Researching and selecting meeting management software is tough. An informal survey of corporate meeting managers reveals the big challenges: an overwhelming number of options and packages, difficulty in determining your total cost, figuring out if product features match your needs, having to work with internal stakeholders such as procurement, information technology, and security, and, finally, not knowing how it’ll all come together until you try to work your first program.
Says one planner: “You don’t completely understand the user experience until you start using the system. [Our software] is a very robust tool, but not very intuitive. We’ve used it for several years now and we each still struggle with the complexity of the system.” Indeed, planners’ top priority when it comes to meeting management software is ease of use. But they also want customization—and that isn’t necessarily easy. “I find the biggest challenge for planners is not having a person or people responsible for the software implementation strategy,” says one vendor. A planner echoes the sentiment: “It comes down to resources in the end. If we had a dedicated team member who could build our meeting Web sites, I suspect we would keep it all in-house. But for what it costs to use [our online registration vendor], it’s cheaper to outsource that piece.”
Following are profiles of products from 11 software companies—plus questions to ask of vendors and tips for knowing what will give you the biggest bang for your technology buck. But before you dig into the details, know your big picture. “Too few meeting planners clearly define their technology goals,” says one software vendor. “A planner who sets a goal to improve audience engagement would require a very different solution than a planner who prioritizes driving cost savings. We recommend that planners create a ranked list of business objectives before investigating technology options.”