Your event management software should double as your best bud, right?
When you’re spending a lot of time with a product, it helps if it’s your friend. Plus, if things go awry you’ll want something by your side you can rely on.
Conversely, choosing the wrong event management partner can turn running your event into your worst nightmare, like a knife-wielding Freddy Krueger invading your dreams while you sleep (Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic.)
When it comes to choosing your event management software, it can be hard to know exactly what to look for—especially if you’re among the 10% of marketers who haven’t used event software before (Who are you? We’re fascinated).
Even if you already use an event software tool that you like, you may not realize where your current product could be falling short, and what to look for in the next one.
“Wait a minute…am I about to get suckered into a sales pitch for Swoogo?”
(Though our hearts would melt if you did check us out. Just sayin’.)
We analyzed customer reviews on G2Crowd and Capterra (awesome review sites for software) to better understand what most event management software providers are missing—or what users dislike in general.
No judgment here, we’re not perfect either (but hey, we think we’re pretty darn close.)
These 12 must-ask questions can help you avoid rushed decisions and select an event management partner that makes the most sense for your event and the way you/your team work.
Ready? Let’s do it.
12 must-ask questions for buying event management software
1 What reports can I pull from the system?
A lot of planners get annoyed when their vendor’s system can’t pull the specific type of report they need.
Creating reports should be easy, and you should be able to pull and display the exact data you need from your reports. No need to see your attendee’s shoe sizes if what you really want to see is everyone’s arrival time and session selection.
Pro Tip: List out what types of data is important for you to view, and ask your salesperson whether their product can easily pull it into your reports.
2 Do you offer “if this, then that” logic in your registration forms?
Cluttering your registration forms with irrelevant questions is never the way forward. If your goal is to create a smooth registrant experience from beginning to end, you need a tool that allows for conditional fields.
Huh? Let me break this down. Conditional fields, or “if this, then that” logic, allow you to change the visibility of questions depending on your registrant type (think tailored registration experiences for Member/Non-Member or VIP/Staff).
Ask your potential event software provider how granular you can get with those conditional questions on your form.
Some vendors only allow you to go one level deep, which isn’t very helpful if you have more complex registration requirements.
3 Can you show me templates I can use to jump-start the event creation process?
Show me the money! Great-looking templates that streamline your entire workflow are crucial. They save you time and make your event look amazing.
To get started, you need a variety of templates available in the system that you can simply tweak to align your brand. Time is money and having a selection of templates to choose from will not only accelerate your event website build, but it will also decrease the time it takes until you can throw the gates open and get people registering.
That said, you may also want to be able to create your own look and feel, and personalize your templates. If you don’t work with an in-house developer, you can always ask whether your software partner has a professional services team to help you customize your sites.
4 Can you customize the look & feel of the registration form, or just the event website itself?
You need to have full control over things that are important to your customers. Your event is unique, your audience is unique and most importantly, your brand is unique. To provide your attendees with a fully custom-branded experience, you should ask:
Will I have control over the wording of each registration step?
Can I change the overall look and feel of the form?
Can I edit the mobile responsive settings?
Do the attendee questions appear in one line or multiple lines?
Am I able to call my agenda a ‘schedule’ instead?
How will each field look, and am I able to change it?
There may be other questions you’ll need to ask, but the little details make all the difference here. Think about the entire registration process from start to finish, and where you want to make sure your brand comes through.
5 Will I be able to easily clone my events?
From an end-user point of view, cloning events should be a piece of cake.
But here’s the thing—many event software products can’t do it (or at least not easily.)
Historically, event software providers grew their products by acquiring other companies. While this allowed them to offer more functionality, it didn’t necessarily allow them the ability to offer seamless functionality. The pieces can’t be integrated holistically, and that means elements can’t be exactly cloned without a heavy lift on your end to make it happen.
So, what does this mean?
Lots of wasted time. There is no glory in manually copying & pasting each element to re-create the functionality and look and feel of your events, especially for planners who run similar events regularly.
6 Can you show me the formatting of the number, phone, & country fields in the registration?
Collecting data is one thing, but collecting consistent data is a whole other hurdle. If you have a free text field for a country selection, for example, you may be spending your time manually grouping attendees who live in the “US,” “USA,” “U.S.A.” and “America.” (Why are there so many names for this country?)
Ask how configurable the various field types in your registration form are. Does the country field allow you to select from a predetermined list? Does the phone field include area codes? Will your venue address be pulled directly from Google Maps?
Smart forms will make it much easier for your registrants to enter data that’s actually useful and easily sortable for you.
7 Is your admin back-end mobile-friendly & fully responsive?
Not having a fully responsive website is basically like not having a website at all. But what about the stuff you’re working on behind the scenes? The administrator back-end per se?
As a seasoned event professional, you probably spend a lot of time outside the office.
Envision this—it’s 9.35 pm on a Sunday. The night before your annual flagship conference. You find yourself exhausted and tired in your hotel room. Your computer is back at your field office, and you only have your iPad on hand. There’s a last-minute change in your event agenda. What do you do?
Solution: In an ideal world, you should be able to easily log in from your iPad and make the necessary amendments, not have to go back to your office and haul out your computer just to make a simple one-line change.
This comes in handy in so many scenarios, like when you need to edit something while you’re on the train or waiting in line for your no-foam-extra-hot-no-foam-latte. Once you’ve experienced this kind of functionality, there’s truly no going back.
8 Do you allow customers to make changes to the event website via custom code?
Being able to BYOCC (bring your own custom code) can be a god-send (Your IT Team will thank you later.)
9 What industries & verticals do you specialize in?
Not all event management software is created equal, right?
Some event software providers focus solely on exhibitions, others pride themselves working only with B2B Conferences, others with consumer events. Then, of course, there are some of the bigger all-rounders who think (yes, think) they can do it all.
Publishers running flagship events and using event software that can adopt their look and feel have different requirements than event agencies whose end goal is to please their clients.
If your vendor has experience working with clients in industries similar to yours, it’s most likely that the software will be a good fit.
10 How well do you play with other event technologies, like venue sourcing, audience engagement, or on-site technologies?
The development of APIs (application programming interfaces) has made it much easier to share data across a wide range of business software products. It’s not unusual for meeting planners to integrate different software products to have them work together as if they were a single platform, aka not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Best-in-craft software focuses on the philosophy that no one product can do it all and that planners and marketers deserve the best possible product for each stage of the event lifecycle.
Still, many planners complain that they have been mis-sold on the ease of integration or that they’re spending way too much time (and money) on integrating with solutions like Salesforce, HubSpot, or Marketo.
Ask about APIs and how those connections will work. Make sure you’re going to be supported by all teams throughout the entirety of the process. And most importantly, make sure your software can be integrated with the other tools you already use.
11 Do you charge per event, per registration, or per user?
This will depend on your event, but you don’t want to be penalized for ramping up your event portfolio or getting more butts-in-seats. We think per registrant pricing is old-fashioned, but it could work well for you—it just depends on the kinds of events you run, and how many people generally attend.
While there’s no magic formula to instantly know what will be more cost-effective, in general, if you run many events or large events, per-user pricing may come out cheaper.
12 Describe how you will support me moving forward?
You need a combination of strong support and modern technology that also fits your budget. This is the case for most event technology solutions, however, support is also the biggest ‘dislike’ factor according to our analysis.
How quickly can the team help you resolve issues or get things done? Does your vendor offer live-chat support?
Make sure you talk to existing customers or check out reviews on G2Crowd or Capterra (the Yelp of software.)
On the surface, all Event Management Software seems to be created equal, but the devil is in the detail.
You need a combination of strong support and modern technology, that also fits your budget.
Don’t let your sales rep brush you off when asking these important questions.
Jump on a quick demo to see how Swoogo works in detail.