The Planner's Toolbox
Add these helpful online event planneing tools to your arsenal and you'll find that work just got a little easierby Lindsey Getz | Published in July 2009 Features | event currents | online | software
Add these helpful online tools to your arsenal and you’ll find that work just got a little easier
Technology has been such a helpful ally to planners that it may be difficult to remember the days you worked without the help of a BlackBerry, iPhone or portable laptop. Technology has improved communication, sped up once-slow processes and made the business of event planning more easily manageable. And new tools are constantly being made available that make your work life a little easier. Whether it’s an iPhone app or downloadable software, these days almost every aspect of planning can be made more efficient with a few clicks. Here are six aspects of planning made easier by the latest online tools.
1. Finding a Speaker
The designated speaker at a meeting or conference can often make or break an event. That’s what makes finding the right person so important. Yet many speaker search sites available are biased since they represent the very speakers they’re promoting. That’s why planners are welcoming the launch of SpeakerRate, a community website where you can find speakers, learn about talks they’ve given in the past, and determine if they’d be a good match for your event. The website also allows attendees to provide constructive feedback to speakers, track the talks they’ve attended and research upcoming presentations they may like to attend.
“Finding the right speaker on the right topic is not always easy,” says Brian Wynne Williams, CEO of Viget Labs, the company behind SpeakerRate. “We wanted to create a place where people could find speakers and rate them on their presentation and content. It’s an easy way for planners to identify who the best speakers out there are.” »speakerrate.com
2. Space Planning
It used to be that coming up with space planning designs required expensive software and timely training. But with CORT Event Furnishings’ new space planning tool, you can now design accurate 2D floor plans for free. CORT is offering this advanced planning technology to any registered user as part of its new online resource center. The software uses easy “drag and drop” technology and features all CORT products as well as a library of event-related images like food and beverage stations, lighting, architectural elements and other graphics.
“The technology is so simple that you don’t need detailed instructions or special training, but CORT account executives are always available to assist with questions about how to tailor plans to your needs,” says Kevin Dana, director of marketing and product development. “It takes about 20 minutes to create a very detailed 2D plan. And you can store multiple plans on our website for future reference and use.” »cortevents.com/space-planning
3. Choosing Linens
Helping your client select the right linens has been made easier with the help of a virtual sample book. Over The Top Party Linens has introduced Linenbook.com, a linen gallery featuring more than 850 fabrics. That means you can view fabric samples, request swatches and request quotes — 24/7. And because it’s what Over The Top Owner and Vice President Alan Eingold calls a “blind website,” planners can feel confident giving the site out to their clients without risking them going direct. “The website has no reference to Over The Top whatsoever,” explains Eingold. “So planners can say to their clients, ‘These are all the linens I have available — go play,’ and not risk losing those sources.”
Eingold says Linenbook even goes a step further by allowing planners to customize the website. “They can brand the homepage so that instead of saying Linenbook.com, it actually says the planner’s name or business,” he says. “They can even add their photo and information about themselves. And when I add a linen or a new size, it will automatically update every planner’s customized site with that new information.” »linenbook.com
4. Managing your Team
“Event planning is typically a team effort, and one of the facts about managing a team is that the busier you are, the harder it is to keep up with what your team members are doing,” says Tony Wright, founder of RescueTime, a passive employee time tracking tool that allows users to understand how they and their employees spend their time. “RescueTime is a way for a team manager to avoid wasting their own time by micromanaging or babysitting staff members. It’s also a way to stay in touch with the team. A lot of times people who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to aren’t slacking off — they simply don’t have enough work to do or aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be working on.”
One major benefit of the tool is that no data entry is required. Instead, RescueTime users install a small application on their computer that tracks what software and which websites are being actively used. That data is then processed automatically.
“We don’t monitor e-mails or monitor instant message conversations, so it’s not like Big Brother is watching,” says Wright. “Instead, what we’re producing are essentially time sheets. That time sheet data is a powerful tool for you and your team to see and understand how company time is being spent.” »rescuetime.com
5. Selecting Lighting
Trying to explain to a client what a particular lighting setup might look like just got much simpler. Eventions Productions has created a new interactive tool on its website where users can play around with various lighting ideas for their event and then get an instant price quote on their designs. With the company’s custom-built Virtual Lighting Designer software, planners and clients can get a glimpse of what their venue could look like, without actually setting anything up.
“In the past, the only way for clients to really visualize lighting was to actually set it up at the venue — and that’s obviously not doable in advance,” says Brian Toner, president of Eventions. “But now they can go online and play around with the different options. Just like you can go on a car website and custom-build your new vehicle, you can now custom design your lighting and get a visual of what you’ve created — then instantly request a quote for that design.” »eventionsproductions.com
6. Furnishing the Event
AFR Event Furnishings has just made furniture rental easier by giving you a way to view potential rented pieces in your room design layout. AFR’s new online 3D Model Library application includes the company’s entire special event and trade show product line. Each piece of furniture is modeled to scale, and files can be easily imported into programs including form-Z, 3D Studio Max, 3D Studio VIZ, SketchUp, AutoCAD and Vivien, making it easy to use.
“Simply log into the site and start building your design, based on a floor plan,” explains Mark Greason, director of AFR’s events and trade show division. “You can import 3D and jpeg images and create an entire virtual room setup. It allows you to show your client what their room will look like when they walk in the day of the event.” »afrevents.com