Getting Technical

By Lain Ehmann

While the logistics behind putting together a meeting for several thousand attendees demands computerized solutions, meeting planning automation isn’t just for the big guys. Using automation for meetings of any size can help planners save money, speed up the planning process, limit errors and increase attendees’ enjoyment of the event, says Peter Klebanow, president of Ultramar Travel Management. Here’s what he suggests you look for when evaluating automation packages or vendors.

  • Capabilities. Software can assist with everything from creating an event budget and tracking expenditures, to handling travel arrangements, requesting and managing bids from vendors and providing online and onsite registration. Know if you want a system that can handle the soup-to-nuts tasks or just to take over one part of the process.
  • Cost. The price tag is always an issue. While an in-house package might seem less expensive, in the long run you might save money by outsourcing. You won’t have to upgrade your system or worry about compatibility issues or hardware requirements. If you’re a smaller company, you can take advantage of the solutions vendors such as Ultramar create for their larger clients, says Klebanow.
  • Reporting. One of the advantages of the most versatile (and expensive) systems is reporting capabilities. You can get updates on your budget, create and save profiles for travelers and use that information for future events.
  • Time Investment. Whether you choose an in-house solution or opt to outsource the project, the important thing to remember is that the system you select should save you time, not require more. Ideally, automation should free up you and your attendees to spend your time on the ultimate goal of the meeting – making relationships, says Rich Freundlich, Ultramar’s director of groups and meetings. “You can have all the automation in the world, but the reality is that people are traveling to meet with other people,” Freundlich says. “Don’t ignore the importance of relationships. Automation is great, but it’s just a tool.”
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