Today on Event Tech Podcast, we’re talking about event management tools. As you know, this is the number one podcast to go for ideas on everything event tech. And we simply couldn’t resist dedicating an episode to event management through the lenses of tech and tools. Because with so much information and choices out there, it can get quite overwhelming. But fear not, our hosts Will Curran and Brandt Krueger are here to guide you through it.
And joining them is a very special guest, Michael Bleau. Michael is the CEO of Event Hub. And so, he works with more than 300 large live annual events through his event management software company. Plus, he has more than a decade of experience as an event organizer and brand sponsorship manager. So, are you ready to get into the nitty and gritty of event management tools? Then press play, it’s time to get techy!
Michael begins by explaining everything about Event Hub. “So my company came out of a background and as you mentioned, in brand sponsorship management”, he says. “One part of what we’re trying to solve is how to better match the brands and the partnerships. Whether they’re exhibitors, sponsors, vendors, the B2B partners that are interested in these live events, how to better match them with the live event organizers and with the event properties”.
“The other piece of what we do is, we have a marketplace”, he continues. “We call it a sponsorship marketplace. It’s essentially like Airbnb for booth or event space, and sponsorship opportunities at any of the events on our platform nationwide. And the other big piece is a streamlined and mobile-friendly dashboard to manage every aspect of your relationship with those B2B folks. So it’s the applications, it’s all of the messaging, it’s the logistics, it’s booth assignments, it’s payment collection and tracking, and it’s paperwork review and management”.
Event Management: The Bare Bones
Before getting into event management tools, it’s important to address the process at its most fundamental level. “So the two general themes that we’ll be able to discuss are processes. So team processes, team communication protocols, priorities, and team structure”, says Michael. “And then the different systems that you can implement around your team to really give you the best chance to be successful in producing your event”.
Key Aspects of Project Management
“You’re going to have a timeline. Along that timeline, there are key dates for the entertainment aspect and programming aspect you have to lockdown”, continues Michael. “There is a sponsorship you have to lockdown. You’re doing attendee ticketing or registration, and marketing that goes involved with that. And then all the back of house ops and partners that are actually going to source the venue, and lock in the venue, bringing all of your bag of house vendors if you’re doing stage or sound and lighting, AV, stuff like that, that really helped to bring everything to life for the event”.
“All of those puzzle pieces have to fit together in a way that makes sense in order to execute everything in time, to get it done in time for the event day. And if anyone of those pieces are out of whack or if you’re looking at the puzzle, if any of those pieces start getting chipped or torn, all of a sudden, there’s going to be a lot of holes. And the whole thing could potentially fall apart. So, so important to understand how you’re holding everything together and how you’re guiding everything along the way”, he concludes.
Michael believes team communication is the process that needs more improvement. “It’s really hard to identify if something’s a noncritical issue. And then it’s super hard to remember when it seems like a small decision that might not have the ripple effect it ends up having to make sure you’re recording a document in the conversation. And the decisions that are made in a way that, A, doesn’t make you have to remake those decisions all over again, and B, you don’t end up making the wrong decision later because you don’t have the information then you have now when you made certain decisions”.
“You have to have an actual process plan, and what we highly recommend is to write it down. Have a written plan of this is what’s appropriate. The other huge thing when it comes to making these decisions is within your process plan, delegating responsibility. And making it very clear and written down who is responsible for what decision making aspects of the business. What are the things they have to get approval from, from the top dog or whoever’s above them and what they’re empowered to make on their own. Because as soon as you start micromanaging your team, they start coming to you for permission instead of forgiveness, and if they start doing that, you get in this hole. You’ll never get anything done.”, Michael concludes.
“I would break it into buckets”, Michael explains. “So you’re going to have project leaders in the different areas of the event. Someone’s going to be in charge ultimately of programming. Hopefully, it’s not just the CEO or the director who is in charge of every area. Obviously, at the end of the day, they’re responsible for it, but someone’s taking over that responsibility sphere. So I would break it into programming. I would break it into attendee and marketing. I would break it into sponsorships and B2B partners. And then break it into production, ops, back of house. Those are some general buckets that are easy to divide amongst the team”.
“And then within that, you’re going to break that down into maybe the two or three most critical items, or five, we’ll say, half a dozen most critical items that have to happen. And then try to delineate within that, what areas of responsibility have to be checked. The biggest thing is, you have to identify the strengths and capabilities of your team. Because that’s going to inform every area that you really can delegate and feel comfortable delegating”.
Jumping into event management tools, Michael begins. “So I would say you need to start off with some kind of a project management tool”, explains Michael. “But you don’t have to use project management tools for software. There are amazing tools out there that have free versions. A lot of them are what’s called card-based. That’s what you’re going for with project management software. Except unlike an index card, you can assign a member to it that’s going to get a notification and you can have due dates, and you can have checklists within these things and expand it with attaching links and images, and stuff like that”.
Event Management Tools: Processes
“So you have your project management card. Your next thing up is going to be how are you handling the communication? I love what is called Slack. And Slack is instant messaging. But a huge difference is there’s a history. All of your communications are searchable, you can tag and pin things to the top that are super important. You can even set reminders for yourself within there. And it integrates with Trello and other project management software. So you have a constant stream of not just your direct communications but different areas of the project”, Michael explains.
Michael also talks about the importance of adoption across the team when it comes to event management tools. “On the front end, when you develop these process plans and determine what tech you’re going to use with that, you have to make sure that everyone’s on board. And committed to using it, and you need them to be willing to go through some growing pains as they learn that. And the other thing is to consider the ease of use and how intuitive it is, and the interface, and how mobile-friendly it is when you’re choosing what tools you’re going to use”.
CRMs In Event Management Tools
CRMs, or Customer Relationship Management Systems, are an important part of event management tools. “You’re going to need a CRM to keep all the contacts that are important. It could be for attendees, it could be for all your sponsor leads and things like that. This could be as simple as within Google, using your Google contacts and Google groups. And things like that if you’re a one-person army. But there are other tools out there that make it easier to manage people and have smart integrations with some of these other tools we’re talking about to help keep it focused across the business”.
“You can definitely Google or do your research”, adds Michael. “And really check at the pros and cons, and make sure that the pros line up with what you need for your team”.
“Everyone has a ticketing provider they’re using but more how are you picking that ticketing provider? Meaning what do you need to do? Are you trying to maximize the sale volume of high-end tickets? Is it free tickets? And you’re just trying to collect some information so that you can do some remarketing and other things, or provide that marketing information to your sponsorships? So when it comes to ticketing software, there’s a wide range of products out there and they all do very different things”, says Michael.
Brandt adds that “one of the other things that I’d like to emphasize when it comes to ticketing and registration, and all of those types of platforms is that there really is, at this point, a platform for every budget. But there are trade-offs for that. You’re either going to have to put in more work yourself, or you’re handing it off to someone else. But you’re going to pay for that privilege. Or if it’s free, which many ticketing and registrations software can be, you always have to ask how do they make their money? And anytime you can’t figure out how they make the money, you are the product or in this case, your attendees’ data is the product”.
Michael also adds that it is paramount to understand “your cash flow needs and how that factors in. Some of the larger ticketing companies that are more service-based are the ones that are more apt to do those big advances up front. So something to definitely factor into your research when you’re looking at the different features”.
Managing B2B Partners
“So I guess the things to consider on a more broad aspect when dealing with your vendor and exhibitor management, is how you are managing all the documentation that’s required”, says Michael. Those kinds of things, if you have a system that allows you to quickly and easily understand who owes you what pieces of paperwork and what’s approved versus rejected, and what do they have to correct and get back to you, streamlining that type of stuff is a really critical piece. And then obviously, the money”.
“So again, that really comes back to how good of a team process do you have in place? Who’s responsible for updating what areas of the spreadsheet and who’s responsible for cross-checking it to making sure that nothing’s missed and things aren’t incorrectly input? How’s your system catching when you mess something up on that manual spreadsheet? So those are some different aspects that are really important when determining what kind of vendor and sponsor management tool you’re going to use”.
Event Management Tools – Bringing It Home!
“We’ve talked about so many great tools. The biggest thing I would say is how are you using them? It really does come back to the process map. None of these tools are good if you’re not using it the right way and if everyone on our team isn’t on the same page. So no matter what you use, you can get farther with a crappy tool and a good process that you can with the best tool in a crappy process”, Michael concludes.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s episode of Event Tech Podcast! Today was all about event management tools. So, make sure you check out all of the amazing resources listed below so you can get that process going. Plus, don’t forget to tune in next week for more amazing conversations about technology in the events industry!