much better data integration and analytics options to broaden the options and improve events.
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES is a speaker and independent consultant focusing on meetings technology. Previously, Corbin ran international citywide technology meetings for 18 years. For the past 21 years, he has helped clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity through his speaking, consulting and writing services. Corbin is a 2018 inductee to the EIC Hall of Leaders, the premier recognition program for the events industry. He can be contacted at his extensive web site Corbin Ball & Co. - Meetings Technology Headquarters (www.corbinball.com) and followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball.