Google Apps vs. Custom Tools

Google Apps is an extremely capable set of general purpose office applications. As we have explored in previous posts, it is possible to stitch together systems that can process and publish information in a variety of different forms. The problem with this approach, and one that we didn’t fully appreciate until recently, is that it is complicated to setup, and somewhat difficult to use. If you are an expert with these tools, you can probably make it work, If not, then you have a major learning curve ahead of you.

Because of this we have decided to focus on tools that are designed to serve the specific needs of meeting planners. These are still primarily “cloud” based tools, but they need to be able to just work, and provide value without a huge learning curve.

We are excited about this new direction. Now we can focus on providing specific, targeted applications that solve specific problems for meeting organizers. If you would like a sneak peek at what we are up to, check out our new site at: While this project is still in its early stages, we are excited about where we are going. And we welcome your feedback.

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Managing Room Block Pick-Up

One of the single most important factors in running a financially successful event is effective room block management. The room block is often committed months or years in advance of the actual event. Today’s addition to the Event Communications Center is a spreadsheet that can be used to track the room block from the date of contract signing up through the event itself.
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Customizing Google Sites Design

From a design perspective Google Sites comes with a set of standard themes. Making a Google Site look exactly like you want can pose a significant challenge as it is not clear to the new user where and how to change basic attributes of the site design. In this post we will take our basic Google Apps based Event Communications Center and apply various design elements to make it look more inviting to our users and 3rd party organizations who will access information from this site.
Before and After Applying Design to Google Site
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Publishing Conference Schedule

For today’s post we are going to add a simple conference schedule to the Event Communications Center. As discussed in the previous post this consists of 2 steps.

First we create a Google Docs spreadsheet to hold the conference schedule. In this spreadsheet we track the date, the start and end time for the individual meeting, the contact name for the meeting, meeting name and description, the room where the meeting will be held, along with the floor and a brief code or description for the room setup.
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Tracking VIP Room Lists

How do you manage your VIP list? In a recent discussion in a linkedin group (Event Planning and Event Management – the 1st Group for Event Professionals) there was a discussion about what task event planners find most frustrating. Several responses indicated that tracking VIP lists was a real challenge. So I thought that it would be appropriate to show how to implement VIP Room Lists using Google Docs Google Sites.
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Adding a Contract Summary to the Event Communications Center

When we launched the ECC project, we thought that our initial work would define some standard forms that would be of use to other event planners. As soon as we started we realized that the first information that is available to the event planner is the contract with the venue for the event. Buried in this contract are the essential business metrics and terms for the event, intermixed with a lot of legal terms and disclaimers.

So the first document we decided to implement on the ECC is the Contract Summary. Google Sites allows you to store both scanned images of the original documents (see “Attachments” at the bottom of the page) as well as a spreadsheet that captures the information that is essential for your event.
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Building a Mobile Attendee Portal

One of the hottest topics in the events industry today (other than social networking) is the use of mobile applications for conferences and events. This post is the first in a series that will describe how to use an Event Communications Center (ECC) to drive mobile applications for conferences and events.
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ECC Now Supports Page Level Permissions

As of last Friday, August 18, Google Sites now supports Page Level Permissions (see Better control in Google Sites with Page Level Permissions). For planners looking at using Google Sites to create an Event Communications Center, this is great news! Why do I say this?
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Event Communications Center Demo Now Live

As discussed in our last post, our goal is to provide a community driven Event Communications Center (ECC) demonstration site to allow event planners to see the evolution of this idea, and to provide feedback as the ECC project moves forward. We are happy to announce that the initial implementation of the Demo Event ECC is now live! You can see it at:
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Introducing the Event Communications Center

Events are complex, and the information that event planners need to collect and have at their fingertips is equally complex. When we first started looking at providing a set of tools for event planners, we were thinking about tools that would serve a particular purpose. The more we looked into it, the more we came to realize that to be really useful, the tools need to fit into an overall system that provides structure for the event. This resulted in the initial post to the Meeting Planner Toolkit blog about using Google Sites as an event project management system. Since then we have looked into such a project in more detail, and we realized that there is really something very interesting here. It was then that we conceived of using Google Sites to build an Event Communications Center.
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