Use Technology To Take Your Planning Skills To the Next Level

Event planning is a process that includes millions of details that all need to be perfectly timed and balanced, from selecting sites and sourcing caterers to driving attendance and managing budgets. While traditional event planning tools have included phones, fax machines, and binders, new technologies are changing the way events are planned, marketed, and managed. Technology called "eventware" is a set of Web-based tools that allow planners to put critical event planning functions on autopilot. Here is a quick reference guide to using eventware in the five major event planning disciplines: announcements, invitations, and reminders; registration and attendance; secure payment; analysis and reporting; and detail management such as timelines, contacts, and documents.

1. Announcements, Invitations, and Reminders

One of the ways of shortening the event planning cycle is to get notices and reminders out to your invitees faster. Most eventware includes an e-invite option that allows event planners to e-mail invitations to a large list (or segmented list) of invitees. This Web-based function serves as the central repository for the master invitation list, letting meeting planners track attendees throughout the entire cycle from invitation to post-event survey. It also provides invitees with an online place to seek more information about the event, thereby reducing the administrative burden on planners. Lastly, it gives invitees a fast and convenient way to respond, so meeting planners can follow up.

2. Registration and Attendance

Gone are the days when event attendees had to fax or mail handwritten registration forms. Now, attendees can go to an event Web site to enter their contact information, meal requirements, and other details directly into an online system that captures these data and makes them accessible to event planners in real time. This means that event organizers can see registrants and track interest levels throughout the process and even change details on the fly to accommodate attendees. In addition, the organization can collect demographic and market information, conduct surveys, and send automatic confirmations or changes.

3. Secure Payment

The online credit card payment processing tool available with most eventware systems enables organizations to securely collect registration fees online, rather than relying on time-intensive personal or business checks. By making it fast and easy to collect attendance costs via the Internet, these tools cut down on overhead and outsourcing costs that often come with paid registrations. Eventware also helps organizations give their members and other participants the peace of mind that credit card information is transmitted safely and directly.

4. Analysis and Reporting

Eventware also enables an organization to utilize powerful data collection and analysis functionality that takes event planning to a whole new level of sophistication. This technology can maintain all attendee information, generate important event reports and participant analysis, and provide essential feedback to event planners. New developments in eventware allow meeting planners to analyze attendance rates, compare meetings, and view historical attendance trends to analyze the potential success of an event.

5. Detail Management

Finally, eventware helps planners manage the more time-intensive and strategic aspects of meeting planning. Utilizing online checklists, timelines, project folders, storage of event documentation, e-mail lists, and discussion groups transitions many of the traditionally paper-laden tasks to an organized and secure electronic system, eliminating binders, scattered documents, and stacks of to-do lists. Today, event planners have the full organizational capability in one place—their desktop. Plus, with online eventware, planners have access anytime, anywhere, and can share information with their entire team.

Ron Brumbarger is the president and chief executive officer of BitWise Solutions, Inc., one of Indiana's largest Web development firms. Ron can be reached at (317) 805-4376, ext. 221, or at ron.brumbarger@bitwise