An Example of Flexible Thinking
New York City’s High Line is a walking path on the eastern edge of Manhattan, both sides lined with sumptuous green gardens, and raised roughly three stories above street level, providing a unique view of the city streets below. It is one of the 21st century’s best examples of flexible thinking. For around fifty years, the High Line was a rusting, disused train track, part of a line that was no longer connected to the city’s transit system, and by all accounts an eyesore. Now it is one of New York’s best-loved parks, and a perfect analogy for the way good event planners think.
Applying Flexible Thinking to Events
Producing a great event is less about fulfilling a creative vision (i.e. “this plan sounds good, lets just buy all the pieces and put them together”), and more about making things work (“here is is what we have available, how can we make the best of it?”). For example, one of our clients recently noticed that attendees were being distracted by their phones during speaker sessions. Same as the High Line, they asked how can we turn a hindrance to an advantage? The solution was using mobile surveys to make speaker sessions interactive. People were still on their phones, but now they were engaged.
Enabling Flexible Thinking with Technology
The software you use to manage events must enable flexibility. We call this the platform approach vs. the product approach. Platforms are built around multiple applications. The survey app mentioned above is a single module amongst many. Products are single applications, that focus on a specific process, typically with greater depth. For example, event registration.
People will argue that the product approach results in better software because of its singular focus. That idea has a logical appeal. It is similar to expecting a person who spends all their time writing to be a better writer than a person who splits their time between writing and drawing. But, we disagree for two reasons.
First, events are complex and they require management of many different parts. So, if a planner has software that only does registration, they will have to find software that handles scheduling, promotion, data processing, etc, a time-suck and headache. Moreover, there is no guarantee that separate technologies play well together, meaning using a certain product inherently limits the quality of technology in other parts of your event, depending on what it integrates with.
Second, the idea of diminishing returns. Technology measuring a certain part of an event can only get so good, before its features become unnecessary weight. A good example is RegPack. They built beautiful registration software, that now includes a full suite of analytics tools. Why? Are stand-alone registration measurements really contributing to a deeper understanding of whether events are helping you achieve business objectives? After baseline functionality has been achieved, it makes far more sense to spend time figuring out how to support other parts of the event management process. For instance, a registration module that only records names and basic demographic information, but also integrates easily with onsite data collection. Though providing limited functionality itself, such a module is the cornerstone for tying data to individuals throughout an event, which is far more valuable.
A Sampler of Important Functionality
We believe that every event management platform needs a core group of modules to do its job well. For a more complete discussion of platforms vs. products, and the full list take a look at our whitepaper.
Registration lays the framework for data collection and control of your event. Good software platforms generate badges you will use to guide and track an attendee activity with RFID and NFC technology. This includes ‘gating’ attendance, time spent per event, event attendance, types of attendees and more.
Content & Call for Papers
Engaging content is key to event promotion. A good platform allows you to organize and rank content submissions to streamline communication by relevancy for attendees. This allows you to create a content and presentation schedule that become “must see” events.
Your platform must lead to actionable insights for the future. It should provide standard and custom dashboards to monitor all the important data collected at your event and a method of appending aggregate data to your CRM system.
For more detail, read the second Whitepaper in our Data Driven Enterprise Event Planning Series.