8 bad habits event planners should stop to save time

Time.  It’s the event planner’s most precious commodity and yet it is also one of the main challenges of organizing any type of event.  Most of us feel that we simply don’t have enough of it.  Yet somehow, we keep calm and carry on.  It’s no wonder event planning is ranked as the fifth most stressful job in the world! Working in events is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  Determination, experience, good communications and creativity are all essential skills for success in the job. But good time-management is even more important.

Many of us today use all sorts of technology tools that help save time in planning and managing events. From event management systems like Eventsforce to event apps, engagement tools, marketing automation, analytics and so on. No one can dispute the countless benefits these systems bring in terms of time management.  They help us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources – a lot faster than what was once imaginable.

But let’s not forget about the human factor. Effective time management is a personal thing too. And most of us don’t get it right all the time. Whether it’s procrastination, personal distractions or tasks that take up a lot more time than they should, there are many things that waste our time every day.  And wasted time means rushed deadlines, a work-life imbalance and more stress and anxiety.

Have a look at the eight things you need to stop doing now to make better use of your time:

1. Stop Complaining about Time

We’re all a little bit guilty here.  We talk to colleagues, partners and suppliers about how much work we need to do in so little time. If you’re in the habit of complaining about time, it may be time to break the habit. And the easiest way of breaking any bad habit is by replacing it with a new positive one. Instead of focusing on your lack of time, be more vocal about what you do have time for.  If you value your time, others will do the same and you’ll see that it will not only have a positive impact on your productivity but everyone else’s too.

2. Stop Quick Internet Breaks

How often do you get the itch to quickly check the news or have a look at your phone to check Twitter or Facebook in the middle of a task? According to Forbes.com, research has shown that it takes 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task.  After that, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity – which apparently makes you five times more productive that you otherwise would be. Taking a mini-break to surf the Internet pulls you out of this state, which means you’ll need another 15 minutes to get back into it.  You do this enough times, and you’ll go through a whole day without experiencing the focus you need to get the job done. If these mini surfing breaks are essential, give yourself set times to do them in.  You can also use a tool like Pocket, which can save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a time that won’t impact your work.

3. Stop Multi-Tasking!

This may sound like the last thing an event planner should do but multi-tasking is a real productivity killer. According to research at Stanford University, multitasking has been proven to be less productive than doing a single thing at a time.  Why?  Because our brains lack the capacity to perform more than one task at a time successfully.  We may think we’re multi-taskers, but what we’re actually doing is shifting back and forth from one task to another, such as writing an email, then doing a conference call, then back to email and so on.   The research also found that people who multi-tasked a lot and believed it boosted their performance, were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. It seems they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information – they were also slower at switching from one task to another!

4. Stop Responding to Emails as They Arrive

Emails can be the source of constant interruption and this will affect how well you work with the time you’ve got.  Put aside specific times for checking your email, such as first thing in the day, right before or after lunch or right at the end of the day.  Unless it’s urgent, avoid checking emails outside these set times as it will definitely distract you from your high-priority work, especially when things are busy. You can also use features in your email software that allow you to prioritize messages by sender – so you can set alerts for your important suppliers and vendors and save the rest for your allocated email time.  You can even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when you’ll be checking emails again.

Learn how to save time, cut out admin work and do more with your event data with this FREE eBook from Event Industry News and Eventsforce: The Event Planner’s Guide to Data Integration.

5. Stop Putting Off Harder Tasks

You have to remember that our mental energy has limits.  When this energy is exhausted, time-management, productivity and the ability to make good decisions decline rapidly. When you put off tasks till late in the day (because they’re difficult, boring or intimidating), you are saving them for a time when you’re at your worst. Take on these tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh and you’ll spend less time getting it done.

6. Stop The Unrealistic To-Do Lists

Ticking things off your to-do list can feel good because it gives you a sense of accomplishment.  But is it really the most productive way of doing things?  Apparently not. We regularly underestimate how long something will take us and we forget to factor this in.  Setting unrealistic expectations with never-ending to-do lists can lead to frustration, exhaustion and a feeling that you’re not accomplishing anything. Prioritize your tasks from most important to least important and for each task on your list, figure out exactly how much time you need to get it done. If you set a deadline for yourself, then this will help you avoid procrastination and ultimately work more effectively in the time that you have.

7. Stop Unproductive Meetings

Meetings take up a big part of your time.  Sometimes you may even have meetings about meetings. Well, according to Forbes, ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible.  They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so whenever they have one, they inform everyone from the start that they’ll be sticking to the intended schedule.  This sets a clear limit that encourages everyone to be more focused and efficient with their time.  When you are running meetings with your colleagues or suppliers, take five minutes beforehand to decide what it is you want to achieve.  This will help you stay focused on your goals.   Take another five minutes afterwards to check the results.  You can also make better use of time by creating boundaries for these meetings, such as keeping laptops closed (unless needed), not checking phones and making sure everyone participates and provides an opinion at the end of the discussion.

8. Stop Saying Yes to Everything

Yes, it is mostly your responsibility and the work does need to be done.  But saying yes to everything will load up your plate to a point where it becomes unmanageable because there simply isn’t enough time.   Try to take on additional tasks when you know you have free time or that the task at hand will help you meet your goals.  Figure out what the task involves before you say ‘yes’ and you’ll avoid neglecting other tasks that may be more important.  If you feel it isn’t a priority, don’t be worried about saying ‘no’ – people tend to instinctively respect those who can say no.  And if you don’t like the confrontation, you could try saying something along these lines – ‘I’ll be able to work on it once I finish doing XXX’ or ‘It would be great if I could do this another time, as I would like to focus my energy on what I’m doing now to get the best results’.


Some of these bad habits may not be such a big deal, but they do add up.  As an exercise, track the time you spend doing different tasks using an app like Toggl.   Look at the time you and your team spend meeting venues and suppliers, dealing with emails, setting up event websites, managing registrations and attendee enquiries, copying data, reporting and so on. You don’t need to do it all the time – use a set timeframe for your exercise.  Knowing how much time you spend working on different tasks will put you in a better position to figure out what you’re doing right and where there’s ways to improve.

Are there any other bad habits you can add to this list?  Please share and let us know – we’d love to hear your comments.


Getting to know you…


Like the medical profession, familiarity is a crime that many event organisers are guilty of.  Not in the sense of being over-friendly, but forgetting that the visitor does not experience an event every day, nor do they spend many waking hours planning, discussing or thinking about every minute detail of how the spectacle is created and produced.

Often our only communication with the visitor is via their credit card or post event survey. In the latter we are frequently more interested in creating statistics that look good on the sales brochure than actually finding out how the experience matched up to their expectations or what they would suggest to make things better.  After months of preparation, it’s all to easy to hide away in the organiser’s office during the live period, safely out of reach.

Events are unique in that there are very few jobs where staff come face to face with every single one of their customers. And, because of our tendency to hide ourselves away, it means that more often or not it is the ones with grumbles who force their way through. Sometimes it can feel like a constant barrage of complaints, and more often than not it is a junior member of the team with little or no customer relations training or experience left to deal with it.

Success comes with knowledge, and experience tells me that the best way to get this is by making yourself available. Interacting with visitors and exhibitors throughout the opening hours, making small talk and asking them what their motivation for attending is. It also gives you the opportunity to explain areas where they believe there are shortcomings. Nine times out of ten there are clear explanations for perceived issues which the visitor has not considered and is happy to accept.

But perhaps one of the key benefits of this approach is that you get to speak to happy people, those who are thoroughly enjoying every moment, who feel like they are getting value for money and an experience they will savour.

Hellen @missioncontrol


Hosting events as a tool for restoring destination image

download (1)This is the title of a paper by Eli Avraham from the University of Haifa in Volume 8 of the International Journal of Event Management Research in November 2014.

While the events industry itself is well aware of the huge positive potential a well-executed project can make, Dr Avraham uses the paper to explore the theory of hosting ‘spotlight events’ in destinations where a negative image makes it very difficult to attract tourism, businesses and inward investment.  This is also a topic that is currently being discussed in great detail by the City Nation Place initiative.  So what exactly are the benefits of hosting events in a less well known destination, and what kind of events should they be?

Dr Avraham identifies seven different types of events which can have a significant impact on how potential visitors view a destination:

  1. Mega sports events: Olympics, World Cup Football,
  2. Sports events: city marathons, individual sporting federation’s world cups
  3. Cultural events: festivals
  4. Events that brand a destination contrary to the stereotype
  5. Events with opinion leaders and celebrities: Davos, Cannes Film Festival, G8 Summit
  6. Conferences and conventions
  7. Events that convert negative characteristics into positive

Human nature means that potential audiences are often very fixed in their opinions about a particular destination, and consequently ordinary marketing efforts will not make a significant difference.  This is where events that are expertly created, managed and executed can deliver.  But, as organisers of Barack Obama’s recent visit to Tanzania discovered, it is not enough to clean up your act for a few short days, there has to be additional investment to ensure that any goodwill is not lost as the last dignitary boards the plane home.

Will technology fuel a trend for ‘unplugged’ events?


unplugged:  ʌnˈplʌɡd/  adjective

1.trademark (of pop or rock music) performed or recorded with acoustic rather than electrically amplified instruments.

2. (of an electrical device) disconnected.

recent study by the research group Flurry found that people with smartphones now spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes each day on mobile devices, some of that potentially fuelled by the multitude of messages, emails, tweets and other content event organisers are pushing out to them on a minute by minute basis.

We don’t leave them alone while they are at the event either.  If it isn’t asking them to contribute to a live Twitter feed we’ll be sending them reminders and directionals to ensure they know about every little aspect of the event whatever they are doing at the time.

A recent study by a U.K. psychologist, Sandi Mann, shows that all of this technological intrusion could in fact be reducing the benefits we spend so long creating for the audience, not least because we are preventing them from absorbing and thinking laterally about what’s on offer.  In her study, Mann asked subjects to do something really boring and then try a creative task.  What she discovered was that the more boring a task, the more creative their ideas were. Only by allowing our minds to wander, daydream and start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, is our ability to do autobiographical planning, or goal setting, working at its optimum level.

So should we be looking to ‘unplug’ our audiences from their devices once we have got them through the door?

The continuing popularity of consumer events like Eroica Britannia, Taste of London and a plethora of music festivals in all parts of the UK shows that those which thrive are those which give their audiences a real participatory experience.  The challenge for B2B events is much harder.  Having got into the rut of believing the only way to get people to the event is to justify their time out of the office with more and more content, and that you have to remind them of what’s on offer every single minute of the show’s opening hours, it’s going to be a hard habit to break.

But if we want our audiences to fully engage with speakers, exhibitors and other delegates, and develop great ideas while they are our guests then perhaps we need to stop our constant, and frankly rather needy, electronic chatter.

How to select the best ticketing tool for conferences or exhibitions

Today we feature a guest post from Michael Heipel.  Michael is an event and marketing consultant based in Germany and these are his thoughts.

In recent years, more and more systems for delegate management, registration, ticketing and payment have entered the market. With new developments in the mobile sphere and solutions like Apple Pay coming up, the advancements will continue. Time to take a closer look at what the various systems on the market have to offer, whichfeatures are available and what are the different pricing models and ranges.

Many event planners still use home-made solutions, but they realize that with the advanced requirements from the market side, these systems are causing more problems than solutions.

At the end of the day, collecting income from delegate or visitor entrance tickets is the core process for any successful event!

Further below, you’ll find an overview of what systems are on the market. But before we come to that, let’s take a look at what are the 10 most important decision criteriawhen selecting a vendor.

10 most important selection criteria for ticketing solutions

  1. What is the business model of the solution? The most important question is of course the pricing model of the software. Many vendors charge for a setup fee in combination with a percentage per ticket sale of the turnover, plus fees for the payment processing. While that may be easy to calculate for few events, it can become quite costly when you run many events per year and the setup costs or base fees are calculated per event. Also, be aware that there may be hidden costs like training or webinars.
  2. What are the costs for your hardware and connectivity on site? Even if the ticketing software is located in the cloud and the purchase and payment processes happen entirely online, you will need devices to register and check the tickets on site. The expenses for these devices can become significant when you are tied to one particular system. Also bear in mind the cost for connectivity unless you can run the on site process entirely on local servers.
  3. How easy is it to set up registration for an event? Every vendor will tell you that this is a piece of cake, but be aware that there are quite some differences in how easy the setup for registration pages really is, especially when you have complex events with numerous options for the delegate to choose from.  This will determine if you need to install 1-2 experts on your team or if more people will be able to set up new event registration pages.
  4. How is the usability from a participants point of view? People that have started a registration process are customers that are willing to buy. That step needs to be hassle-free , and that applies to all communications (email, text messages etc.) that come along with that process. Usability aspects also apply to the check-in process on site, which needs to be quick and easy, regardless of how the participant will identify themselves.
  5. Can you link the registration system to your existing CRM system? Whatever database you use for your customer relation management (Salesforce, SAP, MS CRM, Oracle-based systems etc.), it is important that your registration tool and the information that you gather there is mirrored in your CRM system. That is not always smooth sailing…
  6. Do you need just a ticketing solution or a full event website? In the first case, the solution will be embedded on your site. Some systems, however, can be expanded to offer a full event website with additional features. That can be quite interesting if you only organize few events per year.
  7. Does the system allow for badge scanning and lead capture? Particularly at trade shows, lead generation is the key performance indicator for exhibitors’ success. Systems that offer the option to scan badges without having to rent special equipment are clearly an asset (e.g. 2D barcodes, QR codes with participants contact information).
  8. Is the system mobile-ready? In the USA, mobile devices account already for more internet traffic than desktop computers, and other parts of the world will definitely follow that trend. There are two aspects to that: Will the participant be able to get a mobile ticket on their device (e.g. iOS Passbook integration, link in a text message)? Secondly, will the registration page be responsive to any sort of device that the potential customer is using?
  9. Does the system allow for social login? People have become used to being able to login online via their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or XING profiles, so that they don’t have to repeat basic information every time or upload pictures. While that may not be a deal breaker in case all other criteria are met for you, it is an add-on that may become more and more relevant.
  10. What kind of promotion options does the system offer? Promotion codes, loyalty programs, special offers and different pricings based on e.g. membership status are important tools to maximize the marketing impact for your event. Some systems offer viral ticketing and even affiliate programs where you can grant commissions for sales partners or other websites.

Overview of vendors on the market

Now this is a tricky one, because there are so many solutions out there…! Capterra lists 173 solutions! However, this is an attempt to give an overview of those that I find particularly relevant for conference and exhibition organizers.

Please feel free to add those that specialize on conferences and exhibitions in the comments section, I’ll be happy to include them in the list.

Listed in alphabetic order.


Very easy to set up and providing a responsive registration page, Bookitbee is an interesting option for organizers that stage only few events and don’t want to go through the hassle of a complicated setup process.


Pricing: 0,75 EUR/ticket plus 2% service fee plus 3,4% credit card processing.



Brown Paper tickets

With this solution, there is no additional charge for credit card processing. So the cost is quite low overall. Also, it features a lot of customization, promotion and mobile options. Free iPhone and Android barcode scanning apps are provided for scanning at the doors.


Pricing: 0,89 EUR per ticket plus 3,5% of ticket sales price



eReg / eTouches

The registration software eReg is part of a bigger software package. The options are quad, pro and plus+. The basic package quad also includes a tool to create an event microsite, a tool for email marketing and a survey tool.

Pricing: Upon request




Primarily used by corporates like SAP, Vodafone, Hagebau, Volkswagen or Sony, eve is a delegate management software suite that also covers ticketing. The supplier is a subsidiary of Deutsche Messe AG called event it. Due to the structure of their clients, the software is highly customizable and can be adjusted to all kinds of requirements.



Pricing: Upon request




One of the biggest suppliers, Eventbrite is pretty strong in mobile apps for event registration and management. Having processed already more than 160 Mn event tickets worldwide, you can be pretty sure that there are experienced people at work! Check-in can be done via a mobile solution for the iPad.



Pricing (EURO-zone): 2,5% service fee plus 0,75 EUR/ticket plus 3,5% in case Eventbrite is used for payments, too.



Fairmate by dimedis

This solution is tailored to the demands of trade show organizers, therefore you’ll find Reed Exhibitions, Messe Düsseldorf, Koelnmesse, Stockholmsmässan or Westfalenhallen Dortmund on their customer list. The registration part covers social login, online shop, mobile shop, voucher processing and of course a comprehensive on site check-in system.

Pricing: Upon request




Up to now, Groupon has been used primarily for concerts or sports events tickets – last minute sales. However, since October 2014, the daily deal platform has expanded it’s activities in the events business in Germany. They are of course not a ticketing software as such, but I know that the German association DLG have sold many tickets for their large exhibitions like Agritechnica via Groupon. It is an interesting option for conferences and trade shows, even though you need to give a significant discount on the official ticket price plus a commission for Groupon. The platform has also been used to offerVIP tickets to the New York Wine and Food Festival.


Pricing: Upon request




This company provides event registration software, event websites, development consultancy and staffing services. They handle more than 1 Mn registrations per year. Special features are SocialBuzz (integrated social media marketing tools) and secure storage on Symantec servers. Livebuzz was used at EIBTM 2014 in Barcelona.

EIBTM 2014

Pricing: Upon request




The key feature of Ticketscript is an on-the-door sales app called ticketscript box office. See more in the video below. Apart from that, it offers e- and mobile tickets, promo codes, and a fully customizable responsive online ticket shop.

Pricing: 1,50 EUR/ticket plus 3,5% to cover service and all payment methods




A long list of features, ticking boxes like Passbook integration, text ticket to mobile phone, print-at-home, unique 2D barcodes and much more. There is even a telephone box office service provided upon request.


Pricing: 3,85% – 9,09% depending on the ticket price



Ticket Tailor

A completely different pricing model is offered by this company: They charge a flat fee per month, depending on how many events you have on sale in parallel. Prices range from 18 EUR per month up to 115 EUR per month when you have up to 50 events on sale in parallel.ticket tailorPricing: see above




A special feature of this solution is that it offers the registration process in 40 languages and accepts more than 160 currencies with exchange rates updated hourly. The system also offers interesting features for event promotion, like conversion triggers (special short marketing messages displayed on the registration page).

Advanced_marketing_tools_3Pricing: 2,5% per ticket. Currently no payment processing, funds go directly to the organizer.



XING Events

Also known as Amiando (before it was purchased by the social network XING), XING Events is  highly integrated in the Germany-based social channel, the number 1 business network for the German speaking markets. That makes it pretty interesting when you are active in those markets only. It allows set up of ticket shops both on XING and on Facebook. The function people2meet suggests interesting contacts, giving a delegate sustained benefit from an event participation.


Pricing: 0,99 EUR/ticket plus 2,95% service fee plus 2,95% for payment processing




An interesting solution for concerts and any kind of reserved seating events, Yapsody comes with mobile apps, an integration in MailChimp and social media channels, e-ticketing and a lot more. The option to give donations via the online store makes it interesting for non-profits, too.

Pricing: 0,75 EUR/ticket plus 2,5% service fee



To contact Michael, email Michael@CoCoSocial.de or follow him on Twitter @michaelheipel