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Event technology has practically exploded in the 21st Century, with thousands of software platforms and apps that event organizers and event managers can choose from.
And the event management software market might just be the broadest of all the event tech markets, mainly because so many types of tools are included under the umbrella of event management, which spans from enterprise-level conference and meeting management software, event registration and ticketing tools, events apps and virtual event platforms to venue software and event design and layout tools.
What can be even more intimidating is the sheer number of event management systems (which often fall under the rubric of software-as-a-service or SaaS) that offer one, many or most of these tool and feature sets, all with different configurations and pricing structures.
For example, all-in-one event management software solutions like Planning Pod provide a well-balanced set of tools for planning, registration and event management for events under 1,000 people as well as tools for venues to manage their bookings, leads and billings. Tools like Bizzabo, Cvent and Boomset have more enterprise, complex tool sets for managing large, 1,000+ conventions and trade shows. And yet other event software tools are available for niches like event ticket sales, event websites or event pages, mobile event apps, webinars, hybrid events and more.
For an event organizer or venue manager who simply wants the right tools to manage successful events, this can all be a bit daunting, which is why we are going to walk you through the nine most common tool sets that are marketed under the banner of event management software.
NOTE: Although this article is a great place to learn about what event management tools are available in the marketplace, you should first sit down and determine what software and functionality needs you will require for your future events. No event professional’s software wish list is the same, as organizers who plan events for corporations or nonprofits may have dramatically different needs from those of venue managers / sales managers. With that said, take the time to make a list of those needs so that, when you are shopping for the best event management solution for your organization, you know exactly what you are looking for.
Often many people think event planning and event management are synonymous, but to be honest, event planning software is a subset of event management that focuses on the behind-the-scenes, nuts-and-bolts organizational aspects of events.
This category of event technology has a project management slant with tools that aim to establish workflows and increase productivity when planning multiple events, which is why you will find that many event planning software platforms include tools for managing:
Enterprise-level event software apps like Cvent, Bizzabo, Eventbrite and Boomset may also include event planning tools that assist with exhibitor management, sponsor management and more complex event logistics.
Online event registration and ticketing tools may make up the largest portion of the event management software market, possibly due to both the high demand for selling event tickets online and the potentially high profit margins.
You will commonly find the following features offered by various registration and ticketing platforms:
Note that it is common to see event planning software suites and event apps include event registration and ticketing tools as well as guest list managers in their offerings.
When reviewing event registration tools, pay close attention to the following:
Online event design tools have become more and more popular over the last decade as they play an increasingly larger role in the event planning process. They have also become more sophisticated and feature-packed so that they more resemble graphic design software applications in both their user interface and the professional designs you can create with them. However, because many event layout solutions integrate with their own attendee management and check-in tools, they fall squarely under event management and planning. In fact, many of the best event management software solutions now have an integrated design and diagramming component.
Common features for event floor plan apps include element libraries (tables, chairs, furniture, etc.); customized room boundaries; reusable layout templates; automatic alignment of items; auto-generated layouts; and 2D and 3D representation.
Event organizers usually take one of two approaches in the marketing software tools they choose for their events:
Regardless of the path you decide to take, if your event management tasks include promoting and marketing your event, you should include this category of tools as part of your product evaluation as well as any necessary integrations with your existing event registration and ticketing tools.
Managing attendee registrations, contact information and outreach is a fairly common event management requirement, so it’s vital for most event and meeting planners to have a reliable event CRM solution for tracking this data.
In the past, a simple guest list tool would suffice in managing this data. But in this era of enhanced attendee engagement and analytics, you would be well served to identify an app that supplies more functionality, including:
Another way to engage attendees and enhance the attendee experience prior to and on event day is to deploy an event mobile app. Typically these are used for larger conferences, conventions and trade shows, but really you can use them for any event where you feel your audience would benefit from tools that simplify how they stay informed and connected at your event.
Event apps allow organizers to automate and consolidate many functions and resources into a single app on a smartphone or tablet, and so the most common uses of event apps include:
Note that some top event management systems don’t offer an integrated event app while others do. If a mobile app is something you don’t need, you may be better off with a SaaS application that focuses on other areas of priority; if it’s something you do need, make sure you have the ability to customize the mobile event app to suit your needs.
If you run an events-based business like an event venue or event planning firm, then you may want to consider event management platforms that include business and financial tools for managing clients and billing.
Often tools built specifically for the events industry will have particular features or functions that fit your needs better than generic business or financial tools, but this is something you will need to consider when making your assessment. And there may be certain business management tools (like for accounting, customer relationship management, word processing/spreadsheets, etc.) that don’t fall under the aegis of event management.
With that said, these are the most popular tools and features that are sought after by business-minded event professionals:
One thing to attend to is that if you use accounting software like Quickbooks, the business tools in your event management platform should integrate with your bookkeeping tool of choice. Otherwise you will be wasting lots of time double entering data into two software apps.
Any venue that rents out its space or engages in group sales or catering sales (which includes restaurants and hotels as well banquet halls, wedding venues and event facilities within golf courses, wineries, breweries, museums and libraries) is also in the events business, and as such needs event tech tools and venue software apps to help them run the events side of their business.
These venues will probably require some or all of the business tools mentioned above (especially the lead management and invoicing tools) as well as the following additional features:
Note that there is a difference between top event venue software platforms (which focus on the ability to manage the events business and customers for a venue) and platforms for facility management (which focus on room and equipment reservations, maintenance, security, lease administration, etc. for an entire building or facility).
Possibly the newest form of event technology on this list, virtual event management software has grown in popularity in the 2000s as event planners and event attendees alike have found value in exposing their live events to an Internet audience. Since the arrival of the coronavirus epidemic, this technology has experienced massive growth because it has enabled the events industry to take events online during periods of stay-at-home and social distancing during the COVID-19 threat.
How do virtual event tools fit into the world of event management apps? Mainly by enabling event professionals to self-broadcast events in real-time from a single location or from multiple remote locations. In the past, these tools were used mainly for webinars and training purposes, but now you can find entire conferences and trade shows being broadcast virtually as well as smaller meetings and even social events. These tools are also being deployed more frequently for creating hybrid events, which have both in-person and virtual audiences ... an approach that can boost attendee engagement for your virtual audience by providing a more authentic “live” experience.
While some virtual event management solutions offer online registration / ticketing and event marketing tools (like event websites, email communications and event apps), most of them include these features:
As you can see, event management software can span a wide variety of tools, features and functions, so it’s best to start your search knowing exactly what you need to accomplish and what jobs you want the software to do in managing successful events. Once you have that list, finding the right fit is just a matter of trying out the solutions that align with your needs.