At Gather Digital, we work with event planners from all over the world. Be it a huge technology expo, a small meeting for important clients, a professional development conference or a university reunion with alumni traveling from all over the country, we know somebody who has organized that type of event.
With access to so many people in the field, it only made sense to get some insight to pass on to you! So we put together a survey, and asked 50 event professionals to let us know what causes them the most headaches. Here we present their top five event-planning pains, along with some tips on how to alleviate those headaches.
1. Late Materials from Speakers
Few things are more frustrating than watching the clock tick down towards a deadline and not having the needed materials to finish your job. The number one headache that event planners reported to us was speakers who do not give them presentation material in time. One person’s tardiness can disrupt those important hours just before an event starts; instead of dealing with other issues, you find yourself making last minute calls to your printer, rushing down to pick up copy and then figuring out a way to get the materials into the hands of your attendees.
What if there was a way to give the entire job to your speaker? Talk to your event app provider to see if you can set up a speaker portal. Speaker portals allow speakers to log in and edit information relating to their specific session. They can edit their bios, the session description, add links to relevant websites and upload their PDFs or other presentation materials. Instead of placing you between your speaker and attendees, this feature allows you to step aside while the speaker quickly and easily shares information directly with his audience.
2. Changing Schedules
Second on the list of event planner headaches was schedules that change at the last minute, and all the wasted time, resources and money in re-printing the schedule. It happens with events of all sizes and can add extra stress for event planners. Events with multiple sessions, speakers and exhibitors can cause the most pain when there are last-minute changes to the schedule. Maybe a speaker suddenly cancels, or a room is suddenly unavailable, or you find out that the lunch caterer will be late. The very thing that caused the problem—you’re running an event with multiple moving parts—now means that you have to communicate this new information to a large group of people. You need something that’s quick and that you can be sure will get the message to each attendee.
This is where having a mobile event app can save you tremendous headache. The app should have the capability to allow you to edit, move or delete sessions from your agenda. With just a few clicks and keystrokes, you can delete the session that the speaker canceled for, move the session to another available room, or push the start time for lunch back by 15 minutes. Your app should automatically sync on a regular basis (check with you app provider to make sure of this!), so within just a few minutes you can be sure that the latest changes have reached your attendees.
If you have to make changes a day or two before your event starts, or just moments before the session starts, your mobile app should give you another option to make sure attendees hear about the changes: push notifications. You can send a message to attendees informing them of the change, and their phone will actually vibrate or ding to alert them of the incoming message depending on how users have their devices set up. This method is far superior to blasting an announcement over the PA system, and hoping that everybody listened.
Since attendees can turn off push notifications, it’s a good idea for your app promotion material to specifically ask them to allow push notifications for the app so they won’t miss any important meeting news.
3. Attendees Don’t Want to Carry All That Printed Material
Third on the list was a matter of simple convenience. Event planners reported that their attendees did not want to carry large binders around with them. All of the printed information you want to get to your attendees can be a bit overwhelming—a full agenda, a paper survey, detailed information on speakers and sponsors, hotel shuttle schedules, dinner menu options, dress codes, session presentations and conference center floor plans. The list could go on and on. Soon, you need to add a binder just to hold all of papers, but then people leave binders in their seats or forget them in their hotel room.
An event app eliminates all of this hassle and saves money in printing costs. Digital documents do not weigh down anyone’s phone, and papers don’t fall out between sessions. People generally keep very good track of their phones, and if you find one in an empty seat, you typically just have to wait for the owner to borrow a friend’s phone and call it.
4. Difficulty Communicating with Attendees
The fourth headache was somewhat related to the second—it can be difficult to communicate changes or new information to your attendees. Announcements over the PA system are often obnoxious and assume everyone is in the building. Making announcements at the beginning of a session takes time from your speakers. And all those people just finishing up conversations in the hallway (or in the meeting room) miss the information.
This is where push notifications shine. As previously discussed , you can send a message with important meeting info and the attendees’ own phones will take on the job of making sure they get it. It’s simple, unobtrusive and quick. What more could you want?
5. Time Wasted on Data Entry for Feedback Surveys
The final problem was one that just begs for an app to come save the day. Once you’ve gotten together a large group of people with common interests, shared passion or various areas of expertise, it’s the perfect time to get feedback from them. But paper surveys can be a nightmare. First you have to convince participants to fill out the survey. You must then get them to turn it in before walking out of the session or somehow help them remember to send it back to you. Once you do get all the papers, then you are faced with hours of manual data entry before you have any usable data.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your attendees could fill out the survey and submit it quickly and easily? And what if you could export all the responses to an excel file, where you could quickly put your data into charts or graphs?
Talk to your app provider about the types of feedback opportunities that exist in the app. Once the survey is in the app, you don’t have to worry about collecting responses; it’s all automatically uploaded. You can even use push notifications to ask attendees to fill out a pre-event survey before they get to the meeting. (Depending on the questions you ask, you could use these answers to inform specific event decisions or add information to attendee profiles to encourage networking.) You could also use push notifications to remind them to fill out the survey after they’ve left your event and returned home.
Organizing a conference is not for the faint of heart. It’s tough work, filled with long hours juggling many different responsibilities. It is important that you make the best use of your time and the tools available to you. A mobile event app can go a long way toward minimizing or eliminating these most painful headaches, and helping you focus your energy in the most efficient way—creating your most outstanding event yet.