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’
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.