The demand for capturing actionable business insights from live events such as seminars, tradeshows and conferences has been increasing steadily, causing the global event management software market to expand at an unprecedented pace. The total market size is projected to grow at a CAGR of 11.6% from GBP 4.9 billion in 2018, to reach GBP 8.4 billion by 2023. As a plethora of software solutions become newly available on the market, just how easy is it to choose the best conference management software option?
Event organisers have endless choices and a wealth of information at their disposal to help them decide which conference management software would work best for them. However, with a whole raft of stakeholders involved in every purchase and a multitude of software solutions on offer, organisers can feel overwhelmed by this deluge of information and be struck by decision paralysis. More knowledge begets more questions, so it is easy to fall down an endless rabbit hole when trying to understand all of the available alternatives. And let’s not even talk about the post-purchase anxiety…
So how should you go about choosing the conference management software that fulfils all of your planning needs and leaves you with no regrets? Before we dive into the nitty- gritty details, it might be useful to check out the ‘Complete Guide to Conference Management’. This will help you understand more about what conference management software is and how it can help you.
Once you’re done with that, let’s discuss conference management software. Here is what we will cover:
- What is conference management software?
- What exactly can you do with conference management software?
- What features should conference management software solutions have?
- Is it worth investing in conference management software?
- Select the best conference management software!
What is conference management software?
Conference management software is an integrated application suite, through which you can easily manage conferences by streamlining different functionalities, such as:
– Cloud video conferencing;
– Online meetings;
– Group messaging.
A modern conference management software solution will also include various content management tools, audio/video editing and screen-sharing options, presentation tools, and different conferencing options to help you set up the conference that works best for you.
What exactly can you do with conference management software?
Once you have suitable conference management software in place, you can leverage its various features to minimise the manual processes required during registration, bookings and payments. This saves you an enormous amount of time and money. Aside from these advantages, you will also have the ability to do the following before, during and after the conference:
– Send instant messages or one-to-one messages to a group or individual;
– Share status updates;
– Customise the live feed to ensure maximum attendee engagement;
– Conduct polls on different aspects of the conference;
– Get real-time feedback, share ideas, ask advice from attendees through discussion boards, and more.
What features should conference management software solutions have?
Modern conference management software solutions are equipped with the latest tools and technology to power conferences, trade shows and exhibitions of all complexities and sizes. Whether you are opting for a more basic version or feature-rich, enterprise-level software, the end-goals remain the same – grow your business, gain more leads, retain customers, and maximise ROI. In order to make an informed decision on the best conference management software option, you need to know the features they should offer. Good software solutions should include:
– Registration management: Hassle-free registrations for your event. Maximise event experience and satisfaction by providing your attendees with personalised paths based on their preferences.
– Onsite check-in & badging: Faster check-ins, non-existent queues, simple onsite badge printing. Easy.
– Managing address books: Capturing the right audience is the key to your conference’s success. The software you buy should organise your visitor data into relevant contact details that can be retrieved at any time.
– Multi-user functionality: Through this feature, multiple team members can log in to the platform simultaneously, through the same browser. There is no issue of login credentials, which saves you the money and hassle of setting up multiple accounts.
– Payment delegation: Getting attendees to pay for a conference can be a difficult task if the payment process is long and cumbersome. A good conference management software offers integrated payment solutions with different payment plans, automatic billing and other automation features.
– Housing management: Book accommodation, view transportation itineraries, and more through integration with various travel agencies.
– Lead management: Having a lead capture tool integrated with your CRM makes it easier to collect and follow up on leads, as well as helping you track ROI and assess the impact of your conference.
– Social engagement: Social media sharing options, particularly through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are an essential feature of every conference management software.
– Sponsor management: Easily track sponsor and exhibitor deliverables, while providing them with access to relevant information.
– Mobile event apps: Maximise attendee engagement through push notifications, networking and quick lead capture abilities.
These are features and functionalities that good conference management software should have. Now the pertinent question arises – do you really need it?
Is it worth investing in conference management software?
The short answer is that it all depends on the type of conference you are organising, and the business needs you have. If you are hosting around 50-60 attendees, a basic, free version with limited functions will do the job. However, for larger events that cater to 200 + attendees, you will need the best conference management software available to ensure your success. As the size and complexity of your event increases, so do the number of tasks required to execute it successfully.
Now imagine using manual processes to handle all the activities required to make the conference happen – registration, budgeting, managing issues, capturing leads, running analytics, while also dealing with endless calls and questions from team members.
The result? Chaos! Precious man-hours are bound to be wasted, and the absence of a review process means there is a high probability of making serious errors. Ultimately, attendees will be left with a sour taste in their mouths if the event does not go as planned, which might hurt your business and reputation.
If you invest in good conference management software, all your manual woes vanish, you can automate most tasks and align them with your end-goals of growing your business, retaining customers, and maximising ROI.
Select the best conference management software!
The B2B event market is awash with conference management software of all types – there is probably a solution available for every live event.
However, how many of these solutions are actually good? To separate the cream from the milk and make a smart purchase, you need to thoroughly analyse your selection criteria. This should depend mainly on the features and functionalities on offer, as well as the ease-of-use and integration with other platforms.
Here are all the boxes that the best conference management software you buy should tick:
Abstract Management solutions
This should have the following features:
– Efficient Call for Papers process;
– Online, customised submission of abstracts;
– Easy sorting and management of submissions by topic;
– Automated emails, targeted invitations;
– Smooth review process;
– Build event agenda for attendees;
– Integration with other platforms.
The conference management software should have a secure system of permission for each page and function, in order to prevent unauthorised users from gaining access. Which also brings us to…
Privacy is a very sensitive issue and handling the personal data of authors and delegates means your software should be GDPR compliant by law.
Multiple language compatibility
Ideal conference management software has multiple translation modules integrated with it. This is particularly important if your audience is located around the world and you want to replicate your conference for different regions.
Easy export of data
Your software should easily export collated data such as abstracts, surveys, profiles, payments etc. to Excel or CSV files. In addition to this, there should be a simple process to download files uploaded by the users – as a zip document or from an FTP server, for example.
Mobile conference app
Nowadays, using mobile apps is integral to ensuring the success of any event and this becomes even more important for live events such as conferences and exhibitions. Some of the best conference management software in the market will provide smart in-built mobile apps that deliver smart content and facilitate networking.
Software is constantly evolving and every now and then, incremental upgrades need to be made in order to stay on top of things. Check the software update history of the conference management software being marketed by different vendors – the more frequent the updates, the better your software to deal with modern challenges!
Make sure the vendor you are purchasing from provides proper and constant tech support. Even with the best of conference management software, technical glitches can inevitably arise. In this scenario, you would want to talk to dedicated customer support personnel – not a chatbot!
If you’re going to make a significant investment in conference management software, you need to be properly walked through the solution in detail. Mere screenshots or the usual spiel from a salesperson won’t do the job here – make sure to request a live demo!
Be aware, be smart!
Buying new technology is never an easy task, especially because a critical investment is involved, and you can never be certain of the precise value it will provide. However, once your priorities (and your budget) are set on buying conference management software, you need to use all available information and trust your instincts when making the purchase. Always note the ease-of-use associated with each software solution. Ask yourself the following questions:
– Have I properly understood all the functions and technologies that the software offers?
– If the tech is complicated and has a steep learning curve, will the vendor provide free training?
– Will I get post-implementation assistance?
– Is my hardware compatible with the software I plan to buy?
And finally, seek advice from your peers and the network of fellow conference organisers. What is their review of the software they have used? Would they recommend it? What are the pros and cons?
The more questions you ask, the easier it will become for you to choose the best conference management software!
Before you make the decision to buy the best conference management software, you will need to set a budget for your event. Check out this interesting white paper on ‘Event Budget Management’; it explains how, with the help of the perfect software tool, you can build and manage your event budget, track expenses, maximise ROI and much more.