The right type of software can be life-changing when it solves your event planning problems. And it all begins with discovering the gaps in your workflow.
It might sound simple. You have a process, but you heard about some cool event planning software. So you head over to the website, explore the features and maybe sign up for a free trial. But good event software isn’t about features. Nope, it’s about event planning problems. Well, good software is about both problems and solutions.
That’s the cool thing about event productivity tools. While it’s almost impossible to define what event planning software is, there’s always a solution to a problem.
Uncovering The Gaps In Your Workflow
A few months, I was chatting to an event planner in Australia, named Stef. I asked her what the most tedious part of her week is. After some thought, she responded that in the last week, it was sourcing vendors.
When I asked Stef to elaborate, it turned out that she’d recently spent about 20 hours finding the right vendors for an upcoming wedding she was planning. The reason it was so tedious was that she had an indecisive client, and she was struggling with the availability of the preferred vendors.
My discussion with Stef got me thinking about how software can work for event planners. It’s not about piles of features. Nor is it about design. Good event planning software should fill the gaps in a planner’s workflow, saving them time.
I then asked Stef for a favor – to write down everything that she worked on during the upcoming week and to focus on her event planning problems. The information from Stef, and about 100 other planners, is how ThymeBase began to build our product roadmap. We wanted to figure out where the challenges are, or the gaps, or the tedious chores. And that’s what we’re going to discuss in this article: common event planning problems and what the software solution might be. And yes, we even think we know how to minimize the impact of indecisive clients.
But let’s get back to gaps. Do you feel like you’re doing more work than seems necessary? Or you do feel like things could be optimized, but you’re not sure how?
Try that trick that Stef and I did. Over the next week, write down each action you take. Note when you reply to an email, and what that email was about, and which emails end up as phone calls. If you forgot something, write it down. If a client or vendor needed your attention, write that down too. Anything, really. Get it down.
It is a fascinating exercise that helps you evaluate where your frustrations, inefficiencies, and headaches are. And once you’ve noted them, named them and faced them, it’s time to solve them.
Software Solutions for Event Planners
So let’s explore some possible challenges, tediums and blah routines, and how different types of event planning software can offer relief. I’ll try to recommend actual software solutions when I’m confident in making a referral. And, just in case you’re wondering, all recommendations are totally organic, unpaid, and my genuine opinion.
While writing this, I’ve been unsure how to categorize the various types of event planning software – whether to reference the problem being solved, the area of focus or something else entirely. In the end, I’ve decided to go with the area of focus. I’ll try to frame the event planning problems as best I can too. Let’s roll!
Are you spending a ton of time communicating with potential clients, many of whom don’t go anywhere? There’s the initial contact, the visualization of client expectations, budget discussions, style examples. A massive back and forth that ends with a proposal only for the client to balk at your fees.
Most event planners have a simple contact form on their website. At some point, there’s a questionnaire, but that only helps direct the conversation. If this feels like a massive time-suck and a source of frustration, then automation software is the solution you’ve been waiting for.
Dubsado streamlines this exceptionally well. Honeybook does a good job too. These tools will allow you to recover all that up-front time if you take the time to set up the processes. You’ll only need to step in once the client pays the first downpayment on your services. And if you do need to have human involvement, a virtual assistant can handle the edge cases.
And while we’re on the subject of payments, are you finding it challenging to get paid? Sometimes the problem is receiving the first downpayment, or maybe you struggle managing a payment schedule for vendors.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one perfect solution in the event planning space specifically. You might explore something like 17 Hats, which is popular with many event planners. You may prefer an invoicing app like InvoiceNinja. Dubsado and HoneyBook, mentioned above, also might fit your workflow.
As an event planner, you often need to remind clients to pay vendors. And in this instance, you can’t really manage the payments yourself. Adding calendar reminders is a feasible solution, but can clutter up your calendar. So I recommend creating date-dependent tasks in planning software, which brings me to the next type of event planning software.
Task Management & To-Dos
Okay, this probably isn’t you, but many planners struggle with their event task management. My friend Galina shared a horror story of her wedding in which the planner basically took notes on scraps of paper. Tasks fell through the cracks, and the planner failed to reserve rehearsal venue.
Even a notebook, a staple of many an excellent planner, isn’t an entirely reliable system. So if you think you’re prone to being forgetful, then you need task management software. Yup, ThymeBase (us!) are the perfect solution to help you stay on top of the to-dos.
Just last week, I spoke to a planner at a large non-profit. She’s responsible for galas, mixers, and big fundraising events that raise millions in the healthcare industry. One of her biggest challenges was in managing her team while staying accountable to her organization’s leadership.
They’d repurposed project management software because most event planning software’s collaboration tools can’t cope with a layered corporate structure and granular permissions.
So if this sounds like something that gives you headaches, I’m afraid that, for now, there aren’t ideal solutions. You might be stuck using more standard project management tools, but hang in there. ThymeBase is working on something special.
Now we’re into an entirely different space, on-site tools. This type of event planning software is best for conferences, meetings, and exhibitions. I know that wedding planners don’t need it, and not even corporate planners need it in most cases.
Cvent, one of the event management software big guns, offers attendee tracking software with lots of bells and whistles. Just brace yourself for a learning curve. For some reason, the only event software companies who do attendee tracking are feature-rich suites that throw in the kitchen sink and charge you accordingly.
But what event planning problem is this solving for you? Well, certainly, your clients will love the reporting, so I guess it solves a challenge of sorts there. But if you’re a data-geek like I am, attendee tracking also offers fascinating insights into human behavior as it pertains to your event design. If you’d like to know what worked and what didn’t in your past events, then attendee tracking software will help. Just make sure your client is the one paying for it.
Managing client’s budgets is a freaking headache, whether you’re a wedding planner, corporate planner, or work in the non-profit arena. If you struggle with managing budgets, I don’t think there’s a solution for you in any type of event planning software. For this problem, I don’t think you’ll beat out Excel.
But there’s using Excel, and then there is power-using Excel. Luckily, our CEO, David, is a recovering accountant. He’s crafted probably the best damn Excel event budget template for you. If you’re not a wedding planner, don’t worry. It’ll work just fine for corporate planners too – at least that’s what they tell me.
Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify what I mean by an event timeline. I’m not talking about the planning phase – the months between booking the client and the event. I’m referring to the day-of schedule, the run-of-show. Now, most event planners use Excel for this or a Google spreadsheet. And that sucks. Sorry not sorry at all. Event timeline software like ThymeBase’s is next-level stuff. And Timeline Genius rocks too.
Event planners face a multitude of timeline problems. From having to frequently re-print copies, and re-format PDFs, to re-sending a timeline to forty people because of one small change. ThymeBase’s event timelines solve all of this and more.
In interviewing over one hundred planners, I’d guestimate that almost 100% of them said that client indecision is one of the event planning problems they frequently face. If I remember right, that is. And I heard so many planners tell me that software couldn’t solve this. But they were wrong.
There is one type of event planning software that can solve client indecision. Well, two types, actually, but they address the issue indirectly.
First, there’s the mood board. Using a mood board (I recommend Invision) allows you to get the client’s agreement on style before showing them solutions. Or you can share images from recommended vendors in a mood board setting. This helps the client see things from a visual and comparative perspective. Countless event planners have told me that they use Pinterest boards or mood boards to usher clients toward decisions on style, vendor, and more.
Then there’s the issue impact. Client indecision is such a problem because it takes a considerable amount of time to rectify. One corporate planner told me about how a 30-minute change in the conference start time resulted in over 40 emails to sponsors and speakers. And that’s where ThymeBase rides to the rescue. Our event planning software can update everyone about small changes to the event in a couple of clicks.
Vendor and Venue Sourcing
Remember Stef from the start of this article? Well, vendor sourcing was her biggest event planning problem. It wasn’t that she struggled with finding vendors. It was the constant emailing, sharing information, and checking availability, only to have to do it all over again.
Jac, another Aussie planner, told me that her biggest frustration with sourcing was a lack of useful vendor search tools in her previous event software. Rosa, a Panamanian corporate planner, mentioned how she often remembers the vendor’s custom work, but not their name. She needed a search option that could search notes appended to contact information.
Sourcing new vendors is a breeze with sites like The Knot, PartSlate, TheBash, and even Yelp. Finding venues is quick with PeerSpace. But sourcing vendors in your own contact list is still a challenge. Yet another event planner problem we’re solving at ThymeBase. Give our contact manager a shot, and try out our search. It’s pretty awesome if I say so myself.
Travel Management Software
Many event planners have to handle travel for clients and guests. You might be in the MICE space or a destination wedding planner, and if so, then you need some solutions. One of the best software solutions I’ve seen is Travefy, and I’ve heard good things about it from event planners.
Forms, and Questionnaires
Drawing out information from potential clients and booked clients, too, is a near-universal problem. Often, event professionals resort to emails, but I keep hearing how poor the response rate is to those. As someone who knows email engagement like the back of my hand (really!), I understand planner frustration. And it’s not just planners. Makeup and hair pros, photographers, caterers, and most event professionals use questionnaires to define their fees and billing.
Again, Honeybook and Dubsado do this beautifully. So does survey software like TypeForm. The reason I like survey software is that people tend to complete them better than email questions. I don’t know why, only that they do. So if you’re getting lousy, incomplete information from clients, and hitting roadblocks, try a survey.
Event Planning Problems & Solutions
There are plenty more problems, and also solutions to be found in the event software arena. But for the most part, merely discovering the issue is a big step to saving time and effort. The cost will always play some role in whether a solution feels worth it, but consider this…
Your time has value – a specific dollar amount. And if you find you’re spending a lot of time spinning your wheels, getting stuck on a problem, the solution might cost less than the wasted time.