True story: In the midst of my career as an event planner, I needed an event management solution that would satisfy the fanatical data security requirements of my employer at the time. But the tool also needed to be intuitive enough for non tech-focused types (i.e., me) to use. After a multi-month search, we signed with a software company that promised its application would check all the boxes.
It didn’t. While the platform’s security standards made the grade, when it got down to brass tacks the interface was so convoluted that it required a dedicated IT resource to manage.
Lesson learned? When it comes to choosing event technology, vendor transparency is a crucial consideration.
Defining event tech vendor transparency
Now transparency’s a vague term, so let’s boil it down a bit. The Experts Exchange blog does a good job of summing up the concept when they define it as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
The fact is that as event technology becomes increasingly commoditized—the marketplace now hosts hundreds of event apps alone—the heat is on for vendors to go beyond product capability when differentiating themselves. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubt that features and functionality are (and should be) primary considerations when making a platform selection. However, a brand’s ability to build client relationships based on trust and reliability is what keeps the partnership alive long term. “In the current tech landscape,” Himanshu Sareen, CEO of Icreon Tech writes, “trust is … a high-value currency.”
With that said, what are the key factors to consider when sussing out whether an event tech vendor is going to give you the real deal or a raw deal?
How to gauge vendor transparency
- Upfront pricing: At all costs, avoid the old bait and switch, which occurs when vendors promise you the moon only to bombard you with add-on costs later. A provider’s materials should make clear what features come with their product. What’s more, a legit sales rep will be honest with you about whether the brand’s technology has specific capabilities. Finally, look for a company that offers multiple pricing options with distinct terms. Can you purchase either a-la-carte or via a bundled package? What exactly comes with each?
- A free build experience: No event producer should have to buy into software blind. In addition to offering a thorough demo, make sure a provider lets you skip the guessing games and test out the product for free before you commit.
- Solid support offerings: A vendor should offer both a comprehensive, self-service support option and responsive live-agent assistance. A full 78 percent of event producers say support is their number one concern when it comes to event management software, so you’ll want upfront answers about whether a provider will be there when the cards are down. What’s more, find out if they offer help via the channel you prefer, whether that’s chat, email or phone.
- Success teams that won’t love you and leave you: Most event tech companies provide some kind of onboarding experience after a client signs. A much smaller contingent will host multiple training sessions as you near your event date, pair you with a dedicated customer success manager, and check in pre- and post-event with helpful tips and data insights. Ask a vendor for an example of how they’ve helped a client scale, as well as what they did to bolster a client that was experiencing software-related challenges.
- A product roadmap: In addition to the feature set included in their current platform, what does the provider have up their sleeve for future releases? Are they making investments in data-driven technology like machine learning-based capabilities? Ask to see a product roadmap, and find out how upcoming launches will increase the value of the tool.
Ratings and reviews are crucial
That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but why should I simply take the vendor at their word? The good news is, in today’s digital world you don’t have to. Researching existing and former client sentiment through review sites (like G2 Crowd and Capterra), case studies, and testimonials will give you objective feedback about a brand’s high points (and struggles).
Event professionals learn early on to come up with contingency plans in case things go south. That’s doable for areas directly under their control (last-minute speaker cancellations anyone?), but exponentially harder when it comes to technology hosted by a third party. Making best efforts to assess an event software vendor’s integrity before you sign is going to take some extra time. But the payoffs of having a solid partner in your corner are well worth it.
Kelley Wyant is the Senior Content Manager at Attendify. Prior to focusing on digital marketing in the SaaS industry, she was an event planner in both the corporate and non-profit sectors.