3 Steps to Evaluate Trade Show Software Vendors

Evaluate trade show software vendors with confidence with this 3 step guide. 

You have been tasked with sourcing the best event software for your trade show or conference. You open your web browser to begin your search and quickly realize that there are more than two dozen vendors. And each event technology service uses different terms, making it difficult to compare features. If this sounds familiar, continue reading this event software evaluation guide.

Evaluate Trade Show Software in 3 Steps

 

Step 1: Identify Objectives

As part of the show management team, you must meet the needs of many stakeholders. In most instances, multiple teams will need to be involved in the software evaluation process.

To begin, schedule interviews with your stakeholders and ask them the following questions:

Operations:

  • What platforms need to be integrated?
  • What is our time frame for vendor selection, onboarding, and implementation?
  • What processes are the least efficient or pose the biggest risks?
  • Do you prefer self-service or a hands-on support model?
  • Have you experienced issues or pain points with existing vendors your are looking to resolve? Examples include floor plan mapping inaccuracies, booth sales reporting issues, integration breakdowns with other platforms, service, and support.

Finance:

  • What data do you need from the event management software?
  • What systems do you rely on for financial reporting, accounting, and payment processing?
  • How does the event management system need to integrate with your financial systems?

Sales:

  • What are your online and offline booth sales and exhibitor sponsorship processes? Are there any inefficiencies?
  • Should you consider any process changes? New software may have features that can make the sales team more efficient.
  • How do you re-engage exhibitors that have not participated in sponsorship opportunities?
  • How do you (or could you) utilize data to target new exhibitors?

Marketing:

  • What is your process for attendee acquisition?
  • What tools are essential for your digital and social promotions/communications?

Information Technology:

  • What security and privacy standards must a new software adhere to or meet?
  • What information will your IT team need to help in any transition to new technology

 

Step 2: Determine Requirements

Now it’s time to create your list of requirements based on your team’s objectives. Below are questions to consider asking software vendors. Adjust them to reflect your show’s unique needs and procurement process.

Show Management:

  • Does the software offer customizable reporting?
  • Does the platform provide an email management system?
  • Are changes to floor plan, sessions, or attendee/exhibitor profiles implemented in real-time?
  • What financial reports are provided and are any configurations allowed?
  • Can payment schedules be customized?
  • Can all data be exported to Microsoft Excel?
  • Can the directory and floor plan be integrated with and branded to match the event website?
  • Review API documentation with your IT team to make sure the software can communicate with other systems.

Attendee Experience:

  • Do you provide a planner for attendees to favorite sessions, exhibitors, and content?
  • Does the directory offer dynamic keyword search capability that recommends related exhibitor, product, session, and venue maps?
  • Is there a matchmaking option to suggest exhibitors based on the attendee interest and search behavior?
  • Is the attendee's online experience on cohesive and seamless between show website and event software?

Exhibitor Management:

  • Can exhibitors apply, hold, purchase, and renew booth space directly from the exhibit hall map?
  • Can exhibitors purchase sponsorships and upload advertising content in the portal?
  • What additional resources can be provided to exhibitors?
  • Is a single sign-on into other vendors for exhibitors available?
  • Is the booth purchase and sponsorship purchase process easy?
  • Can exhibitors access show related analytics to increase their ROI?

Security & Privacy:

  • What is the technical infrastructure used to ensure the software is secure and reliable?
  • Are you SOC2 audited?
  • Are you PCI compliant?
  • What data privacy standards do you adhere to?

Vendor Experience & Stability:

  • Who is your primary competition?
  • How long has the software existed?
  • What trade shows has your software been used for that are similar in size and complexity as ours?
  • Provide examples of your software running for a show that has similar needs and functionality.
  • Provide a minimum of five customer references.

Implementation & Customer Support:

  • Is a dedicated account representative provided?
  • Provide a sample timeline for migrating and onboarding.
  • What training resources are provided?
  • What is the process and average turnaround times for support requests?

 

Step 3:Compare Vendors

Once you have your software evaluation criteria, it’s time to match your needs with vendor offers.

  1. Create a short list of vendors that offer your requirements. Take advantage of vendor websites, technology review websites, and asking your network for recommendations.
  2. Submit inquiries to your short list of vendors. We recommend limiting this to five vendors or less.
  3. Download this spreadsheet template to stay organized and rank vendors.

 Software Evaluation ScorecardGET SCORECARD

Follow these steps to prepare the spreadsheet:

  1. In the ‘Overview’ tab:
  2. Replace ‘Your Organization Name’ with the name of your company
  3. Add each vendor company name in cells B6-B13
  4. Determine what company demographics to document; update cells C5-J5 accordingly
  5. In the ‘Functionality Evaluation’ tab:
  6. Update cells C8-L8 to reflect the functionality criteria you wish to evaluate
  7. Update the percentages based on the level of importance of each criterion in cells C7-L7

Numerical ratings should range from 0 “does not have feature at all” to 5 “has the ideal feature.”

 

After you’ve rated vendors in each category, you can sort them to identify your top options, and decide if additional demos are needed.

 

Final Thoughts

Evaluating event technology services takes time and energy but selecting the best event software is critical. You now have the tools to confidently select a new vendor and help communicate your decision process to your stakeholders.

Please contact me if I can provide additional guidance in your vendor search.

 

MYS-Jennie-Largent

Jennie Largent
Marketing Director
Map Your Show