Social networking software is becoming a boon for event and conference planners who use it to connect attendees speakers even sponsors with each other before during and after an event. In fact there are a number of products out there that cater specifically to the event and conference market with unique professional tools that can not only bring participants together but can give event planners additional insight into what attendees expect from the event. “I think we’re getting past the education phase and into the adoption phase right now ” says Mark Sylvester founder and ceo of Intronetworks one of a handful of products focused specifically on the events industry. “What’s happened is you have people who have seen it at some conferences and are now starting to expect it.”
If this is all new to you don’t worry. EM took some of the leading event-specific software options for a test drive. Here’s what we found out.
Who uses it: CMP (US) Event Horizons Computer Learning Center
How it works: EventMingle inputs attendee data
collected during registration into the system and uploads all conference details including the schedule sessions with locations speakers exhibit hours
special events and more. Once attendees register they can go in and check off which sessions they plan to attend. They can contact speakers as well as other attendees who plan to attend the same sessions.
Exhibitors can upload press releases product information and images—and even sales rep schedules so interested parties will know when their contact will be at the show or in the booth. Each community has its own branded URL. The standard package gives you 16 weeks of coverage—usually broken out as eight weeks before the event and eight weeks after.
Biggest Strength: Its pre-event planning capabilities. Attendees speakers and exhibitors can set up meetings with other attendees then organize and plan their time at the event using a variety of tools.
What it costs: $5 000 to $20 000 depending on size of event.
• The daily planner for attendees: Attendees can choose conference sessions to attend special events which exhibitors they want to visit and make a list of people they plan to meet with then upload a schedule to their PDA.
• Digital product locating feature: Exhibitors can log in and add additional content about which products and services they will be showcasing. Based on that EventMingle can make recommendations to attendees who have expressed interest in certain offerings through their online profile.
Who uses it: HP Adobe American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)
How it works: Through IntroNetworks users can find
and coordinate meaningful connections between
themselves and other event attendees via a highly
targeted keyword list that specifically maps to their objectives. Attendees can find other people attending the event with similar interests and specialties based on a profile they create. The information is presented through a user-friendly interface called a Pin View Display. Each attendee is displayed as a pin. Members with overlapping interests are represented by a different color pin with those sharing the most interests appearing closest to the user and radiating out from there.
What’s more you can define your “members” as more than just people so the software will show matches between users and other users as well as between users and products services articles or sessions. The software integrates with an existing database so users aren’t required to enter the same information multiple times.
The same Visual Matching Engine algorithm allows event planners to identify the top-ranking matches within a community giving you access to real-time trend data detailed reports and the ability to predict outcomes based on information collected from individual profiles. That means you gather business intelligence about your attendees before during and after your event.
Biggest Strength: Gives attendees a visually appealing way to find the people products and sessions that fit their interests. The Pin View Display is intuitive and fun to use. For event planners setup takes hours not days and data is comprehensive and comes in in real-time allowing you to tweak content based on attendee interests throughout the planning period.
What it costs: The first tier is priced at $7 500 and it includes 1000 users. The price per year includes setup hosting for one year support consulting business intelligence and administrative tools. Additional users are $1 per year.
• The Pin View Display: A user-friendly interface that allows attendees to easily find other attendees who share their interests.
• introCard: An online business card that provides quick access to an individual’s contact information photos files and self-descriptions.
Who uses it: Columbia Business School
How it works: NetworkingMatch takes the speed-dating model and translates it to professional networking. Attendees create a profile and can view the profiles
of other attendees through a private online community created for your event. The information provided by attendees is run through an algorithm that pairs people up with others who share similar interests. Then
during the event a speed networking session takes place. Attendees get eight minutes to talk to each person with whom they’ve been matched.
Biggest Strength: It guarantees attendees will get to network with a certain number of people as part of a pre-screened speed-networking session. That and it’s actually fun.
What it costs: $5 000 to $10 000 depending on size of meeting.
• The speed-networking model: What better way
to ensure attendees have a successful networking
• Set up your friends: NetworkingMatch allows users to help other attendees connect with each other. The user sends out a message to both parties. When those parties next log on they will have a message encouraging them to connect with the other party.
Small World Labs (smallworldlabs.com)
Who uses it: Oracle CMP (UK)
How it works: Members create an online persona for themselves and use it to communicate with other members of the community using email chat and instant messenger discussion boards and forums. Members can rate and review everything from products and services to conference sessions or full conferences and upload videos and podcasts. Members can also form special interest groups for more specific topic discussions as well as plan group events and share group documents.
Biggest Strength: Small World focuses on creating online communities built around long-term interests. It strives to create what co-founder and ceo Michael Wilson calls a “living conference” in which the online discussions continue long after the event has ended. This is a good option if you’re looking to turn your conference into a year-round conversation.
What it costs: $15 000 and up.
• Community Planning Sessions: These sessions are designed to educate the event planner on how best to attract and maintain a vibrant community.
• Watch Lists: Allows users to opt in to receive relevant updated content from particular areas of the social network without having to check the site. For instance if you are interested in the topic of last-minute conference speaker additions you can sign up to receive updates each time information is added to this area.
• Knowledge Center: An area where members can post knowledge base items such as articles blogs or web pages and categorize them into different searchable topics. Each knowledge base item can be rated and reviewed by members.
Who uses it: Take Back America
How it works: Confabb is the largest database of conferences and trade shows online. Layered on top of this database is a suite of tools to maximize the conference experience by allowing you to upload conference details and interact with potential attendees. The catch is it’s up to you to input detailed information but if you do so the tools are free. A paid package allows you to customize the site and provides you with your own branded landing page and additional features.
Anyone can access Confabb to find trade shows and events occurring all over the world. If you choose to upload detailed information users can rate and review sessions and connect with other attendees through the site’s internal messaging. With the fee-based model only registered users can post comments ratings etc. But even with the free tools anonymous posts are not allowed. The site has only been live for a little more than six months so content is currently minimal but word of mouth may lead to a meatier site.
Biggest Strength: Price. Hey if you want to test the waters why not do it for free?
What it costs: Free when accessed through confabb.com. For a branded site $3 000-$5 000.
• Your Media: This button brings you to a page where you can monitor everything that everyone around the web is saying about your conference on blogs chats web pages video sites RSS streams and message boards. Confabb searches Technorati Google Yahoo! Feedster Flickr YouTube and del.icio.us.