“So many planners coordinate with their clients using Google Docs, so this is a great way to stay connected on the go,” Liz King, event-tech evangelist and founder of Liz King Events, said of Google Drive (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android). This cloud-based application stores documents, spreadsheets, and presentations — anything you might need to collaborate on within a team or with outside clients. Google Docs are often accessed from within a Gmail account, but users can share or make documents available to anyone, or keep them completely private.
Dropbox (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android) “is probably the most commonly used non-meetings-industry app used by people in the meetings industry,” Spellos said. The cloud-based storage system is used to house and share documents, photos, and videos, which are easily accessible to multiple users. Users can access files from their computers, smartphones, or tablets, and receive up to two megabytes of storage free. Upgrading to pro or Dropbox for Business increases the amount of storage as well as provides advanced security and support options.
TurboScan ($1.99; iPhone/iPad) allows the user to take a photo of a document, receipt, note, and so on, turning it into a copier-quality image that can be emailed; saved as a PDF, JPG, or PNG; or uploaded to another app like Evernote. “It’s great on the go when I need to send in a signed contract and I’m traveling,” said Lauren Riordan, manager of programs and events for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). TurboScan boasts a processing time of less than four seconds per page and offers file naming and storage within the app itself, without requiring an Internet connection.
Asana (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android) is a task-management app — the latest version of which can be fully integrated with Dropbox. “I will tell you that I have gone through so many of these and have not liked anything,” said Jessica Levin, CMP, CAE, president and chief connector at Seven Degrees Communication. “[Asana] has been life-changing in terms of project management.” Created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and former Facebook employee Justin Rosenstein, Asana prides itself on organizing projects around tasks rather than emails — grouping conversations and assignments together so that users can easily follow the progress of a project.
Hootsuite (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android) is most likely the leading app for the easy management of multiple social-media accounts, offering a dashboard where users can input streams from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and more; schedule messages to go out via their profiles; and generally keep track of social-media messaging or campaigns. “I find that a lot of planners are struggling to manage social media — they think because they have these big teams — [so] that’s what we put all our clients on,” Levin said. Upgrading to a pro account (starting at $8.99 per month) allows access to analytics reports and enhanced technical support.
If you were to create a top-10 (or top-three) list of skills successful planners need, being organized would undoubtedly make the cut. But the best tools to keep track of everything you or your team has to do on site aren’t necessarily going to be the same systems you use on a day-to-day basis.
Cardmunch (Free; iPhone) allows iPhone users to take a snapshot of business cards they collect at an event, automatically adding the information to the phone’s contacts. The difference between this and other card-reader apps is that CardMunch employs actual humans (rather than character-recognition software) to input information, ensuring that everything’s correct. “You can also double-check the info and even make notes,” King said. “And, it is able to read most business-card formats, so it’s incredibly easy to use.”
Capsule (Free; iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) is the program King uses as her business’ client-relationship management system. “We then use the app to take all our information on the go,” King said. “It’s a great way to pull up info you need about a client or other relationship.” Capsule has options for organizing contacts by tags, the ability to track bids and proposals, and links to emails from clients in the system.
“Probably on everyone’s list,” Riordan said, is Evernote (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android, Windows). She uses the app to take notes while at conferences and load schedules for her own shows. Levin agreed, but pointed out that “it requires some discipline” to use the product, which captures notes, audio, photos, and web clippings. “You really need to spend some time getting organized with it,” Levin said, “creating categories and tags for yourself to make sure that you can use it effectively.” With users’ accounts accessible from all their platforms — smartphone, tablet, computer — you can organize notes and information and then find them again quickly through a tagging system that groups items together.
“A lot of times you connect with someone … and you didn’t necessarily exchange business cards,” Levin said, “or if you did, you didn’t enter their phone or email right into your own contacts.” LinkedIn Contacts (Free; iPhone/iPad) integrates with the user’s email and mobile address book and calendar to pull together all of a contact’s information — including email exchanges — as well as his or her LinkedIn profile. The app will remind users about contacts’ birthdays and job changes (much like LinkedIn does), and it is also possible to set up reminders to reach out to certain contacts that you don’t want to lose touch with. “It’s tremendously helpful,” Levin said.
Take Care of Yourself
With everything else on your plate, your own physical well-being can become a low priority. “When you think about the life of a planner, whether you’re on site or traveling to site visits,” Levin said, “eating healthy is so difficult.” Enter MyFitnessPal (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android), a calorie-counting and fitness-journal app where users can input their daily food choices and workout routines in order to track weight-loss (or maintenance) progress. The app has a database of more than one million food items, making it simple to calculate the number of calories and nutritional value in a meal or snack. MyFitnessPal also features a community forum for users to discuss their progress and strategies, which is one of its best features, according to Levin. “It really has good social integration,” she said.
Seamless (Free; iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry) is a restaurant delivery and takeout web app that allows users to access menus and quickly order food in more than 600 U.S. cities. “Meeting professionals also march on their stomachs,” Paone said, “so my team’s go-to app for food is Seamless.” Seamless often sends out discount codes via email and stores users’ delivery-address and credit-card information for easy ordering if they so choose. “Getting discounts always helps the budget,” Paone said, “but finding the food to fit your at-the-moment appetite is awesome.”
Convene Senior Editor Barbara Palmer relied on an app called Deep Sleep With Andrew Johnson ($2.99; iPhone/iPad, Android, or on CD) when she traveled to Beijing for the China Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (CIBTM). The guided audio meditation sessions led by Johnson, a clinical hypnotist, can be set to play for hundreds of minutes, and are designed to lull the listener into a deep, restful sleep. “The time change made it hard to sleep,” Palmer