If nothing else, the technology boom has provided great relief for the event planner's back.
Thanks to the development of mobile technology and its ubiquitous apps, the mountains of paper contracts, inventories and other needed items in monstrous binders planners have lugged around for years -- not to mention the omnipresent planning calendar overstuffed with sticky notes -- are now all at their fingertips on an off-the-shelf tablet or smartphone. The cloud has made electronic access to those essential documents easy, GPS and tracking systems have made monitoring progress in real time a snap, and social media has created immediate engagement with clients and attendees that can head off potential problems and assure a superior customer experience.
With so many business-focused apps out there, what are the ones that are essential for an event planner? We asked some local planners to tell us what they couldn't live without on their iPads:
Dan Egan, director of sales and marketing, Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, Schaumburg
Super Planner is a business app for the professional event planner. It provides a variety of planning tools, including calculators for venue capacity, staffing, catering, staging, projection and dance floor.
This is a great all around app. It allows you to take notes, set up books for each client, and communicates to all devices. You can collaborate with others and they can make notes or comments on your notebooks as well. Also, you can even take a picture of a business card and it will transcribe it all and set up a contact for you instantly.
You can take a photo and upload it into the app to create a physical postcard. Then, through the app you can actually send this personalized photo postcard in the mail to a client for 99 cents (postage included). The company will print, apply postage and send to your client for you. It is a great way to connect with event planners and an easy way to send a thank you with a postcard of their actual event.
Melissa Hahn, account lead, Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Elmhurst
Marriott Meeting Service
Available from select Marriott hotels
When you arrive on-site, that is when all of your hard work and planning come together to make a successful program. What helps me shine is having access to an app at my fingertips. It is the quickest way to get in touch with my convention service manager, engineering or audio visual contact. The app is quick and easy and saves time for the numerous phone calls and being on hold, especially when my client is waiting next to me. You get an almost instant response using the app. Some items that come up frequently: Need to warm the room? More chairs for your session? Ran out of coffee? It is quick and easy to use and saves me time while I'm on-site.
This app comes in handy when on-site. Your client has a document they need scanned right away, you need to sign off on a last minute contract for a dinner, you need to email a change on a floor plan, or you want to make copies of your expenses instantly, CamScanner is a great app for these last minute items when you don't have access to a scanner. Take a picture, put it in a PDF and email it. It is very useful when you are on-site.
This is a great app when on-site and wanting to see how long it will take to get to your destination. We have all been there -- the meeting is running late and you have an outing that starts at 6. Your guests are driving and its bumper-to-bumper traffic. This is a community-based navigation application that can give you updates and also voice guided navigation to get around the traffic jam.
Jill Wejman, owner/designer, Jill Christine Studio, Forest Park
HoneyBook is an online platform used to simplify and ultimately run my business. With HoneyBook, I have the capability to have clients seek additional information through my website contact form that goes directly into my account. I can then send a proposal, invoice, agreement, timeline, PDFs, and other communication all within the workspace. The client can pay a deposit or other bill directly through the platform and electronically sign an agreement. I love the fact that all of the administrative tasks for my business are completed through one platform. My clients love it, too. They don't have to search through emails and different files to find the proposal, for example.
The developers at HoneyBook continually add features and make changes based on user feedback. There is discussion of adding a bookkeeping feature that would integrate with another software, which would be ideal. My favorite part is the Pipeline. I'm able to see exactly what stage each client is in, which helps keep me organized and on top of all events.
Trello is a free project management and collaboration tool but I utilize it at Jill Christine without having a team. It's a fun and easy way to organize all aspects of business visually. Instead of having sticky notes all over the place, Trello has been the perfect solution. I am able to have multiple boards and can organize however I see fit, such as editorial calendar, a large project board, home base board, my week, etc. It allows me to invite others to an individual board so since I utilize a home base board, I can invite my family but then they can't see my editorial calendar board.
I am currently working on launching a new website, so Trello is keeping me organized. I have a website Launch board with the following lists: Content/Navigation, Blog Posts, To Do, and Done. The Content/Navigation list contains cards with my website pages. Each card hosts a different page. I can click on the card and learn more about deadlines, a checklist of items that need to occur, content for the page, attachments, and more. Once I complete a page, I'll move the card to the Done list. There are many free templates online to help get someone started with Trello. I found an online class from Think Creative Collective to be beneficial.
My favorite social channel is Instagram and I have recently started utilizing Planoly to plan, schedule, and analyze posts. Prior to Planoly, I struggled with writing content, when to post, how to get quality photos without spending tons of time and all of the other issues that come along with managing social media. I tried Planoly and with just a few hours, I have the entire month of September's posts scheduled. I can always make changes or additions but I spent the time taking a variety of photos, planning out the content for each photo and scheduling it in Planoly. This tool has already changed my social media game.
I am able to reply to comments on both the web and app versions and review analytics and data. My favorite part of the app is that I can see what my feed will look like when someone visits on Instagram.
Oftentimes, I found myself deleting posts because I didn't like how they looked next to each other in my feed. There is a monthly fee but only one month in, it's already been worth it for me.