There’s an App for That: 11 Apps to Help Event Professionals
Liz King Caruso
Apps can help us do a lot of things: pay for our coffee, stay informed, and keep on top of how much we are — or are not — moving. They also can be workhorses, making it easier for meeting professionals to find and book venues, and streamline the tasks of event planning in a hundred different ways. The problem is, with millions to choose from, how does anyone decide what apps are must-haves?
For direction, Convene turned to independent event planner Liz King Caruso. Caruso, of Liz King Events, and the founder of techsytalk and FOUNDHER NETWORK, frequently shares tips on standout apps and other tech tools at conferences, in webinars, and through her IGNITE consulting program.
“I am a planner. I live it every single day,” Caruso said during a recent PCMA webinar titled “Using Technology to be More Productive.” “I talk to so many planners,” she added, “and one of the things that I know … is that we as an industry are very overwhelmed. We have a lot going on.”
Getting a handle on it all can be a challenge. The following are Caruso’s suggestions for apps and other technology that can help.
Simplify Your Life
UnRoll.me Event planner or not, almost everyone is looking for ways to save time. This free app will go through your inbox and root out and list all the subscription emails and newsletters that are clogging things up. The app allows you to stay subscribed, unsubscribe with a single keystroke, or “roll them up” — the latter meaning you choose when to see them. (Watch video below.)
LastPass: This app comes to the rescue of those who are always forgetting their passwords. Your job is to remember one master password, and the app saves and remembers the rest.
x.ai: For anyone who regrets all the time lost to scheduling client meetings or coffee dates, this app could be an answer, Caruso says. It features an artificial intelligence (AI) “assistant” (Amy or Andy) that can scan your calendar and send all the back-and-forth emails needed to set up a meeting time and place. It can even generate links for Zoom video conferencing. Monthly prices range from $8 for an individual user to $24 for an enterprise account.
Zoom: Speaking of Zoom, Caruso recommends the platform as a more stable alternative to Skype or Google Hangouts. That saves you time, because then you are “not spending 80 percent of your meeting time dealing with technology issues,” she says. Prices range from the no-cost basic personal meeting package to $19.99 a month for the enterprise package.
Boost Your Productivity
Task-management tools, Caruso says, are very personal, meaning it’s all about you and how you work. You may need to test one or two before you find a good match
Asana: This work-management platform, designed to track projects and tasks, tops Caruso’s list in this category. It is a very simple system, she says, with conversation threads linked to each task. It allows users to tag other people and upload documents, and has the advantage of keeping conversations out of your email’s inbox, which is crucial for disciples of Inbox Zero, like Caruso. Asana pricing starts at $9.99 a month.
Evernote: Caruso is personally not a fan of this task-management platform which enables users to organize ideas and to-do lists. But many people “love” Evernote, Caruso notes, particularly those whom she describes a “sticky-note” people. One Evernote plus is its excellent search functionality, which lets users easily find anything they’ve saved, she notes. It ranges in price from free to $14.99 a month.
Slack: Designed for team communication and collaboration, Slack also makes Caruso’s list, and “changes the communication game big-time,” she says. It’s messages, which Caruso advises users to think of as text-message threads, can be sent to groups or individuals, and nested threads make it easy for users to jump into a topic midstream and quickly catch up. Slack is free for up to 10,000 searchable messages a month, increasing to $15 per month for a more active user, making it a good free option for smaller companies, Caruso notes.
Word Swag: Event planners are now expected to be many things, including social media wizards. Word Swag simplifies the task, by adding text and captions to images to create standout posts. Try it using event photos or a Word Swag stock photo, Caruso advises. It’s $4.99 on the Apple app store. (See video below.)
IFTTT: This app — “if this then that” — enables various apps, services, and devices to work together, Caruso said, doing things like turning a smart-home’s porch light on when a pizza delivery app indicates the driver is pulling up to the house. Especially helpful for planners, Caruso says, is the app’s ability to automatically populate a number of platforms when you post on one. IFTTT accounts are free.
Manage an Event
Bizzabo: This is an event management must-have, owing to the app’s ability to handle event marketing, management, registration, and integration, Caruso says. “It’s my favorite event-registration platform,” she says, adding that its marketing tools and hot-leads features have enabled her clients to sell more tickets to their events. Also, with everything on one platform “you spend way less time exporting and importing documents and cleaning [up] Excel [documents],” she adds. Bizzabo does not publish its pricing but media sources have reported its Planner Plan prices start at $8,000 a year.
Proposify: This app also is worth considering, because of how it streamlines the event-proposal process, while creating “beautiful” pitches, Caruso says. “You generate your own templates so this is especially [good] for independent planners or vendors … and you can actually have clients sign [contracts] on this platform,” she adds. Its tracking features show how much time a client spends on any given page of a document and when they sign, Caruso says. The app also features online payment integration. It costs $25 a month (for individual users) with the price climbing to $250 a month for large businesses.
‘Optimized for Productivity’
TOGGL tracks your day by summing up how you spend your time spent by categories.
While apps add formidable tools to an event planners’ toolkit, Liz King Caruso’s advice comes with a caution: If your life is not “optimized for productivity, then it’s really hard to have an app solve all your problems.”
To remedy that, she recommends tracking your time for two weeks with the app TOGGL, which sums up how you spend your time spent by categories, such as email or attending meetings. After two weeks, the report you’ll see will be “an eye-opening experience,” Caruso promises. As painful as it may be, TOGGL can help you better understand how you spend your time, so you can identify the apps that can most help you tackle productivity problem areas. Caruso recommends re-tracking your time after six months or a year to see if the apps you’ve chosen are, in fact, helping you spend your time the way you want. TOGGL’s basic plan is free.
Find More Apps
Find out what apps other business events strategists say they can’t live without.
Sherrif Karamat, President and Chief Executive Officer
Sherrif Karamat, CAE, is President and Chief Executive Officer of PCMA. Karamat also serves as President of the PCMA Foundation and Publisher of Convene magazine.
As CEO, Karamat leads the vision, mission and promise for PCMA’s global family of brands. Karamat serves the greater business events industry as a prominent business architect, enabling our community to become a catalyst for economic and social progress, organizational success, and personal and professional development.
In his previous role as Chief Operating Officer, Karamat led the development and implementation of PCMA’s new vision: driving global economic and social transformation through business events. In addition to his responsibilities at executive level, Karamat also directed streamlining of PCMA’s content creation and delivery channels into one organization. He oversaw partnership, business services, membership, business development and technology teams.
As part of PCMA’s growth strategy, Karamat has led a major data intelligence program and played a key role in the 2017 acquisition of Incentive Conference & Event Society Asia Pacific (ICESAP).
A leader in the business events industry, Karamat previously served as Vice President of Business Sales and Services for Toronto Convention & Visitors (Tourism Toronto). He has served on various boards and is currently a director on the Destination International Board of Trustees.
Karamat is a life-long learner. In addition to completing his bachelor’s degree and Masters of Business Administration from York University in Toronto, Canada, he has completed postgraduate certificate programs at Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. At Harvard Business and Law School, he completed a program on strategic negotiations for senior executives and a program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one on data intelligence and big data.
Robert Haas, Chief Administrative Officer
Robert Haas is responsible for PCMA’s IT, human resources, data and finance departments as its first Chief Administrative Officer. He utilizes data, content and personalized experiences to help PCMA better understand its members’ needs and develop an audience-focused strategy.
Haas has more than 15 years of database marketing, product development and consulting experience from working in business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries. He understands how innovation, research and technology intersect and evaluates what is leading edge versus cutting edge.
Haas will leverage data to determine best practices in business events and how the industry can drive global economic and social transformation.
He previously served as PCMA’s Chief Innovation Officer. He joined PCMA as Vice President of Business Development and Data Intelligence. His previous roles include Senior Vice President of Strategic Product Development and Marketing at Scranton Gillette Communications Inc. and in direct response marketing for Tribune Direct.
He has a bachelor’s degree in international business from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Mona Cotton, Chief Business Officer
As Chief Business Officer, Mona Cotton leads the Business Development, Client and Member Services, and Business Services teams. She has more than 20 years of business leadership experience in the areas of partnership, sponsorship, business development, media publishing and business services.
Cotton, a PCMA leader for more than 15 years, takes a strategic approach to transforming PCMA’s client relationships and business opportunities. Her role at PCMA is to facilitate connections between business-to-business organizations and business-to-consumer operations, identifying opportunities to fuel economic and social progress and success for PCMA and its members, customers and clients.
While she has watched as business events shifted from logistics to engagement, Cotton said the value of relationships remains steadfast in the industry.
Prior to PCMA, Cotton led and supported various sales efforts at the National Association of REALTORS, Airborne Express (now DHL) and Fox Associates, a Chicago-based magazine representative firm. She received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and advertising from Indiana University.
Michelle Crowley oversees regional brand development, content outreach and innovation as PCMA’s first Chief Growth & Innovation Officer. She is responsible for regional and revenue development in the Americas, Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. In addition, Crowley is responsible for education and product development.
She leads PCMA’s global growth strategy by evaluating and identifying how the organization can deliver value to its members through new and existing business models, education programs and new products.
Crowley began her career at PCMA and continues to work with global travel brands, build strategic relationships and partnerships with key markets, and design year-round engagement campaigns. She has held various positions at PCMA including Vice President for Global Growth and Business Transformation.
Crowley is 2019 MBA graduate of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Meredith Rollins, Chief Community Officer
As PCMA’s first Chief Community Officer, Meredith Rollins leads the community engagement team.
The team delivers programs and services that strengthen the connections between PCMA members, facilitate knowledge sharing and advance the network of professionals in the global business events industry. Her key areas of responsibility include community and chapter engagement, research, social impact and volunteerism. She remains Executive Director of the PCMA Foundation.
Rollins joined PCMA in 2007 and held roles in project management, global development and account management with the PCMA partnership program. She was Director of Strategic Development for the Association for Corporate Growth, a global community for middle-market M&A business leaders from 2012 to 2015. Rollins became Executive Director of the PCMA Foundation in 2015.
Rollins received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Gina Meier, Director, Human Resources
Gina Meier is Director of Human Resources for PCMA, a position she has held since 2006. She is responsible for helping PCMA execute its vision of driving global economic and social transformation through its human capital.
Her responsibilities including professional development, culture, talent development, employee integration and employee engagement.
Meier began her human resources career in 1999 as human resources manager for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide LLC, now a subsidiary of Marriott International Inc. She previously worked as director and manager in Starwood’s housekeeping division.
Meier received a bachelor’s degree in hotel/motel administration and management from Eastern Illinois University.
Bruce MacMillan, Chief Marketing Officer
Bruce MacMillan is responsible for PCMA’s global brand development and marketing strategies as PCMA’s Chief Marketing Officer. He leads the marketing, events and print and digital teams, which includes Convene magazine.
MacMillan has more than 30 years of experience in the global business events and tourism industry and has worked with business enterprises on every continent. His past leadership roles include CEO of VisitDFW, a regional consumer content marketing venture, CEO of Meeting Professionals International and CEO of Tourism Toronto.
He developed and led Vancouver, B.C.’s successful national bid for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. MacMillan also runs BANDWIDTH consultancy, advising destinations on event sales and marketing strategies and served as consortium consulting partner in the Destinations International DestinationNEXT global initiative.
MacMillan has received numerous awards including twice being named one of the Top Twenty most influential people in the global MICE industry.