When the four of us committed to the serious business of planning NEPA BlogCon (we had a lot of fun too), we realized we needed a suite of serious planning tools. With the somewhat bizarre schedules and level of professional and community activity we
each maintain, it wasn't going to be possible to do the old fashioned 'lets meet every Wednesday from 6-8pm' for five months. Nuh uh.
Here's a look at some of the tools we used and how and why we used them – maybe some of them can help you accomplish your goals.
It was a challenge for us to Doodle get togethers once a month let alone weekly – but it was important to do the face-to-face once in awhile so we did that a few times throughout the planning process and in between relied on Google Hangouts where we wore virtual tiaras and cat ears while we drank beverages of choice and worked on Google docs together, and looked at Stewie's fab designs. My fears of our project management master planner bazillion tab spreadsheet breaking the Goog were completely unfounded – the color coded event DNA held up quite nicely. Another important Google tool was the editorial calendar we set up so we could divvy up blog coverage for ourselves.
We created a YouTube channel and linked many of our presenters so prospect attendees could see how much goodness they would be in for if they bought a ticket. Park MultiMedia is editing all the sessions they taped from the event and they will also be uploaded there for your viewing pleasure very soon.
Our domain came with CPanel for email but yuck. The first thing we did was rig the accounts to forward to our gmail and set them up to be able to send as @nepablocon.com. We also created a Google Group to which we all subscribed and sent our event planning related email to it. As a result, we have a dedicated, virtual, searchable catalog of every one of the 562 conversations we had about the event. No word of lie…. 562.
We used WordPress to create our domain hosted one-stop-event site with an embedded iframe for ticket sales, info laden blog, agenda, organizer and presenter details, press products and media mentions, social media links and photos.
To manage ticket sales, we opted for Whindo.com , which to be honest is a complete event management software that is highly customizeable and could easily serve as the one and only event website whether or not you have a designer pixie on your team. I have used the site for registration to sponsored several no cost events – and it's free if tickets are free.. It's also a very reasonable flat fee of $.99 per ticket no matter what the sale price! You can choose to include the fee in the price or on top of it and we decided to include it in the price so we could have nice round numbers. Whindo integrates with PayPal and even takes care of letting you know how much the combined fees are and your net amount in the sweet spreadsheet reports it generates that you can configure, slice and dice to your hearts content with any information provided by registrants. It has mega features to give you complete content management for your event website including optional content pages and custom pages, provides easy ways to adhere to branding standards, stay in touch with attendees and provides real time reporting including an event dashboard so you can focus on your event and not all the administrative details.
We also used MailChimp to amass a super secret email list (no worries we're not sharing!) and made it easy to subscribe by integrating it into our website and social media via Facebook and Twitter. Speaking of social media, we had a concerted and strategic campaign to create and spread viral messages and squirrel memes.
Post event, Michelle whipped up a fabulous analytical visual for our eyes only full of NEPA BlogCon details via Google Presentations. Trends, graphs and charts, demographics, feedback from surveys – incredibly useful knowledge we'll use to build next year's event even bigger and better.
The only upfront event expenses beyond our computers and Internet were the domain and hosting – roughly the cost of a good dinner for two. These FREE or amazingly cost effective tools helped us to be efficient and effective for event attendees – and raise $2500 for our nonprofit charities, the Arc of Luzerne County and NEPA Veterans Multicare Alliance.
The barriers to entry for events are minimal with the right tools if you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, solid goals, a good action plan and determination.
There are lots of great tech based planning tools out there – which are your favs and why?