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June 2, 2014

Event App Attend.com Offers Free Preview, Focuses on ROI

Greg Skloot

Just a little more than two years ago, Greg Skloot was graduating from Boston’s Northeastern University, where he was president of the University’s Entrepreneurs Club. In that role, he planned events and ran into the same challenges all event planners face. But as a young entrepreneur, he was determined to find a unique solution to those problems. 

Last year, Skloot founded Attend.com, an online system and app that automates several elements of the event management processes. And after only a year in public use, major corporations are taking advantage of the product, including BMW Melbourne, Sony Ericsson, General Motors’ Chevrolet and the University of Virginia, as well as the SXSW Conference in Austin.

“We're all about building software that helps event planners do their job,” the 23-year-old Skloot told International Meetings Review. To that end, he said, he and his team focused on simplification. “Event management software is broken. It should be easier and faster to learn. It shouldn’t be so complex to get it up and running. It needs to be built around the reality of events.” Since every event is different, an app must be flexible enough to handle a wide range of requirements. “Our goal was to provide a platform that is simple enough for 90 percent of events, but powerful enough for 10 percent.” To attract both novices and advance users, he added, he knew his app had to be both. 

RELATED: Attend.com, a New Face in Event Management

Skloot sees two “really exciting differentiators” between his product and the competition: “Number one, it’s easy to use. It’s built around the planner’s process.” Describing most event software as “clunky,” time-consuming and requiring an admin expert, Skloot explained that Attend.com was designed for a novice to have up and running within minutes. 

The second differentiator is that Attend.com is built around data that planners can analyze. “The marketing department or an organization at a university or a fundraising department can extract reports that show them which events are attracting the most donors--and which events did they skip.” With this data, planners can answer tricky questions for their clients: “‘How can we change events to make them more appealing to the key demographic?’” We provide them with that kind of data to measure ROI,” he said. 

Traditionally, gathering this kind of data after (or during) an event required looking over spreadsheets, Skloot said. “Now, it all happens seamlessly behind the scenes.” The program can send out invitations, print name badges and check attendees in on an iPad. All the while, data is compiled into metrics that provide key information: “Which events get the most attendees? Which events do people register for and then cancel on? It’s all collected and then presented in a visual format for a planner to go in and pull a report together.” Pie charts, graphs and tables can be exported to a spreadsheet for later analysis. 

John Donnelly

Chief Revenue Officer John Donnelly acknowledged that the event app market already has plenty of “legacy players” who “developed programs that were good for their time.” But needs are changing, he argued. “People are looking at events as assets for organizations...not as a liability or a marketing expense,” he argued. To that end, an event app needs to focus as much on the ROI analysis for the planner as on the user experience.  “The difference between us and the legacy players is that we’re intuitive and easy to use,” he said bluntly, adding that Attend.com requires no special training, which he believes is not true of other apps. The program has also integrated with CRMs like Salesforce and Razor’s Edge to share data across a range of platforms. “Planners can gather data and leverage it for future events,” he argued. “It makes event management more of an asset than a liability.” Events are frequently among the first thing cut in budget reductions, he continued, because business can’t easily determine how valuable they are. “We offer a lens into event success,” he said. “The idea is that we’re a value-add company. Event management is evolving, and there’s a white space in the market for us to chase after.”  

To that end, Attend.com is releasing a free mobile app for iPhones and iPads that will let event planners track attendance. “It’s like a clipboard,” Skloot said. “You can have a guestlist and log guests as they come in—you can even get text messages when a VIP arrives.” The app comes with no strings attached and is fully functional, he added—but, like any free sample, it runs on the premise that once users get a taste of what is available, they will want more. “If they like it and want to manage other aspects like online registration and nametags, they can upgrade to a full annual licenced package that gives them all the tools.” 

“The concept from a market perspective is to get people exposed in an easy way,” Donnelly said. “They can try it and use it, and when you download the software and open an account, you can see the rest of the dashboard and all the things you can use with the paid product...If people just want to use it for simple events, they can do that, but it lets them know what’s possible.” And the free preview is already working, he added. Companies like United Airlines, General Motors and Ford have downloaded the program and are using for large-scale events. “It’s exposing the program to people in a positive way,” Donnelly said of the free trial.  

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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