Why Should You Trust This Guide?
When choosing event management software (EMS) you need someone on your side that can offer a more impartial view of what to look for and what to ask from sales professionals. At PARiM, we provide event staffing management software that 50 000+ people use daily so we know a bit about the software as a service (SaaS) market that you will be navigating to find the best option. At the same time, we do not actively participate in the event management software niche in itself so we can offer hopefully somewhat a more nuanced and a more neutral view.
PS! We can help you or your staffing partners manage event staff. Our solution has an event staff specific module just for companies such as yours. If you find this guide useful please consider trying our software for free or recommending us.
Why Use Event Management Software?
What the Software Providers Say
The most important question you need to answer is Why?
Initially, many of us try to avoid niche specific cloud software and make due with general solutions like spreadsheets. Perhaps we just can´t see the difference that a bespoke tool would make to justify additional costs.
Whether you are part of organising conferences, exhibitions, tradeshows, weddings, music festivals, sports events or product launches here are the core promises that all Event Management Software (EMS) providers use to lure you towards their offering:
- Increase attendance
- Improve attendees´ experience
- Reduce labour-intensive management processes
- Provide cost & time savings
- Help event planning
- Offer event-industry specific insights via analytics
- Integrate with other digital services such as payments & CRM systems
What they do not tell you
Support and Getting Started Packages
The unspoken part of the list of claims is that realising most of them requires a correct set-up of the software, even if the offered solution is otherwise perfect.
If you are drawn in by one of these types of promises then the first thing you should do is to make sure that you are also provided with a required amount of attention and support to realise the benefit you are after. Check for support articles, how-to videos and live chat/phone support and their quality.
This need for support is universal and does not depend on whether you are a freelancer organising weddings or a corporate decision maker looking to buy enterprise level software for a hotel chain.
It is also prudent to ask about the pricing for a getting-started package where a professional helps you to insert or import the data you need to get going with your work. It is usually worth the price if you are committed to making the best of the software. However, it is seldom taken into account when considering the costs of using one software offer versus another.
What the Users Say
Everyone wants the main key benefits outlined above. Still, they may start to sound a bit generic and too good to be true once you see the same claims in different wording from one provider to another. Let´s contrast that with what people say.
We have based the following on real event management professionals feedback on specific forums and software review sites. These needs build upon themselves as the organisation gets bigger so a corporate decision maker usually faces both the problems that a freelancer or a managing director in an SME would but also has their own specific needs.
Choose for the Long-Term
You may initially want to use a certain event management solution because it solves an immediate need, but a wiser observer may notice that providers are actively guiding their potential clients, such as your organisation, towards a comprehensive solution. This may be done via the design of their product, marketing and sales messaging and what features are available to use at a certain price point.
A service that may be free or low-cost in the beginning is usually cost prohibitive once your business grows.
To avoid that make sure that providers have your best long-term interests in mind. For example, at PARiM, we came up with an in-depth pricing structure that makes our staff management software more cost-effective per usage the more your company grows and uses our offering. We recommend requiring something similar to any type of software that your company is considering.
What they do not tell you
The Trend Towards All-in-One Solutions
Even though the market has fragmented to sub-categories, such as event registration software and dozens of others, most EMS providers are directing efforts towards becoming an all-in-one solution. Or their business plan is to be acquired by a competitor who is one or is planning to become one.
This is important to you because you may start to use a certain software because it solves one specific problem for your organisation better than all others, but you will be subtly locked-in to a complete set of features, approach to support, product development and to pricing that goes along with the initial benefits.
THE KEY TAKE AWAY
The right answer to why? is in the lines of “Because we need a new way of doing things long-term” rather than “Why not? Let´s try this!” that solution providers promote on their websites. The “secret key” to deciding whether you need a new event management solution is to answer the question: are we ready and willing to embrace a new way of doing things for the long-term?
Jumping into the Event Management Software Market
Before you can start deciding which solution to prefer a thorough understanding of the economic landscape is needed so you can navigate it and find the right solution for your needs. Cloud apps will be making up the brunt of the growth in the usage of event management software in the years to come. Mobile apps have seen enormous growth in usage on the attendee side, but recent changes in Apple´s iOS App Store rules has halted that growth because white label apps branded differently for each event or end-customer are no-longer allowed.
The largest sub-category inside EMS market is Event Registration Software with an estimated revenue total of $2.43 billion in 2016 growing to an estimated £4.99 billion.
How much do organisations spend on event management software in total? Astonishingly, quite a lot:
- While precise numbers are elusive the event management software industry is forecasted to be worth a total $9.28 billion by 2020 globally according to a Markets and Markets report.
- Another report by MarketResearchFuture.com highlights that the expected annual CAGR growth from 2016-2022 to be 11.63%, growing from $7.65 billion to $14.63 billion during that span.
- This can be contrasted with a much more conservative estimate from Technavio of combined annual revenues of $1.112 billion that is expected to grow to $1.65 billion by 2021.
Overview of the Leading All-in-One Providers
Leading all-in-one solution providers include Cvent, Xing Events, Certain Inc., Ungerboeck, etouches, Eventbrite, DEA, Active Networks, Lanyon, Zerista.
Each one of them offers a distinct angle to the way they approach event management, so you need to be aware of what features and industry verticals they initially focused on when the company was founded as well as what features they have added or what competitors they have acquired towards their path towards an all-inclusive solution.
Most of them have reached a point of maturation that their less-known competitors aspire towards. That means a comprehensive set of features, but it is worth keeping in mind that it also means that many of the more mature solutions are provided “as is". Customisation may mean in practice that you are changing your business practices to accommodate them, rather than they bending to meet your business needs. The latter being what businesses ideally want when integrating a new solution.
What they do not tell you
How to Protect Yourself While Researching
Whatever the size of your organisation - as soon as you start looking for a new software solution the software providers start looking at you as well. Please consider that you are being tracked from your initial Google Search back to your private Facebook usage to be targeted with ads almost endlessly.
Thus, if you are in a key decision-making position in your organisation it is almost mandatory to protect yourself from ads influencing your opinion, and therefore the future of your firm, to install and enable an AdBlock extension.
It would be quite daft if the long-term capabilities of our companies are decided upon what we see coming up on our Facebook feeds almost randomly. At PARiM we are confident in everyone´s capability to plan for the long-term without being influenced by excessive advertising so we suggest installing a reputable privacy browser add-on such as uBlock Origin (see for Chrome and for Firefox) before continuing your research.
Key Features Checklist
While the market is trending towards all-in-one solutions via product development and acquisitions alike, no provider can cover the needs of all clients. Hence, it is prudent to focus on 3-4 core needs of your organisation or team from the following list and then compare it with what some of the leading providers have to offer to get a better sense into which market segment you should be directing your efforts towards.
The list includes, but is not limited to...
- Meetings Management
- Venue Sourcing
- Venue Management
- Event Marketing
- Social Media
- Event Registration
- Housing & Travel
- Onsite Solutions
- Mobile Apps for Attendees
- Data Analytics
- Financial Reporting
Leading Event Management Software Providers At a Glance
In the following, we provide a neutral overview of some of the leading event management solutions based on publicly available resources. Highlighting the approach that makes each provider unique and the support that they provide. This should give your team a good sense of the wide variety of offerings available.
Cvent offers cloud-based solutions that help address the entire lifecycle of an event by allowing planners to organize and manage conferences, meetings, and trade shows. It helps to connect event planners and venues through a search engine, which is accessible as a database for complete information.
EMS Software is involved in providing software solutions such web registration and survey creation solutions, as well as the EMS line of facility scheduling, event management, resource utilization, and web calendar products.
etouches is a provider of event management enterprise software solutions to design and develop team-oriented events and projects. It serves event marketers, agencies, event planners, trade show organizers, corporations, associations, media companies, non-profit organizations, and professional conference organizers.
Eventbrite is a platform that allows event organizers to plan, promote, and sell tickets to events (event management) and publish them across Facebook, Twitter and other social-networking tools directly from the site's interface. It also enables attendees to find and purchase tickets to these experiences.
XING Events provides event management solutions, a combination of online event registration and ticketing. It has more than 10 million members in the XING network, with business events. It also offers customized solutions to support organizers for all event scenarios.
Ungerboeck Systems International
An all-in-one solution targeted at enterprise customers and large venue managers with roots going back all the way to 1985. Offers built-in advanced financial analytics and audit-ready accounting that big customers appreciate. As well as operations and inventory management. Both self-hosted and cloud-based solutions are available upon request.