Top Trends Shaping Higher Education Event Planning (1) More Events
Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant. ~Anthony D’Angelo
I couldn’t agree with Mr. D’Angelo more. Not only is change constant, it seems to be accelerating. This, of course, is especially true for those who schedule and manage events.
If you are like most events professionals, some days it may feel like it takes all the energy you have just to keep your head above water. The good news is that there is hope. Not only can you survive, there are actions you can take to ensure that you and your coworkers thrive. However, the critical first step in the ever-shifting events landscape is to be aware of what is changing and how best to respond.
Based on my more than two decades of working in the higher education events industry and recent conversations with many skilled and experienced events professionals, the three biggest trends shaping the way events are scheduled today are:
- Rising event volumes. The number of events held on college campuses continues to grow rapidly – often faster than the staff employed to manage them.
- More complex events. The days when all that was needed for an event was a room set conference style, are long behind us. Events today are more elaborate than ever before and often require a significant amount of technical services to pull off elaborate multi-media presentations.
- The rise of on-demand culture. We live in an age where the expectation is that a venue should be able to provide event-related services with little-to-no planning and preparation, and still deliver an outstanding experience to guests
Responding to these changes is not easy given the significant resource challenges faced by higher education event staff. According to the Association for Collegiate Conference and Events Directors International (ACCED-I), events departments consistently must contend with limited space, staff, and budgets. Clearly, new perspectives and new tools are required to thrive in this demanding environment.
This is the first of three posts that will address these trends, providing insight on what they mean for your event operation and how to stay ahead of the curve.
Strategies for Managing Growing Event Volumes on College Campuses
Higher education institutions of all sizes are facing an increasing demand for the use of space for meetings and events. The good news is that despite the fact that we are spending an increasing amount of our time engaging in digital pursuits, we still have a strong need for face-to-face meetings. In fact, these gatherings may be more important than they have ever been. The bad news is that event venues and event professionals must find ways to accommodate guests and meet their expectations while at the same time preventing staff burnout.
This new dynamic places a premium on efficiency and three areas where most event management operations can improve: technology utilization, process automation, and request handling.
It’s not enough anymore simply to have scheduling, communication, customer relationship management (CRM), and student engagement tools. Especially in the area of event management software, you need an advanced system that is simple to deploy and easy to access - anytime, anywhere.
The answer for many event departments is a “software as a service” (SaaS) solution. With a SaaS solution there is no hardware to install or support. The software resides in the cloud and you simply access it using a web browser. All upgrades, security, and performance are managed by the software company, and extremely high “uptime” standards are maintained by the cloud provider.
A good SaaS solution:
- Reduces or eliminates your dependence on internal IT resources
- Is easy to configure and start using from day 1
- Provides seamless integration with other business-critical systems
- Has a lower up-front cost that appeals to decision makers
- Includes frequent updates to continually improve functionality and performance
That said, you need to be sure the solution you select is truly SaaS-based. Some systems allow a degree of web-based access but are not true SaaS solutions. <<Insert Article Link could native vs cloud enabled>>
These days, event management is as much about information management as it is about creating great event experiences. Fortunately, there are ways to automate many of these information management tasks. For example, process automation can be leveraged to help with:
Looking up information – What rooms are available next Tuesday at 2:00 p.m.? What are the details for the next Mountain Biking Club meeting? The system can complete these kinds of tasks for you in seconds and eliminate the need for labor-intensive manual searching.
Preventing mistakes – When you change the date or time on an event, the scheduling system automatically checks in the background to ensure that the location is still available without you having to do anything.
Summarizing information – Providing relevant event information to A/V, catering, and other service providers precisely when and where they need it is another benefit of process automation. They are fully informed, and you can stay focused on higher-level tasks.
Improving communication – By automating key communications, you can ensure that event planners, customers, and staff stay on the same page about events. For example, email confirmations and reminders about deadlines for submitting event details can increase follow-through from all stakeholders and result in more successful events.
Another area to leverage technology to help your staff handle the increased volume of events is in the request process. Using a digital request form can have a major impact on efficiency. In general, any time you can eliminate paper forms you will increase efficiency simply by reducing the mistakes associated with data entry.
Plus, you can achieve even more time savings by having the request form directly integrated with your scheduling system. This eliminates the time required to re-enter information into the scheduling system especially if the form is accessible on mobile devices. With over half of all web traffic originating from mobile, it is important to have your request form available wherever people are online. Students especially appreciate this.
Looking Ahead: How to Address Greater Event Scheduling Complexity
As the number of events held on college campuses increases across the board, it is critical to have the tools and techniques needed to respond efficiently and effectively. The same is true for addressing the growing complexity of events. We’ll explore that challenge in a future blog post.