Keeping events organized in Excel seems like a great idea – until it isn’t. Here are the pros and cons of event planning with Excel instead of using event planning software.
Excel is one of those hero programs we’ve used since grade school. It makes sorting data simple and since we’ve been using it for years, Excel has become a go-to platform for all organizational needs.
Naturally, Excel has made its way into the event industry and countless event planners use it for myriads of reasons. From attendee registrations to playlists, Excel’s formatting makes it easy to list all kinds of information. But is Excel helping event planners or has it become a crutch when better methods exist? Here is the good and the bad of using Excel to plan your events.
Organizing events within Excel
There is no arguing that Excel is an excellent program for organizing large amounts of information. Its color-coded lines, customizable cells, elaborate formulas, and multiple tabs allow a spreadsheet to properly display data – even in the unique ways event planners need. The pros for event planning with Excel stack high in regards to organizing.
However, there are cons when event planning with Excel. Perhaps one Excel spreadsheet is created for attendee registrations, then another is transformed into the event’s timeline. But then another must be created for information about the presentations, but another tab is added for the speakers. Before you know it, one event has multiple spreadsheets floating around at once.
Plus, most event professionals plan multiple events at the same time. So at any given moment, an event planner could be juggling a Google Drive full of actively working spreadsheets. This system might work for the hyper-organized, meticulous person – but not for the majority of us.
And besides, you can’t easily brand your event documents with Excel spreadsheets either, right? Or quickly launch new events from templates.
Managing your task list
Another common use of Excel is to manage event tasks. You can hold others accountable when you have a running list of to-do items and set deadlines. But did you remember to send out calendar reminders of these deadlines? Excel isn’t doing that for you, nor is it assigning these tasks to your team or to your client. So did your assistant forget to double-check the Excel doc because you updated it this morning? Before you know it, tasks fall through the cracks.
Excel wasn’t designed for collaboration. While programs like Dropbox or Google Drive help streamline team collaborations and keeping versions up to date, these platforms still lack integrations like calendar reminds, notifications, and mobility.
Making last-minute changes in Excel
Making sure everyone involved with your event is up-to-date at all times is no easy feat. Without an event planning software that accommodates for last-minute changes, someone is bound to get left in the dust.
You may run around with your organized clipboard of printed Excel documents, but all it takes is one unforeseen circumstance to render all those color-coded spreadsheets useless. The ripple effect created from one change now puts in motion a multi-step challenge of alerting everyone involved. Wouldn’t it be easier if everything just automatically updated?
Even if you’re using a tablet or making updates on the cellphone perpetually glued to your hand, it’s not easy to navigate your Excel library on-the-go. Then, you have to notify everyone of this change. This takes time, and frankly, you might not have the luxury of that in the midst of an event.
It takes substantial amounts of planning to prepare and execute a successful event and every planner has his or her own tricks to get things done. Excel might work for some, but it’s smart to be aware of other options or methods – whether you adopt them or not.
Collaboration is key at ThymeBase and a mobile-friendly app was the driving purpose for our event software. Our app’s unique shareable timeline lets everyone involved stay up-to-date in real-time. So no matter what last-minute changes inevitably occur, your florist, DJ, caterer, photographers, ice sculptor, and whomever else is always on the same page.
Amanda Larson, CED, is a Certified Event Designer, marketer, and content creator. With a degree in journalism and special events management, Amanda has worked in marketing and events for both international startups and Fortune500 companies. She specializes in digital branding, copywriting, and graphic design freelancing for clients globally.