There can hardly be a meeting planner left who isn't using some type of software on the job, if only an off-the-shelf spreadsheet.
But many haven't yet made the move to a software product designed specifically for meeting management. If you haven't, perhaps it's time to look into the time and effort some of these packages can save you. ICP technology columnist Corbin Ball, CMP, has done a lot of the legwork for you by trying out the most popular meeting management software on the market. Here are his assessments, followed by detailed directory listings of those products and many others.
MeetingTrak By Phoenix Solutions Inc. MeetingTrak is a comprehensive meeting and conference management package for small to medium-size corporations, travel departments, and associations. The system tracks speakers, exhibitors, and events, and provides name badges, confirmation notices, and rosters. It also allows for multiple payments and on-site meeting registration. Optional modules track continuing education credits and information about members and exhibitors.
MeetingTrak is a shell built on Microsoft's Access database; it therefore takes advantage of the development and regular upgrades of this widely used, off-the-shelf software. A major point of differentiation for this product is the inclusion of source code, which allows you to make direct modifications to the software. There are numerous customizable reports and fields built into the program from the start, however. The only disadvantage (and a minor one) is that running a "non-compiled" code increases the demand on system resources and therefore slows the program's operating speed.
The limitations of this program are the limitations of Access. It is not scalable for very large groups. MeetingTrak's closest competitor is PeoplewarePro, which is reviewed next.
PeoplewarePro By Peopleware PeoplewarePro shares much of the functionality and many of the features of MeetingTrak. Its accounting functions are particularly strong. They include the ability to handle complex registration, split revenues, and account for refunds.
PeoplewarePro gets high marks for its toll-free help desk, customer support, and a strong commitment to training. PeoplewarePro's database engine is FoxPro. It is faster than Microsoft Access, and can handle more simultaneous users. A very nice addition is the new Internet module, which allows for online registration, tracks data both ways (registrants coming in and course capacities going out), and fully integrates the registrants into the existing database.
Event Planner Plus By Certain Software For the cost ($495), Event Planner Plus provides features that software costing 10 times more does not. It's easy to set up and use, and includes task scheduling, seating assignments, room diagramming, nametag and place-card printing, accounting, vendor tracking, budgeting, and 25 different report formats.
The product has three limitations: It is intended for a single user only; it is designed for a single-day, single-event meeting; and it is built on 16-bit Windows 3.1 and Access database architecture, which are well on the way to obsolescence. A 32-bit, network-ready, multi-day, multi-event version is expected by early 2000. Certain Software is off to a good start--the upgrade will allow larger groups to take advantage of the many well-designed features.
Complete Event Manager By EKEBA International This software is an interesting entry into the market, at a price point that puts it within the reach of many independent planners. The program has numerous features, but takes some effort to learn--key strokes and layout are not exactly intuitive. That said, the data fields are customizable, although users must be sure to do this at the start. Features include the ability to set up concurrent sessions and manage continuing education credits. Complete Event Manager handles such logistical chores as task lists, menu planning, exposition and table assignments, lodging/roommate preferences, tracking speaker travel, and speaker/staff coordination. Financial features include the ability to handle invoice and budget tracking and produce financial reports. It can create labels, name badges, and tent cards. Marketing features include the ability to track attendee history and handle mail merge lists.
The software relies on support provided via online tutorials and e-mail. There is no help desk where you can readily talk to someone. I found the e-mail support responsive: I received replies within several hours. I had difficulty with the setup--it took several e-mails and a phone call to get it fixed, but, once running, it performed reliably. It can import registration data to and from Access and other databases. The staff at EKEBA will perform database conversion for free; however, once it is done the money-back guarantee is void.
Ajenis By PlanSoft Ajenis has been the focus of a great deal of attention because of what it proposes to provide--the communication of meeting specifications between planners and hotel convention services departments in a standardized format over the Internet. In the past, this has been an inefficient process at best. Today, Ajenis can save translation, inputting, and proofing time, reduce errors, and save on paper and mailing costs. It does not, however, provide the registration database, accounting, badge creation, and other features of most general.
Ajenis is robust, with lots of options and features, and can be intimidating at first. A training program is strongly recommended. This product is the result of efforts by a consortium of partners, including Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, GES, Meeting Professionals International, and the American Society of Association Executives. The partners hope to achieve the critical mass necessary to bring this product into wide use. Although Ajenis currently requires that software be installed on each participant's computer, PlanSoft will soon roll out a Web-based interface requiring no special software.
Ajenis integrates into the PlanSoft Network (www.plansoft.com)--by my estimation, the most comprehensive source of meeting facility information on the Web.
Meeting Matrixv5.0 By SCLM I have used this product since the days when it was written only for DOS. As one who believes that only by diagramming meeting space can planners know exactly what they will get in terms of capacities and layout, I cannot imagine running a large meeting without it. The Windows 95 version is much easier to use than earlier releases. But to get up to speed quickly, I recommend the training package.
I especially like the ability to download floor plans from hotel Web sites (generating the floor plans is the most time-consuming part of using any room-diagramming product). More than 250 properties are online. The basic Silver edition (usable only with participating hotels) is free, but if you are doing lots of meetings, the Platinum version is worth the price. Meeting Matrix is used by the Hyatt, Marriott, Renaissance, Ritz-Carlton, and Sheraton brands, and interfaces with Delphi, one of the major hotel meeting-space management programs. This product is also an Alliance partner with MPI and PlanSoft.
An advantage of Meeting Matrix is that its vector-based graphics make the diagrams easy to zoom in on.
MeetingTrak By Phoenix Solutions, Inc. * Type of product: Full-featured meeting management software with integrated database
* Contact: Sharon Swan, marketing and sales associate
* Phone: (800) 779-7430; (925) 737-5135
* Fax: (925) 469-9510
* E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* System Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, Pentium Processor, 16 MB RAM, 40 MB of disk space, Access 97
* Simultaneous Users: Recommended maximum is 15 to 20
* Support: 30-day, unlimited question and answers; four-hour blocks of time cost $400
* Cost: Single-user $2,995; two users $3,995; $495 for each additional user. Continuing education tracking version: single user $3,990; two users $4,990; $495 each additional user; Additional modules: WebTrak $1,495; on-site registration $995; VendorTrak (budgeting) $995
PeoplewarePro By Peopleware * Type of product: Full-featured meeting management software with integrated database
* Contact: Catherine Dubbe
* Phone: (800) 869-7166 x503; (425) 454-6444
* Fax: (425) 454-7634
* System Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, 486-33Mhz PC or greater, 16 MB RAM, minimum 20 MB disk space
* Simultaneous Users: Available in single and multi-user versions for up to approximately 50 users
* Support: Annual support agreement (not required): $500 per year stand-alone, four users $950 per year, includes unlimited toll-free support, fax-back technical notes, Web site
* Cost: Single $3,995 (software and support one year), $1,000 per additional user up to 10, then site license, with four full-time trainers (four public classes per month)
Event Planner Plus By Certain Software * Type of product: Full-featured meeting management software for single, one-day events *
* Contact: Ted Arbuckle, VP and COO
* Phone: (888) 237-8246; (415) 353-5330
* Fax: (415) 353-5335
* System Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, 486 PC, 8MB RAM, 25 MB disk space
* Simultaneous Users: Not applicable
* Support: Toll-free line 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST, seven days, major holidays excluded; Web and e-mail support available
* Cost: $495
Complete Event Manager 4.5 By EKEBA International * Type of product: Meeting management software
* Contact: Order department
* Phone: (800) 847-4561; (614) 459-7178
* Fax: (614) 457-1301
* System Requirements: Novell NetWare or Windows 3.1 with 8+ MB RAM; 95/98 with 16+ MB RAM; NT with 32+ MB RAM; and 15 MB disk space
* Support: Free e-mail tech support
* Cost: $395 for a single user, with 30-day, money-back guarantee, or $345 without the guarantee, plus $10 shipping and handling for domestic orders
CON-TRAC for Windows By Chambres & Associates, Inc * Type of product: Meeting management software system with completely integrated one-time entry for any size organization and any size meeting or event; self-configuring GANNT/PERT charts for task tracking
* Contact: Bill Chambres, executive director
* Phone: (215) 635-7283
* Fax: (215) 635-7285
* System Requirements: 486+ processor, Windows 95/98/ NT, 8 MB RAM (16+ Recommended), 20 MB disk space plus 1 MB for each meeting, 28.8 bps modem. Installation of PCAnywhere (not supplied with CON-TRAC) is recommended for online support.
* Simultaneous Users: Up to 100
* Support: Unlimited support by phone, fax, e-mail, and online (with PCAnywhere)
* Cost: single user, $1,995; multi-user, 2 to 5 stations $6,995; 6 to 9 stations $8,750; call for 10 or more stations
Meeting Expectations Software By Enge & Associates * Type of product: Corporate and association meeting planning system; integrates and automates all planning tasks
* Contact: Karalee Slayton, product specialist
* Phone: (800) 242-8480; (317) 570-7056
* Fax: (317) 570-7056
* System Requirements: Pentium or higher, 16 MB RAM, 75 MB disk space
* Simultaneous Users: Fully networkable in an SQL Server environment
* Support: 90 days unlimited support (Monday through Friday, 8a.m. to 8p.m. EST). Purchase additional support by call volume or by. Unlimited telephone training at no charge; on-site training available for additional fee
* Cost: Version 2.0, single-user license $2,995; unlimited user, network license $6995; multiple sites quoted on request. Upgrade to SQL Server Database: $1,000
MaxEvent, MemberMax By Impact Solutions, Inc. * Type of product: MaxEvent is a client/server relational database system for managing conferences, meetings, pre-registration, on-site registration, speakers, exhibitors, contact management, and to-do lists for membership organizations. Includes Internet, communication, and other advanced data-management capabilities.
* Contact : John Keelin, general manager
* Phone: (800) 858-8330; (412) 367-8833
* System Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, Power Macintosh or Macintosh; 32 MB RAM minimum; 5 MB disk space, client/server format
* Support: Unlimited telephone and Internet support plus free upgrades. Cost is 18 percent of license fee per year
* Cost: Single-user license $1,495; multi-user $1,700 per user. Client/server only.
Event Wizard By Neology, a division of Smith Bucklin & Associates * Type of product: Web-based event planning software, with online content management tools including abstract collection, speaker scheduling, program grid scheduling
* Contact: Kelly Hensen, marketing manager
* Phone: (888) 636-5649, ext. 3714; (312) 321-6811
* System Requirements: Any computer with a browser and access to the Internet
* Support: One-year license includes 10 hours of setup and customization, registration form, call for papers, plus year's worth of hosting
* Cost: $15,000 for first year, annual renewable fee $3,500
Ajenis By PlanSoft * Type of product: Meeting specification software using the Internet to communicate between planner and hotel convention services department in a standardized format
* Contact: Penny Dunovsky, executive assistant
* Phone: (330) 405-5555
* Fax: (330) 405-5566
* System Requirements: Windows 95, 98, or NT 4.0, and Internet Explorer 3.02 or higher browser; IBM-compatible PC with 266Mhz Pentium or equivalent processor, 64MB RAM, 250MB of disk space, 1024 by 768 resolution (16-bit) color display, 56 KBPS modem, and Internet access
* Simultaneous Users: No limit
* Support: Help desk available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST; e-mail support available at email@example.com
* Cost: Network version priced individually, single-user version costs $500
RegWeb By Cardinal Communications * Type of product: Online, Web-based, template-driven registration software application
* Contact: Rod Marymor, CMP
* Phone: (888) 755-7075; (510) 647-1400, ext. 200
* Fax: (510) 647-1401
* System Requirements: Web-based, cross-platform
* Support: Help desk: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST; server support: 24 hours, 7 days a week
* Cost: $1,000 for a simple static form, up to $20,000 for a full-range registration solution
Event Reservation System (ERS) By b-there.com * Type of product: Real-time online event management system, presented as the central tool in a business-to-business trade community format. Features include useful information for meeting planners, including links to hotels, airlines, destination resources, media, and other suppliers to the event services industry. * Contact: Cheryl MacNeal or Suzanne Nagy
* Phone: (203) 221-1477
* Fax: (203) 319-4230
* System Requirements: PC with 486 Pentium Processor with 32 MB RAM; Windows 95 or 98 or Windows NT 4.0 or above. Netscape is the preferred Web browser.
* Simultaneous Users: Unlimited
* Support:Telephone, e-mail
* Cost: Three pricing plans available: $2 to $5 per transaction fee licensing plan plus setup fees; or a full license user plan.
Meeting Matrix v5.0 By SCLM Software * Type of product: Room diagramming software
* Contact: Phong Doan, corporate sales manager
* Phone: (717) 993-5505 Fax: (717) 993-5395
* E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* System Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 16 MB RAM, 4 MB disk space
* Simultaneous Users: Network version for 10 or more users
* Support: By e-mail: email@example.com; annual maintenance package including help desk, $200 to $350; phone support 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. EST on weekdays
* Cost: Silver: free (can use with floor plans from the Web); Silver Plus: $295, simple length and width plus diagrams from the Web; Platinum Plus: $2,225, full package and installation of single version (includes eight hours of training, plus travel expenses); software only, $1,395 for one user. Additional users: $1,075 per user; software only, $795.
Room Viewer By TimeSaver Software * Type of product: Event layout software
* Contact: Sandy Simon
* Phone: (714) 731-5390 Fax: (714) 731-2423
* System Requirements:Windows 95, 98, or NT, Pentium processor recommended, 16 MB RAM * Simultaneous Users: No limit, minimum of three users
* Support: Two tech support credits at no charge; additional credits start at $45 for two additional credits
* Cost: Room Viewer Basic, $395; Room Viewer Standard, $595; Room Viewer Pro, $695; Room Schematic, $95 (all single-user prices)
BadgePro Plus v8.1.17 By The Laser's Edge * Type of product: Design and print badges, personalized tickets, and invoices. Import data from database tables, spreadsheets, documents, and ASCII files.
* Contact: Judy Carawan, vice president
* Phone: (703) 243-7766 Fax: (703) 243-7769
* System Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher
* Support: Support and training free with annual license to BadgePro Plus; phone support 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST
* Cost: Standard Annual License, $350; group/network license starts at $600.
Badge-O-Matic By Ward Mundy Software * Type of product Prints nametags
* Contact: Ward Mundy
* Phone: (404) 351-5162 Fax: (404) 350-0236
* System Requirements: H-P 2 laser printer or better
PC/NAMETAG 8 By Topitzes & Associates, Inc. * Type of product: Registration software
* Contact: Customer Service
* Phone: (800) 233-9767 Fax: (800) 233-9787
* System Requirements: Windows 95, 98, or NT 3.51 or higher. 16 MB of RAM (32 MB is recommended); 5 MB disk space. CD-ROM for installation.
* Simultaneous Users: Licensing for additional workstations
* Support: Phone and e-mail support available Monday through Friday 8 a.m to 5 p.m. CST
* Cost: $179 for new users; $119 for users of pc/nametag 3.x; $99 for users of MeetingPOWER; $79 for additional copies or workstations.
Scheduler Plus, Optimum Settings, Daisy By CEO Software, Inc. * Type of product: Scheduling and event management software for use in corporations, hospitals, higher education facilities, hotels, government
* Contact: Bill Zachau, director of marketing
* Phone: (800) 441-2581 Fax: (520) 296-8103
* System Requirements: Windows 3.1 or higher, with 48 to 96MB disk space, Pentium 166 Mhz processor * Simultaneous Users: Yes
* Support: Support line available 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday
* Cost: $9,500 for Scheduler Plus, $1,995 for Optimum Settings (Network), $495 Optimum Settings (single user), $1,000 Daisy (must have Scheduler Plus)