August 9, 2010 by Dave Lutz
How do you choose which core event technology providers you’re going to use? Core event technologies include your registration system, online event website and electronic marketing, event eCommunity, exhibitor sales management, tradeshow floor plan, lead retrieval, event management, event mobile app and others.
Do you base your decisions on price, customer service, newest features, meeting your needs and wants or some other factor? Do you use a selection grid, blind choice, employee voting or lottery?
During the past couple of years, we’ve had a plethora of new technology (shiny objects) introduced to improve and change the event and exhibition industry. Many claim to increase revenue, drive attendance, improve engagement or deliver more ROI for your exhibitors. How should a show organizer cut through the crap and make sound choices that deliver results?
Before you take a look under the hood or consider test driving a core technology that you’re going to make part of your business process, consider these ten qualifying criteria.
1. Stability of the Company
Most primary software solutions (registration, expo management, content management, speaker management, match-making systems, etc.) will deliver the greatest ROI when you are able to use them for at least three consecutive show cycles. It would be a CLM (Career Limiting Move) to pick a partner that goes out of business right before your big show. You also incur lots of hidden switching costs in implementation, training and integration when jumping from solution to solution. Look for years in business, a strong customer list, number of employees, annual revenue, and longevity of the leadership team for indicators of stability. Heck, if you can, go tour their office and kick their tires.
2. A Proven Track Record
Be cautious with start-up companies or organizations that are learning from you. Make sure that the vendors that you consider have a proven track record of providing like solutions to those with similar needs to yours. Ask for examples, testimonials and case studies.
3. Fits Good With Minimal Alterations
If the majority of your requirements need to be met through customization vs. configuration, expect a lengthy and costly implementation. Ask for an admin demo to understand how configurable a software system is.
4. Not Their First Rodeo
When it comes to selecting core software for your event, it’s rarely worth the risk to be on the bleeding edge. Limit your risk by either being a “fast follower” or by proving the concept on a smaller show. Exceptions to this might include, mature technologies or existing trusted technologies that add new features, modules or integration partners.
5. Plays Well in the Sandbox
Make sure you have a good understanding of data import/export capability as well as examples of successful web services integration with other systems or vendors. Passing data between systems, enabling single sign-on and maximizing the value of your data are no longer nice additions. Ask if they’ve developed any API’s (Application Programming Interface).
6. Plan for Continuous Improvement
Look for companies that are pushing out improvements or new features several times a year. You want a product that will grow with you. What kind of training, customer support or project management do they include? Do they have user group meetings or forums where customers share best practices? Do they have a blog, online group, case studies or newsletters that keep existing customers up-to-date?
7. Stays True to Their Core
A number of tech start-ups build their revenue model around selling sponsorships, ads or upgrades to your exhibitors. I’m not crazy about that model. If I’m a show organizer, I want all of my communication and consultative selling done by my team. I don’t want all kinds of folks contacting my exhibitors or sponsors trying to sell them something. I want a tech company that focuses on improving their product and that gives me the tools to help my exhibitors connect with buyers.
8. Safe and Secure
If the technology is Web based, find out where the technology is hosted, their up-time and disaster recovery plan. If you are conducting commerce via their solution, ask for proof of PCI Compliance. No compliance, no deal.
9. Anal About Analytics
Any solution worth their salt, will give you great stats on usage and have a plan to help you with adoption. Do they provide a real-time dashboard that gives you a snapshot on how things are progressing? Can they share best practices on building adoption and utilization?
In today’s world, nearly everything needs to be optimized or accessible to the mobile user. Look for partners that have already taken care of that or who have proven partners that make it all work in real time.
This post has been modified from the original post on TSNN.
Please add your thoughts to the comments. What are some of the other criteria that you like to use to vet new core event technologies? What are your best sources for identifying solutions to consider?
Filed Under: Event Technology
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Excellent list, Dave! I used to consult for companies evaluating third-party IT solutions, and there’s only one addition I would make.
Insist on getting the names of three existing, comparable clients who would be willing to discuss their vendor experience with you. (This is a little different from testimonials, which are usually written.) Then be sure to follow up with a relevant contact in these organizations. Even though providers will generally offer you their happiest clients, it’s amazing what you can learn when you make a call!
Adrian, thanks for adding your recommendation for digging in on the vendor experience! Good stuff!
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