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How to choose your Event Management System: Stand-alone or Integrated?

For all you event planners out there like myself, when it comes to planning an event, you must know the feeling of this overwhelming and inevitable abundance of tasks required to be completed before the day of the event. From trying to email potential attendees, to gathering a list of sponsors or performers, to booking a venue, to allocating a budget, all the way to creating a program, different means and tools (along with a lot of stress!) can be used. With each completed task, many hours could have potentially been lost due to repetition, inefficiency and unproductive use of resources. What you must know, is that all this precious lost time could have been prevented.

For instance, when thinking about emailing each individual schedule to a long list of speakers, our natural tendency would be to prepare each personalized email and use an emailing tool. After a few hours of double-checking and validating, the emails are sent! Oh no! Change of plans! Your main speaker has a change of schedule, which means this will require a change of room, a change of time, and a change for all the other speakers on the schedule! This will take you hours to reshuffle, reschedule and make sure the correct information is sent back, but only to the ones impacted by the change. Right? I guess that’s just part of the game because those changes occur ALL the time!  If only your emailing tool could talk to your scheduling tool, and they could both figure out these things for you. What a life changer that would be!

Actually, there are tools out there that do just that, and they are called integrated event management software. Hmm.. that sounds complicated. How do I know if that’s even an option for me?

Let me help! Here is what we mean by a stand-alone vs an integrated event management software (EMS):

Stand-alone EMS focuses on one element; Integrated EMS focuses on synergizing elements

Stand-alone EMS

A stand-alone event management software is an event management tool that has a specific function to complete a task at any moment of one’s event planning process. In other words, it is a dedicated tool that has the only goal: Complete one particular given task. The focus is placed on one operation rather than working simultaneously with others.

As we look specifically at possible functions in an event planning process, examples of stand-alone tools could namely be:

  • Project management tools such as Microsoft Project and All Things
  • Email marketing tools such as Campaign Monitor and MailChimp
  • Schedule Makers such as Emergingsoft
  • Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel and Google Docs
  • Survey tools such as Survey Monkey and Qualtrics Surveys
  • Form-building tools such as Typeform and 123Formbuilders
  • Website authoring tools such as WordPress and Drupal
  • Mobile applications for attendees such as Eventboard
  • Ticket selling platforms such as TicketLeap, Eventbrite
  • Seating arrangement systems such as Socialtables, SeatingArrangements
  • E-Invitation platforms such as Evite and Eventbee
  • Guestlist Management such as RSVPify

If your goal and purpose can be met with one single tool, it is best for you to go with a stand-alone EMS.

For instance, you might intend on planning a small free entry Movie Night for approximately 100 attendees. A tool such as an e-invitation platform could be used to send out beautiful online invitations. These emails are aesthetically prettier than regular emails and they automatically schedule the chosen date and sync it with your calendar. With an e-invitation tool, in comparison to a mass-emailing tool, one can attract more attendees as the personalizable options are much more extensive.

 

Still unsure about the choice? Here are a few pros and cons of using a stand-alone EMS:

Advantages

In-depth capabilities: with only one main focus, a stand-alone tool will provide the user with richer functionalities. For example, a survey program such as SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics provides users with the set list of options, but also provides detailed sub-options in order to input all types of questions they desire.

Less costly for the sole product: Generally, if you just need and buy that one product, it will be less expensive than an integrated solution.

Disadvantages

Siloed Business System: a stand-alone software already has specific predefined functions and outputs, and trying to use that output with another software might not be possible. This could create integration complexities as the two systems could possibly not be compatible with each other.

Fits a narrow purpose: A stand-alone tool usually has one main purpose. The possibility to use it for other event planning tasks might not be possible as it only accounts for one part of the planning process.

Multiple entries of the data: Often times, as the data from one software may not be compatible with another one, data must be re-entered. This can be very time costly as you would need to reformat and manually re-input the information onto another one of your owned software. Moreover,  formats available to be exported might have fewer selected options available creating a two-step process to get the data or information in the desired file type.

Expensive: The total cost of separate software bundled together exceeds the cost of an integrated software. You should only purchase the stand-alone tools when you know that you will absolutely use it, or else it will become expensive if you keep buying products separately.

According to EventMB in their newest survey on Event Technology, only 9.4% of event planners use  an all-in-one solution, but in this article, explained below are the reasons why an integrated solution has its benefits.

Integrated EMS

An integrated event management software, as opposed to a stand-alone EMS, is an event planning tool that not only has one unique purpose, but is also able to synchronize different tools to accomplish the main goal of creating and managing an event. Instead of having, for instance, a separate ticket selling platform, an emailing system, and a venue booking system, the solution is all in one place. It creates a one-stop option instead of having to outsource each business function to numerous tools.

From the various tools available, examples of integrated EMS tools are:

For event planners who require a collection of tasks to be accomplished, it is best to use an integrated EMS tool to simplify the planning process.

Let’s say you are an event planner seeking to organize an international conference with numerous renowned guest speakers.  Compared to smaller scaled events, conferences and conventions with a large number of participants require a much more extensive planning process. From booking the guest speaker’s plane tickets to preparing the line-up of the program, to building a website, to communicating all information to attendees, the list of tasks simply keeps growing. All can be accomplished simultaneously with the help of an integrated EMS, as you can create a program, a website, a mobile app and send out emails all from that one software.

With an integrated software, there are countless ways to improve the organizing of your event. Here are just a few reasons why it would be beneficial to you:

Advantages

All-in-one-place: With an integrated software, you can centralize all of your work into one place. Instead of having to use plenty of tools, only one is needed. Additionally, once the information is in your system, it can easily be manipulated, but will also reduce manual errors and repetitive tasks. Time would be saved and eventually, lead to better and improved productivity.

Changes only once: Since all the data inputted can be used in the software, modification to one information will be seen automatically in other areas.

Cost Savings: In terms of costs, by buying the bundled package, you can end up saving two folds of what you initially would spend if all of the bundled products were to be purchased separately.

Better overview of the event: an integrated EMS will have synchronized and consistent interfaces constantly improving the planning process. With these continuous adjustments, real-time visibility can be seen,  better data analytics and relationship reports can also be noticed.

Disadvantages

Higher learning curve: It could require more time to learn all the functions of an integrated EMS as it includes several tools in one. Make sure you choose an integrated EMS that offers good documentation or even better, online tutorials.

Possible higher costs: Comparing the wholesome price to the price of one standalone product, it would seem more expensive higher. However, as soon as you need two or more tools, you are better off having those tools integrated.

 

Finally, the choice between using a stand-alone versus an integrated software lies most importantly on the scope and needs of your event. If you only need one dedicated tool, perhaps looking for a stand-alone application would better suit your needs (keep in mind that your needs may change or grow). However, to cover a multitude of tasks, an integrated application can create better user shareability and result in better-synchronized planning. The choice remains yours, but I hope that you now have a clearer mind on how to navigate through this plethora of tools.

 

Hope you enjoyed reading! Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Stina
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Summary of the benefits of each option

1 Response
  1. For me this tool completely changed the order in which we plan our event because it allowed us to shuffle the schedule and rooms up to the last minute without having to worry about re-printing and distributing our performer’s schedules. With over 400 performers, that is what made the difference, because we could just print or email each person’s schedule as they walked up to us, or send the whole lot in one batch.

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