Using Apps for Your Event Q&A with Caitlin McElhone of CM Events By Meghann Tanner What do you look for when you’re considering using an app?
Why do you use apps for your event company? I learned early on that it was helpful to understand how to use basic event technology, especially at conferences, instead of having to rely on the AV tech all the time. So over the years I’ve become a bit obsessed with technology and what it’s capable of. When I started my own business, it was important (and crucial to the success of my business) that I became as efficient as possible, especially because I have two small children at home. I didn’t want to stop working, so my solution was to figure out how to incorporate apps and technology to make my business mobile and efficient on the go. Apps can be used for just about everything these days… How can event planners use apps to help with their business? My experience is if you can think of it, there is already an app out there that can help you with what you need. Apps are an incredible resource that can make your life easier and help save you time. They can not only help with all of the day-to-day stuff that can bog business owners down (like tracking mileage, hours, expenses and producing invoices) but also assist in keeping information on all your platforms the same and updated in real-time. I also use apps for critical paths and checklists so I can easily access information for clients on the go. Apps allow ease of sharing and storing documents with clients and suppliers, as well as manage social media for events. It doesn’t matter where you are, with apps you can run your business or coordinate events from anywhere.
ALBERTA MEETING & EVENT GUIDE • Spring/Summer 2018
…technology is only as good as the lowest user on your team…
The first one for me is ease of use. I have learned that there are many apps that all do the same thing — so just because one app worked well for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work well for me. I usually give a new app 10–20 minutes and if it isn’t easy to use right away, then I know it’s not the right one for me, and I move on to the next one. I also look for the ability for an app to be available across all my platforms — so if I download (and pay!) for it on my phone, I also want it to sync to the same app on my ipad and laptop and update in real-time. Another great tip someone once gave me is to ask yourself, what exactly is it that I need this app to do for me (or the event)? That can really help to narrow down the options when searching for one. I also make sure they have a website associated with them — I never download apps directly from the app store. I go online and do some research to make sure they have a platform for customer service and that an actual company (preferably from North America) is running it from behind the scenes. Do you worry about the app company going out of business suddenly and losing all of your event information, or do you back it up regularly? Both. It’s definitely a risk, but if you do your research and you’re using apps that are run by a credible company, the risk is much lower. Just like if you’re using an on-line registration company or other event software, there is always a risk of it changing hands or going out of business. It’s the same with apps. Its good practice to keep everything backed up regularly; whether it’s on the cloud or on your computer so you can mitigate against loosing everything in case something happens. In my experience, an app rarely just disappears (especially if you are using ones from credible companies), but it may get bought out by a different company, so the name might change or the layout might look different, but not that the app stops running or isn’t accessible anymore.
PHOTO COURTESY CAITLIN MCELHONE
Caitlin is the owner and lead planner of CM Events, an Edmonton based company that specializes in corporate events, fundraiser galas, long-service awards, grand openings, conferences, and more! She has been a full-time corporate event planner for over 12 years and has helped coordinate and produce over 165 events. Caitlin is also an instructor and course developer for the Event Management Certificate Program at NAIT.