There are a lot of moving parts in meetings management and yet, there are only 24 hours in the day. A successful meeting planner knows that outside of organization, delegation, and a good strategy, productivity tools (like a solid registration tool) are the best way to ensure you get the most done in the least amount of time.
Meeting technology tools also make things easier for your audience, which saves you time by not needing to address countless questions. If you need assistance in streamlining your process and getting more done during the day, these tools can definitely help.
How to Select Good Meeting Management Tools
Some of the most common stumbling blocks in meeting management occur in registration tracking, content sharing, and engagement. While there are a host of tools out there, performing your due diligence prior to selection will help ensure you choose one that will work for your specific needs. The point is to find something easy to use that will help you streamline your tasks for the greatest efficiency.
Here are the steps to selecting good meeting management technology:
- Understand your goals. What do you want it to do? List what the technology must do and additional benefits you’d appreciate.
- Assess benefits and analytic capabilities.
- Find out details about pricing including user/seat fees, modules, and whether headcount (or entries) factors into pricing. Some vendors will sell you on modules that add additional expense to the platform if you need more advanced functionality, others include all modules in one price. Be sure of what’s included.
- Look at return on investment and value. Aside from calculating the cost of the software, understand what it’s saving you. Will it replace other software you’re currently using?
- Talk to meeting management software vendors. Explain your current processes. They may be able to offer suggestions for greater efficiencies based on their experiences.
- Ask questions about support. How will you implement the meeting management tool? Is there support for the product and what does that look like?
Now that you have ideas about the steps involved in finding software tools to help with better meeting management, let’s review some very important pieces that can automate some of your tasks and provide valuable insights and data.
3 Technology Tools for Better Meeting Management
According to research conducted by EventMB, 53% of event planners are not using any type of event management software. This shows an industry lagging behind many others. If you’re part of this 53% or if you’re using spreadsheets as your only meeting management tool, you can do better.
While embracing technology may at first seem like a daunting task, implementing tools in the following areas can provide better insights and help you perform activities in less time.
A Solid Event Registration Tool
A reliable event registration software does more than just help you track who you sent invitations to as well as who has accepted or declined. This type of basic tallying could be done on a spreadsheet. If you’re a meeting planner who understands the importance of details, customizable registration workflows, and personal and detailed event creation you demand more.
Registration is only a fraction of what you’re charged with. Selecting software that can help you do the following will ensure you make the most of your time by automating those activities that don’t require multiple touches from you:
- Set up registration forms and invitations that are designed to gather crucial information for you. This will save you time with follow-up later. For instance, need to know meal preference or shirt size for your leadership meeting? Ask them when they register and record answers directly from the registration form.
- Create registration categories and assign guests accordingly so you can track VIPs or special attendees easily from the rest of your meeting group.
- Design/create badges as they register to save time later.
- Create online/onsite self-registration or “kiosk” check-in to help speed along the process.
- Customize what information is shown or requested on the registration screen based on the attendee category such as session leader, management, or first-time meeting attendee.
- Create certificates of attendance, perfect for certifications and learning meetings. Using a system that does this for you through templates saves you the time of creating a mail merge through Word or design software and running them manually.
- Duplicate forms and other pieces of communication to use as a template from event to event. There’s no reason to recreate each component from scratch. Look for registration software that gives you this time-saving option.
As an added bonus, event registration allows you to clone the details of past meetings so you needn’t recreate a meeting and all of its communication components each time you are hosting one. Cloning features increase efficiency and ensure all parts are completed easily.
But this feature does more than just make things easier and quicker. It also allows your entire organization to be using the exact same specifications and branding for the most professional and cohesive appearance across departments and the entire global organization.
There are things that can never be automated, like building relationships, but for everything else finding tools that can help you streamline tasks and allow registrants to answer questions once instead of several different times, saves everyone time. Then, in turn, it gives you more time to build these personal interactions.
Today’s software: offers integrated features so that areas like registration work seamlessly with reporting and surveys without the time-consuming exports and imports of data. It also allows for easy replication of meeting communications for recurring meetings and cohesive, branded, internal meeting communications.
Content Sharing and Collaboration Software
As a meeting planner, it’s important to ensure all participants are plugged into the same information. Over-communication is preferable to under-communicating. But how do you ensure that everyone has (and sees!) the same information when some email inboxes are fielding hundreds of emails a day? It’s easy for these types of email participants to miss things.
However, with a content management or sharing system, everyone has everything they need in a central location...including you. This type of software can be as basic as creating a file folder on Google Drive to selection presentation software that contains file libraries and collaborative whiteboard space.
The cost behind content sharing and collaboration software varies from free to enterprise-level pricing. Most of them have app versions so that they can be used on any device. Your attendees no longer need to worry about leaving certain files or papers “back at the office.” They have access to all of the important meeting-related documents no matter where they are so they can review them on their own schedule.
Plus, as a meeting planner who selects to use a content sharing or collaboration platform, you can implement greener meetings with less paper. This can offer a cost-savings as well as fit nicely into your company’s sustainability program.
Most content sharing platforms allow for real-time collaboration and commenting as well as document history so you can see who changed what and when. Most allow you to revert to previous versions of the documents too. Documents can also be locked if collaboration is not required.
Implementing content sharing and collaboration tools can ensure everyone remains organized and informed, which helps you achieve greater success.
Ideal functionality: online, in the cloud access and the ability to work across multiple devices.
Survey Software and Reporting
Another valuable tool for meeting planners is survey software with reporting capabilities. These features allow you to gain insights into attendee preferences and opinions, analyze your success, and provide easy access to key performance indicators your stakeholders are interested in.
Survey software can help you understand the baseline for learning by polling attendees before your meeting. It can also keep attendees engaged during the meeting. Finally, after your meeting is over, you can check on attendee impressions and use those impression to improve your events going forward.
Advanced survey tools integrate with registration platforms to send out communications to all registered attendees, those who have checked in, and those who were unable to attend through quick customization. No more sorting on a spreadsheet and manually selecting who gets what email. This type of integrated system can save meeting planners hours in email communications and avoid human error.
If you have multiple types of meeting attendees at your event, look for survey features that allow for quick customization based on attendee type.
Reporting features allow you to gain deeper insights into what your attendee thought about the meeting as well as compile suggestions for future events. Valuable reporting tools also include the ability to analyze registration and attendance figures.
Another benefit of reporting software is your ability to forward or give insights to board members or management. You’re not the only one who needs to know how your meeting is going. Without reporting software, you can derive numbers from a spreadsheet but that manual process is cumbersome and you’re still left with spending time sending it to everyone who needs it. By using meetings management software with reporting functionality, you can often just set permissions or email addresses and dates to send. This can be a very large time-saver.
The meeting planner reports that one person requires may be very different to what other team members need to see, so look for customizable options when it comes to reporting. Also, there’s no reason to give your stakeholders more information than they need for their own purposes. Customizable reports mean you can tailor the data each group receives for greater value in the reports.
Good reporting software also gives you clear information on how your event measures up to past events. No more pouring over spreadsheets and getting eye strain.
A key feature to look for: real-time survey results with visual depictions of data and customizable reporting.
While there’s no way (not yet, at least) to actually gain more hours in your day, you can employ tools that help improve meetings management efficiencies. By streamlining repetitive tasks and implementing effective technology you can gain more control over your day...or at least have time to address those unexpected complications.