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A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Event Management Software

For event planners at an association, nonprofit, or other organization, investing in the right event management software can streamline many of your tasks, making your job easier.

From large trade shows to fundraising events, having an event platform that facilitates planning, alleviates common bottlenecks, and enhances the attendee experience can ensure success every time. It also ensures your organization has ongoing access to data that you can use to guide your future decision-making.

However, there are a lot of options on the market and not all of them provide the same level of support or effectiveness. Here’s how to make the best decision before you invest. 

What is Event Management Software?

Event management software is a tool that supports the entire planning process for your event. This typically includes online registration, attendee badging and check-in, and gathering reporting data. 

Well-selected event management software is capable of:

  • Ensuring team productivity and successful working relationships
  • Enhancing attendee satisfaction
  • Improving return on investment (ROI)
  • Gathering strategic insights for decision-making
  • Reducing event planning costs and time drains

The best event management software helps you plan and execute events from start to finish. 

Types of Event Management Software

Every organization’s event needs are different, which is why there are so many different platforms to choose from. There are primarily two types of event management software:

Specialized Single-Purpose Tools

Some software products are single-purpose tools, meaning they are very good at doing one thing or one event. These tools can typically handle tasks like:

  • Registration and ticketing
  • Event marketing and promotion
  • Mobile app design and management
  • Floor planning
  • Badging
  • Sponsor management

If one single, specialized platform meets your specific end goal, it may be more cost-effective to consider this option.

All-in-One Event Management Software

All-in-one event software aims to address all of your event needs in a single platform. This typically includes all event planning tasks, including those listed above.

While these platforms have a higher cost, they can streamline event planning by keeping the entire project within a single application. This often includes everything from registration, event marketing, and event reporting. Their more robust features make them ideal when you’re not just planning a single event but likely will host multiple over time. 

What are the Common Features of Event Management Software?

Depending on your event needs, your software should include the tools and features necessary to plan an effective event and manage it from start to finish. There are numerous areas to consider, such as:

Sponsor Management

Managing sponsors is critical for all event planning teams. Event sponsorship management features can include:

  • Sponsorship categories to organize sponsors based on commitment or sponsorship levels
  • Digital asset management for sponsor logos and graphics
  • Sponsor portals that provide sponsors with relevant information
  • Custom sponsor branding options
  • Sponsor advertising options through an event app

These features streamline the sponsorship process, enhance sponsor engagement, and maximize the value for both event organizers and sponsors.

Registration Technology

Most event management solutions support establishing and managing your event registration process. Though tools are different, expect to find features like:

  • Badge creation and printing
  • Various types of registration, timelines, restrictions, and other customization options
  • Automated registration emails to provide reminders and detailed information for attendees
  • Group registration options
  • Secure payment gateways

These features are designed to make the registration process as smooth and efficient as possible, improving the experience for attendees and providing event organizers with essential data and insights for future event planning and marketing.

Event Marketing

Many platforms offer marketing tools that will assist in growing your total registration and attendance. Some of the most common features of event marketing are:

  • Email tools for sending various messages like event invitations, registration confirmations, and newsletters
  • Customizable event website, including registration forms, speaker profiles, agendas, and payment tools
  • Social media integration, which streamlines access to various social media platforms to share updates and engage with attendees before, during, and after events
  • Marketing analytics and reporting

Having a strong marketing plan is vital to ensuring your event produces the ROI needed to make the whole event worth it.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Event Management Software

Before deciding on any platform, it’s crucial to know what you need the tool to do based on the way you run your event. Effective event management software must meet your specific needs, and while these may change, consider what key factors matter most or how adaptable your prospective platform is. Here are several essential factors to keep in mind: 

Event Goals and Objectives

When selecting event management software, consider how the solution aligns with your event’s objectives and the overarching goals of your organization.

The software you choose should not only resonate with these goals but should also amplify your ability to achieve them with finesse and precision. It’s about finding a tool that transforms your vision into reality, fostering an environment where every aspect of your event is seamlessly orchestrated to meet, and even exceed, your attendees’ expectations.

Attendee and Staff Experience

The software you select should specifically address the types of experiences you hope to create for both attendees and event staff. Giving your attendees an impactful experience is key to building relationships. Always look for:

  • User-friendly experience for attendees
  • Ease of use for your staff
  • Available onboarding support

Keep an eye out for solutions with an easy-to-use but intuitive interface and supportive tools. You don’t want to make more work for your team or make it complicated for attendees to get the support they need.

Event Planning Frequency

How often do you plan to host events? For occasional or one-time events, you need solutions that align just with that type. However, if you’re hosting events on a regular schedule, it’s more important to ensure the planning and execution of multiple events at one time can work well together. 

Necessary Features

While event software with a plethora of features might seem attractive, focus on those that are essential for your specific requirements. Identify the features that are critical to your event’s success. This could range from registration and ticketing systems to attendee engagement tools or analytics.

Software bloated with features you’ll never use can lead to unnecessary complexity and costs. It’s important to differentiate between ‘nice-to-have’ and ‘must-have’ features. Use cost-effective decision-making and keep your budget in mind as you conduct research into potential options.


Many organizations use a variety of digital tools in their daily operations. The right integrations with an event management system can keep everything smooth and organized. Consider tools that align with your CRM, for example.

Steps to Choosing the Best Event Management Software

Navigating the event management software landscape can be intimidating, with an array of options each boasting unique features and capabilities. However, selecting the right software is crucial for your event’s success. Simplify your decision-making by following these steps:

1. Understand your event management needs.

Using your event goals, figure out what specific needs you want your event management software to address. For instance, consider:

  • Event types 
  • Team skills or in-house supportive tools
  • Target audience and attendees 
  • Growth rate over time
  • Analytics insights
  • Regulatory or compliance concerns

Note these down and use these as a reference as you begin exploring potential event solutions for your organization.

2. Identify your event management software non-negotiables.

Every event management solution should support the way you plan to operate your events over time. Outline factors you consider non-negotiable or the specific features and tools you want your product to offer. This may include:

  • Functional aspects like ticketing, event registration, attendee engagement, and agenda management
  • Integration requirements, including marketing and CRM tools
  • Training and support
  • Security features

For example, if you’re planning to host a hybrid or virtual event, you might want to prioritize solutions that make it easy for you to engage attendees online.

3. Research and compare software providers.

Once you have these lists, it’s time to check out the products on the market. During your research, consider the following information:

  • Market research and case use studies
  • Vendor evaluation, including references and reviews
  • Pricing comparison among products

Compare each solution based on your requirements and needs to start compiling the top options for your team to consider.

4. Request demos or sign up for free trials.

With your shortlist created, ask for demos or sign up for trial periods that allow you to test-drive prospective platforms. Take the time to read through and understand the often unseen aspects of new software like:

  • Pricing
  • Contract terms
  • Limitations and restrictions
  • Service level agreements
  • Legal and compliance requirements 

Once you’ve asked any specific questions and gotten a clearer understanding of how the platforms work, re-assemble your team and make your decision.

Choosing the right event management software tailored to your specific needs can transform how you orchestrate your events. By thoroughly evaluating and comparing available options, you can make a strategic decision that will yield long-term benefits, enhancing the way you manage and execute your events for years to come.