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Event software showdown: Registration vs. Project management

Event software showdown: Registration vs. Project management

There's a lot more to event management than just registration. From venue selection to team collaboration to data capture and more, running successful event marketing campaigns is a multi-layered team sport. Don't let registration tunnel vision let you down.

As anyone who's ever googled "Event Management Software" can tell you, there are literally hundreds of similar-sounding event technology companies out there, many claiming to be "the all-in-one" platform that can do anything and everything for your events, no matter how big or small, whatever your goals or strategy.

Peel back the curtain a bit, though, and the reality is much less reassuring. Almost every event tech company out there falls into what we call the "Reg Pub" bucket – tools designed to help you publish event websites and register attendees.

That's all well and good. Registration is a challenge. If you're running a sprawling multi-day event with multiple ticket types, discount codes, room blocks and onsite check-in, you've got plenty of registration woes to worry about. Even if you've got a super simple event, with just a networking hour and a couple of speakers, you still need to a registration flow that's seamless, mobile and social. Either way, registration is a challenge. We have a lot of respect for those event tech companies out there who make registration easier to manage.

But as any event manager can tell you, registration is a far, far cry from the one-and-only challenge to planning a great event. In fact, registration isn't even relevant if you're just sponsoring or exhibiting at the event!

And therein lies the problem – almost all event tech is meant to register attendees, and yet, there is so much more to managing an event than just registration.

Problems solved by "Reg Pubs"

If you're hosting an event, you should definitely get a Reg Pub. There's way more to do than a single coordinator can handle with general purpose productivity tools, like email and spreadsheets. Let's take a look at the typical set of problems solved by a Reg Pub:

  • Registration including ticket types, discount codes and payment processing
  • Publish event website or landing page, with an editor to customize design
  • Email invitations, confirmations and promotions
  • Analytics to track website visitors, registrations, revenue and email opens

Now let's go a bit further and observe what an "Enterprise" or fully-featured Reg Pub might have to offer:

  • Event App for attendees to check schedules, floor plans and facilitate networking
  • Onsite Check-In to check in attendees on arrival
  • Badge Printing with an editor to customize design
  • Venue Search to discover, compare and manage RFPs from hotels and venues
  • Floor Plans to diagram attendee seating and production staging
  • Hotel Room Blocks to incorporate hotel booking into the registration flow

That's quite a long list already... can you imagine managing all of this through just email and spreadsheets? I shudder to think how all this was done before Eventbrite, Cvent and other Reg Pubs came along. Thank goodness for Reg Pubs!

And, yet... we haven't even gotten to any features that actually help to plan the event... the preparation of the agenda, finding the right dates on the calendar, setting the budget, designing (not just building) the event website, etc, etc... Where does all that work go?

Problems not solved by "Reg Pubs"

Peel back the curtain a bit more and you'll see that Reg Pubs only address a small part of event management.

Let's take a look at all of the logistics problems not solved by Reg Pubs:

  • Budgets to plan and track expenses, including payments to venues and vendors
  • Briefings to communicate schedules and expectations to execs, staff, speakers and VIPs
  • Calendars to manage and share all of the team's upcoming events
  • Contacts to keep track of all the agencies, customers, speakers, sponsors, vendors and VIPs
  • Contracts to centralize legal obligations to agencies, venues, vendors and sponsors
  • Event Requests to receive and process requests from the team to sponsor or host events
  • Inventories to track collateral, equipment and swag
  • Schedules to fully plan the days of the event, including travel
  • Shipments to track booths, collateral, equipment, staging and swag
  • Surveys to capture post-event feedback
  • Staff Reporting to understand the time and effort spent by staff and opportunity costs
  • Tasks to manage logistics with a spectrum of loose-knit collaborators
  • Travel to plan, book and track the costs of flights, hotels, restaurants and ground transport

Phew! And you thought the Reg Pub feature list was long.

The amount and variety of work that goes into planning even just a small event is impressive. There are so many moving parts and people. There is so much pressure. The show must go on, whether or not the shipments are on-time, the budget is running over or the keynote speaker's stuck in airport traffic.

It's easy to see why most Reg Pubs, who are already busy solving the problems of registration workflows, don't even try to solve these other "harder" parts of the event.

.... more problems not solved by "Reg Pubs"

Meanwhile, not every event needs registration. If you're sponsoring or exhibiting an event as a marketer, registration isn't even in the Top 10 list of your concerns.

Field marketers - teams that sponsor and exhibit - need to manage all of the logistics that Reg Pubs don't do, as well as:

  • Lead Capture to capture and qualify contacts from badges, business cards, forms and games
  • Meetings to book and track important sales and exec meetings with customers
  • CRM Integration to tie all customer data back to the company's "system of record"
  • Cost per Lead or Meeting to evaluate and benchmark event ROI on the most universal basis of comparison
  • Opportunity Evaluation to score and predict the ROI of new event marketing opportunities
  • ROI Reporting to look at all of the event's quantifiable and intangible costs and benefits
  • Portfolio Optimization to reallocate budget and attention on the basis of measurable results

Important stuff. For many companies, sponsoring or hosting a seamless event is not enough. The total investment, from staffing to expenses, needs to connect directly to sales and branding, to ROI.

The right tools lead to the best results

Registration is hard. Thanks to transaction fees paid by attendees, it's also lucrative.

As a result, today we have many excellent Reg Pubs solving the registration riddles of many different market segments... But where are all the tools that make it easier to manage event logistics and track ROI?

At EventGeek, we talk to event managers all-day, everyday, and we hear this question time-and-again. They are pulling their freakin' hair out because managing events is so damn stressful. Some are drawn to the high pressure environment of working in live events, but all wish it were a smoother process.

No wonder event managers have the 5th most stressful job in America, right behind fire fighters, and one of the highest job turnover rates of any title on LinkedIn.

More than yet another Reg Pub, event managers want better tools to manage their day-to-day work.

And even if you're not an event manager, the non-Reg Pub parts of the event add up to a big deal. As a VP or exec, when the event is over, how do you know how it went? More than just a feeling? From the budget to the lead capture to training new event staff... it all adds up in costs, often without clear benefits.

If your company is going to invest in events as an ongoing part of your business, why set your team up with inadequate tools and risk failure? At the end of the day, you need a Reg Pub if you're hosting events. There's plenty of options to choose from.

But how will your company do the non-Reg Pub parts of the event, retain staff and drive ROI? If you think email and spreadsheets are "good enough" because that's how your company has always done it, you may be hiring a replacement event manager sooner than you think.

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